In my last post, I wrote about some church leaders’ misunderstanding of the role of the building in worship. This was in response to a note that I had gotten from a reader. In that note, the writer also said that the pastor of the church he visited made a comment about not allowing children to eat candy in the “sanctuary.”
In some (many?) of the evangelical churches I have visited or attended over the years, I have seen a funky, weird attitude toward children. Some adults act as if God will send lightning down to strike any child that begins to have fun in the church. Following this thinking, one must not allow his 5 year old to run in church or play tag in the lobby.
When we act this way, we teach children that God is like a grumpy grandfather that has a headache and Johnny must not disturb him. This is the opposite picture that Jesus painted of his father in Luke 15.
I understand that during the worship service, distraction from children should be kept at a minimum. But in one church we attended, ushers would (often not so) politely tell parents that their children are not welcome in the service with the adults. This, in spite of what Jesus said in Mark 10:14, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”
There has to be a proper balance point in between the extremes of letting children run out of control and expecting them to act like adults. Some of us adults struggle to act like adults, why should we expect children to do better?
The point of this rant is to say that we should enjoy the children with which God blesses our congregation. They are not a distraction from the main thing, they are the main thing.
Jesus gave us one mission, that is to make disciples (Matt. 28:19-20). What better way to do this than to allow our children to experience church as a place where they can have appropriate fun. I think that God smiles just as hard at a 7 year old playing tag as he does at an adult raising his hands in worship. In both situations, the child and the adult are doing what God created them to do. In a sense, they are both worshiping.
So, the next time that you are annoyed because a baby cries during the sermon or a child asks a question out loud during the service, think of Jesus opening his arms to receive similar children to him. Learn the lesson that Jesus taught the disciples and allow the children to come to Jesus – as children.