One question myself and my church frequently gets is why don’t we have children’s church on Sunday mornings for our little ones? When asked that question I typically want to respond back, “why do you have children’s church?” Based on their answers and my past experiences, here are the two typical reasons why most churches choose to separate families and remove the kids out of worship: First people will argue, “The little kids won’t understand the adult service. They need something on their level.” I think it’s obvious that a three-year old doesn’t understand what themes like justification and imputation mean, but I would counter how do we expect them to ever learn them if we always dumb everything down for them? Here is an example my pastor used recently: he said that many kids enjoy playing dress-up and using mommy and daddy’s clothes. The little boy may put on his dad’s oversized shirt with the sleeves hanging off his arms and then slip on dad’s shoes and traipse around the house with dad’s shoes flopping like flippers. This is the picture of the child sitting in the adult service with his family.
We acknowledge that the service does not fit him properly yet, however we are fully expecting him to grow into it. Lastly, I flat out reject the notion that children are incapable of praising God. The position of both Christ and the Psalmist was that children were capable of praising God. (Matt 21:16 and Psalm 8:2).
The next argument I frequently hear for the case of children’s church is that a little child will have difficulty sitting still and being quiet during the entirety of the adult service. Again, this may very well be the case, but it does not necessarily have to be. I think many times we sell our children short, and our expectations of their abilities far fall below what they are actually capable of doing. I personally think children can sit still for longer periods than most parents think, with a big qualification. That qualification is that sitting and being attentive in worship must be practiced. This means that a child should regularly be working on sitting still and listening during family devotionals in the home. The adage practice makes perfect rings very true and if a little one is practicing participating in worship every single day during family devotional times, then they will naturally be more apt to devoting attention during corporate worship. Of course herein lies a great problem because most parents completely neglect any type of family worship. Which leads me to my next point: the task of instructing and leading children in worship is not the duty of the local church, but instead is a task the scriptures give to parents. Of course the church is there to support the parents in this most worthwhile endeavor, but the primary responsibility falls on mom and dad.
This desire to throw off such a great responsibility leads to a last answer why many parents are fine with children’s service. This is the answer that hardly anyone ever confesses if you ask them why they support children’s church, however I think it is a true reason, even if not readily admitted. The reason is many parents enjoy passing the responsibility of instructing their child in the faith onto someone else. It pains me to write that sentence, but it’s true. For those who would argue against it, I simply ask you to examine the lives of those parents around you. I challenge you to examine your own life. Examine and ask this question, “is my child’s faith the most important focus in my raising them?” How much time a week do you spend catechizing your child compared to how much time you spend trotting them off to sporting events? How much time do you spend reading the scriptures to your child versus how much time you spend watching TV with them? When so many parents neglect to invest in the spiritual lives of their children, how can it be expected they would want to do so for another 90 minutes on Sunday morning? If the parents aren’t practicing regular family worship, then of course their children will be fidgety during the sermon. Is it easier to lovingly discipline their child, making sure to teach the child the utmost importance of sitting under the preaching of the Word, or is it easier to send the kids off and let someone else deal with them during that time? I regrettably have to admit that the latter seems to have won out in too many of our churches today.
I will close with this last thought on why children should be with their family during the worship service. God has included our children as members of the new covenant community of Christ. They may not possess the outward saving faith of the adult members, but God has made promises to the young people that He deems them part of the church family. With these great and precious promises, why would we dare want to fracture this beautiful covenant family? We wouldn’t dare go on a summer vacation to the beach, but then tell our kids they are staying home for the week because we’re afraid they might get antsy at some point of the trip. How much more preposterous to tell our kids they aren’t welcome in the greatest and most important time of our week, the corporate worship of our Heavenly King, simply because they might fidget and make noise?