One of the things I noticed at Newspring two Sundays ago was the distinct lack of children present in the service. This stems from Newspring’s attitude toward children: They’re a distraction from what’s really important. On the other hand, I think seeing children in church is one of the most refreshing parts of my Sunday morning. Here are three reasons why:
It’s a confession of faith.
By bringing your children to church, you are confessing that you believe Jesus’ promise regarding children: “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14). It is a statement to your brothers and sisters that you want your children brought up in the fear of the Lord. I tear up every time we receive a new little brother or sister in Baptism, partly because at your child’s Baptism I, along with the rest of the congregants, take a solemn vow to help your child honor God as much as we can and with His help.
The congregation, by including your children in the service, also confesses our faith that Christ will build His church in the hearts of these little ones by the work of the Holy Spirit, through Word and Sacrament. Scripture is replete with commands and examples of children being brought into the congregation of faith — there wasn’t kids church in Ancient Israel (see esp. Joel 2:15-16; “nursing children” are called into the house of God). Rather than taking a cue from age-segregated secular education, we ought to listen to Jesus when He says to make disciples of all nations, not the citizens of a nation of a certain age. By including children we teach them that they matter to God enough to be included in the main event, not just to be admitted to the side show. After all, “big church” is where the big things happen. Why shouldn’t our children be there?
It’s a huge benefit to them.
This morning as my wife and I drove in to a meeting at work we heard a local radio show discussing a story about a 12 year old girl poisoning her mother for taking away her phone. The hosts were aghast over how a child could be so callous, and suggested two scapegoats: Violent media and lack of physical discipline. I would like to suggest a more likely scenario: Children don’t know God, or His law. They are culturally catechized to ignore the commandments, and especially not to honor their parents (a problem that Newspring’s children bouncers only exacerbate by bypassing parents and hyping the Kidspring service directly to the children).
In the church, however, children see what it looks like to be faithful Christians, modeled in the lives of their parents. Often they participate in the Liturgy — one of the families that regularly sits behind us has two children who loudly join the rest of the congregation for the Lord’s Prayer, often praying louder than the rest of us. It’s incredible to hear the Gospel on the lips of children. Additionally, the children receive a miniature sermonette to break down some of the headier concepts of the day’s lessons for them, without diluting the teaching. In addition, hearing the teaching given to the adults engages them at a level of maturity and intellect above their own, fostering growth and producing deep rooted faith.
It’s a huge benefit to the community.
Can children in service be distracting? Absolutely, for both parents and surrounding parishioners. But we have a cry room if it gets bad. Honestly, a good scream from the back of the congregation is a wonderful thing to hear; it’s nice to know the next generation of the church has strong lungs with which to proclaim the Gospel. Seeing children is an encouragement to the elderly that the church is not dying — there are many more hands who will be trained to carry on the work. It is a reminder to those of us who are of child-rearing age of the privilege which we have been granted by God, and an opportunity to seek guidance and Godly counsel from parents with more experience.
But more than that, children teach us what it is to trust God. Jesus said we must become like them to enter the kingdom; why, then, would we lock our best examples outside of the sanctuary?
This post is not meant to condemn anyone who does take their kids to kids church (voluntarily, of course; forcing people to choose between parenting their child as they see fit and going to the church service is cult-like, and I believe it to be anti-biblical); neither should we necessarily condemn dividing the Sunday School by age; this is merely an invitation to think about children in your church service in a new way — to regard them in a better light, and to honor them as Christ has honored them.
What do you think?