Got Kids in Your Worship Service?
For some (especially families with little ones), having kids in the Sunday worship service is helpful and important. For others, it is a ticking time bomb of distraction, maybe even disrespect.
Some churches include or involve every member of the family for the whole service. Some have classes for kids at the same time as the worship gathering. Others, like ours, have the children involved for the first part of the service, before being dismissed to their classes.
But whatever the format, I'm guessing every church has had to address concerns and complaints about kids making noise or running around or fidgeting in their seat, that is, about kids being kids. Consider if you were a leader who had to address these concerns. What would you do to balance the feelings of both families and those who genuinely felt concerned?
Consider how Pastor Dan Claire from Church of the Resurrection in Washington DC (with help from Children's Ministry leader Julia Kraut) addressed these concerns. I found his thoughts and style encouraging. Hope you do as well...
Little kids keep coming to church!!! What are we to do?
It’s easy to fall into an entertainment mindset when you come to Sunday worship. After all, we rightly expect theater-goers to silence their phones and conversations so that everyone might enjoy the show. Why not at church? Isn’t it thoughtless and rude for parents to bring their crying babies and rambunctious kids into our worship services?
Not at all. While liturgical worship can be beautiful and transcendent, we mustn’t come expecting to be entertained. Instead, we ought to gather for worship expecting first to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and then to love our neighbors as ourselves. We should expect neighbors of different ethnicities in worship. Expect neighbors in all different circumstances and moods and spiritual conditions. Expect neighbors of different ages, with varying levels of control over their bodies. Expect neighbors with different aesthetic sensibilities, especially in terms of hands clapping, arms raising, and booties shaking. Love all these neighbors as yourself. They’re God’s children and your brothers and sisters. Instead of expecting to be entertained, expect a family gathering – God’s family gathering (which often can be quite entertaining).
Believe it or not, many of us were young children once. Young children need instruction in the Lord. This entails Sunday School lessons and Jesus Loves Me songs. It also means hours and hours of time in worship, watching their older brothers and sisters model what it means to love God and neighbor. Teaching kids joy and reverence and kindness in worship is everyone’s responsibility. Children are a blessing, not only to their parents, but to all of us, because of what they teach us about our Father, and what they require of us as older brothers and sisters.
Trust me. Parents with young children are very aware – often painfully so – when their kids aren’t behaving like adults. In fact, some parents are so anxious about their kids’ behavior that they stop coming to church at all. This is a terrible shame, because it deprives us all of the blessing of kids in worship. Rarely is a rambunctious kid a sign of “deeper problems at home.” Usually it’s completely normal, as kids are simply not being adults.
Teaching kids to worship (rather than just sit still and “behave”) is hard work. Please love the families around you (especially the parents of noisy or rambunctious kids!) and encourage them in this. A smile can do a lot to let them know of your support and thankfulness for them. Each Sunday, remember Jesus’ words: “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:14.
[Thanks to Joshua Rogers for posting this letter on his blog (joshuarogers.com). His final comments are also helpful: "If you’ve got kids in your church, be encouraged! They may be distracting at times, but they’re your next generation of believers, and that’s a very good thing."]