These past few weeks have been a little odd. In some crazy random events, I found myself at a Catholic baptism and also the Mormon tabernacle. While I appreciated the sacred rituals and deep commitment to worship at both worship services, my mind couldn’t help from noticing how many children were around. Which lead me to ponder one of the great debates in evangelical churches about having children in the worship service.
I understand both sides of the debate, one side asks ministry leaders to take away all distractions for an adult, allowing them to have a break from their children, to hopefully be more spiritually “fed” and of course also to teach kids in age-appropriate environments that they will find interesting.
The other side of the debate poses one to consider that churches can’t raise or nurture spirituality in your children, only a family unit (no matter what it looks like) can do that. If parents aren’t a part of what happened on the weekend, how can they continue the conversation at home? And additionally when we separate children from our worship services we often start to view them as a burden, and a distraction.
On our own podcast, we had Brad Cooper, the Family Pastor from Newspring Church in South Carolina, who shared very convincing thoughts on why they don’t allow any children in their worship service, even babies. Coming from a fairly modern church background, typically that’s been my personal experience, children distract from the service, so they shouldn’t be allowed in or if they are allowed, only on the last two rows or in a special mother and family room. Any single person or couple without children would find this quite suitable. 🙂
However, being a part of these two environments recently where children WERE present, I noticed something really powerful…
Because children were expected to be in those environments, they were also expected to behave and pay attention quietly, a lost art, even amongst my own two children who typically get an iPhone handed to them on silent mode. In the Catholic service specifically, where the songs are sung corporately each week, children were singing along, familiar with the same practices as their parents including communion.
Both sides of the “argument” are true. Children are loud and noisy and can be considered a distraction, but in a time when young people are walking away from their faith faster than ever before, you have to wonder if “doing church” alongside your parents and family is something that should be a higher priority. At the very least, how involved are parents in making sure that they are owning the passing of faith onto their children?
so, after thinking a little bit about this topic in the past few weeks. I pose a couple of questions for you to ask yourself.
1. Are both your pastor and children’s pastor passionate about the current involvement of children in your church?
Both of these leaders are going to be asking, what’s “best” for the sheep in my care. The family unit shouldn’t be in competition with itself. These two leaders should feel like they are working towards the same long-term goals BECAUSE THEY ARE. Children are adults in process.
2. Do you know the “WHY” behind the model that you use?
It’s really not good enough in my opinion to say, well “blank named mega-church” uses this model, so that means we should use it too. Awhile back, my family visited Connect Church outside of Philly, initially, you bring your children into the service for worship. I have to admit, I was surprised by this decision based on the modern nature of their church, but my kids loved it. The got to go to “big church” which they are constantly asking to do, during a time of worship, when it’s so loud, they probably aren’t going to be seen as distracting. They were then dismissed before anything got “boring” and it was the best of both worlds. This of course, has its own logistical issues, but I think it’s good to make sure that you know the reason behind why you’re doing what you do.
3. What do parents think about what you currently do?
So, often, ministry leaders think they know what’s best all the time. 🙂 And while most ministry leaders are not only studying the Bible, but also the trends working in the church at large, many ministry leaders are not in the same season of life as the largest consumers at their church. If your lead pastor is in their 50’s and walking the path of an empty nester, they will not be thinking like a 35-year-old, who might be the biggest demographic of their congregation. So, take a poll on facebook, send out a survey, have one on one conversations.
I personally know people that left churches over their policies about children in the worship service, which means for some parents it’s a really important topic.
the main thing here is that you’re always evaluating what’s best for your church and for the people in your care.
Kids are the future of the church and with so many young adults walking away from church, we have to make sure we do better by this next generation of young people in our care.