When I started going to my church in May of 2005, we had about 75 people regularly attending, and almost all of them were single. These days, our church is much larger, thanks in part to the folks who are now married and have kids – lots of them.
At Church of the Resurrection, the kids are present during the music and communion each week, which sometimes makes for a rambunctious worship experience. Kids have been known to dance during the songs, bolt across the room during the Lord’s Supper, and one time, my daughter walked right onto the stage and into my arms while I was leading worship.
I imagine it’s hard for some of the folks at our church – Lord knows it’s hard for me to keep focused on Jesus when my kids are trying to loudly whisper their Sunday School lesson to me. That’s why I appreciate this email written by my pastor, Dan Claire, with assistance from our children’s minister, Julia Kraut. And with his permission, I’m going to share it with you.
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.
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.
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It is great to hear that marriage and childbearing has changed the demographics of the church.
No sound recordings from your church have been included, so sincere apologies in advance if I have made wrong assumptions about the church. Apologies also for the length: – hard to compress these points to a few lines
If a church uses styles of so-called worship music styles that encourage children to dance and cause them to think they are at a disco, why are people surprised when they act up? As believers, we must be distinctive from the world and worship must be distinctive from earthly activities, which includes the music used. Also, styles of music used to worship God should reinforce the fact that He demands absolute reverence from us.
The need for order in worship is firmly spelled out in 1Corinthians 14:40: – “Let all things be done decently and in order”.
My church didn’t use instrumentation in its early life. Today, we have an organ, but it is hidden behind the back wall of the sanctuary. The layout of the room is designed to focus on the pulpit, with the organist being in a corner of the room and partially obscured by the screen, so as to make the Word of God the centre of our attention, not the music. All this in spite of the young congregation that contains many speakers of Multicultural London English (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multicultural_London_English). If you are curious about how services proceed, the website is http://www.metropolitantabernacle.org
The creators of South Park (a programme I liked in my dark unbelieving days) even did an episode poking fun at the similarity between so-called worship music and worldly music: – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Rock_Hard . Granted, they have no moral authority to criticise, but if even South Park’s creators think you are worldly, you know you are doing something wrong!
The last full paragraph of Dan’s letter wrongly implies that this is a dichotomy between children worshipping and children behaving themselves in church: – they should do both.
For years I tried to live in such a way so that people would know that I followed Jesus. I found that a lot of distinction often just got me labelled as another one of those judgmental, hypocritical “Christians”. It was hard to take a look at myself and spot religion and legalism in myself. But religion was something Jesus came to destroy. Change from the outside in doesn’t work. A lot of the kids who leave the church in their college years, and never return, do so because the church didn’t take them deeper into the presence of God, or taught that only at church can you worship God. Worship is a lifestyle not a time or a tradition. I believe the pastor is right on track. One other personal opinion is that worship doesn’t need music or preaching, just an opened heart and the Holy Spirit.
I love this so much. Anytime I see kids with their parents (or running down the seats lol) Im just so happy they are there. Enjoyed the part about kids aren’t adults. That’s the beauty of kids, they haven’t developed the judge-y thing us adults get when people aren’t “behaving” how we think they should.
We have a similar set up at our church. Kids with us during worship. Sometimes they dance. Sometimes they go up with their pastor/dad on the stage. It’s beautiful. Sorry about sponge bob grumpy pants up there. Worship of God and dancing are completely acceptable to God. I seem to remember something about David dancing…(See Exodus 15, 2 Samuel 6, Psalm 30, Psalm 150) And talk about false dichotomies…how about the one where the people can’t worship with instruments. And the other one about the kids who can’t behave unless they’re standing still.
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Thanks for this post. I loved reading your pastor’s words and also I appreciated the gentle reminder.
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