There’s famous story in the Gospels about some mothers took their children to Jesus to be blessed. The disciples tried to turn them away under the basic assumption that the Master would not want to be bothered with children when He was doing some big, important ADULT religious stuff. They hadn’t asked Jesus. Jesus’ response was to protest: Allow the little children to come to me, for such is the kingdon of Heaven!
Jesus’ wishes go unheeded today. The prevailing attitude and modus operandi is to segregate children during worship.
Now this is quite unbelievable to me, simply because it’s hypocritical on several counts:
1. It promotes the attitude that children are a distraction or a nuisance. First of all, if a preacher lacks the unction to preach over the background noise of children, he’s in the wrong line of work. Second of all, this attitude is quite the opposite of Jesus’ stated views: that children are to be allowed to come to Him AND that such are the kingdom of Heaven [i.e. -- they are in some respect an example for believers!] As to the objection that much of the preaching will be over thew children’s heads, I ask: Why should this be the case at all? Why aren’t we putting the cookies on the lowest shelf? Why are we complicating the gospel message? I have much the same objections over matters of sermon length and interest. In fact, it ought to be considered a sin to make a boring sermon out of the Living Word of God! Yet a growing number of churches EXPECT even visitors to hand over their kids to these overglorified day care services merely for the sake of adult peace and comfort.
2. It promotes an attitude that adults need time for themselves. This in itself is not a bad thing, except that corporate worship is being used as that time. Adults do need time to themselves for spiritual renewal: it’s called private prayer and study. Yet corporate worship should not be a “break” or “escape” from our children. It should be a time to lead children into worship by our example. If they are not present, what example do we provide them? Parents, not church, are given the duty to raise godly children.
3. It segregates the family. The church is supposed to be pro-family, since this is an institution set up by God; so why is it slicing and dicing up the family according to the world’s system of education? I’m not against Sunday school. I believe it is useful for training children. What I object to is Children’s Church, or whatever they call this overglorified day care in your church. The family ought to be together during worship!
4. Children’s church [and Youth church] are highly energized, designed to entertain and occupy attention. This unfortunately leads to a reluctance to join the adult congregation when they graduate! This contradiction is pernicious. Why are Children’s church and Youth church so interesting and engaging, while adult church is so boring and tedious? Might we not ask if this unnatural segregation isn’t really in the interests of preserving the traditions of the older congregants? Sure, we’ll give the kids their upbeat worship and their multimedia presentations, but we’d like it the way we’re comfortable with. This attitude is dangerous, for a church tht does not like disruption or any innovation is not a church seeking the lost, but rather the preservation of a historical tradition. Unfortunately, this dichotomy does exist and, as a result, many of our youth drop out of church once they reach their expected graduation into adult church!
5. Jesus directly said to do otherwise! He said to allow them to come to him, not to corral them off somewhere away from the ADULTS. This was the entire point of this episode, even if we have rationalized it away with contemporary “wisdom.”
Let’s bring our kids back to church!
Read more of the What’s Wrong With Church series!