This blog post is more of an unraveling of some thoughts that I have been wrestling through over the last few years. I am not sure that I will complete it in one post, but I look forward to the journey of attempting to express some thoughts of mine. Hopefully through this exercise, I will be able to sort through some of my thoughts.
Almost six years ago I became a father. This changed my world and my perception of the world. I began to see things that I never saw before prior to being a dad. The first thing that jumped out at me was our culture’s view of children or friendliness to families—or lack thereof. Obviously this format precludes me from addressing this subject as a whole, so I want to limit it to the church context. I immediately discovered there is a pectrum of hospitality towards children in the church.
As a pastor, I like visiting other church during off times for the sake of being ministered to, without having to be “the pastor.” After Grace was born, we suddenly realized that Grace wasn’t welcome to visit all churches. This created a little bit of an inconvenience for us we desired to create a culture of family time and worshiping together. I was somewhat stunned to find that there were churches that literally forbid children under 12 in the sanctuary. I am sure this has been going on for a long time in a lot of churches, but I never noticed before as it didn’t affect me. This began to shape me as a young pastor restarting a church. What would be our policy? How would I handle this as our young church started to develop and come to life?
I don’t think I have a conclusion at this point, but I have discovered some pressure points that I am working between. I will address them in bullet form.
1. Children are a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127:3-5). Clearly the Bible speaks highly concerning the gift and value of children. While our present culture may not value them, the church must view them as God views them. As I am exposed to families with multiple children, I begin to see some negative thoughts/feelings expressed towards them that are not in alignment with the scriptural teaching the children are a blessing from the Lord. With this point, I hope to cultivate a climate in the church that values the blessing of children.
2. Parents are responsible for making disciples of their children (Deut. 6:4-9). Ultimately the onus of making disciples of children lies on the parents. I have noticed that Christians conclude differently on the process of teaching their kids about the Lord. I have also noticed that parents often think their way is the best way and should be used by everyone. On this point I am convicted to help parents as ultimately they are responsible for teaching their children about God and walking with Him. God is not something that “they are to discover on their own” as many in our culture state, but parents have the responsibility to introduce their kids to Jesus. I want the parents to feel and understand that they are responsible before God on this point, and I want to help equip them for the task.
3. Jesus welcomed children to sit in on His teaching, even when the disciples had tried to shuffle them away (Matt. 19:13, Mark 10:13-16, and Luke 18:15-17). Elsewhere in the New Testament children are addressed in the text–it seems safe to assume that children were present in the teaching context. As an under-shepherd of Christ, I must aim to teach as he taught. On this point it means welcoming children in the Sunday service. Also, I want to encourage parents to worship with their children. As the pastor, I have the responsibility to encourage a climate of hospitality to the young ones in our service. This is a main reason why we include all the kids in the main sanctuary during the worship, which leads into my next point…
4. Sunday School. People learn at different levels and with different attention spans. We have no Sunday School during our first service, but I am not opposed to have one. As the teaching pastor, I have become more aware of a prominent group with in our culture–the single mom. While my wife is obviously not single, she is on Sunday mornings. I am acutely aware of her struggle with a six-year old and two-year old Sunday mornings all alone. Throughout the Scriptures we learn that God has a special place for widows and orphans (James 1:27). The unfortunate reality is there are many young women out there with children and an absent father. I am burdened to help these ladies grow in the Lord.
Also, we live in a fallen world. There are many people who don’t know the most basic things from Scripture and don’t really even know where to begin when coming to church in search of God. There are many people in our culture who have not disciplined their kids and life is pretty much out of control. I am not speaking down to these people–for I was one of them not long ago.
5. There is a difficult balance to strike between a child making a minor noise and a child that is disruptive to the service. The body should be gracious to the parent who is resolving an issue with their child, while the parent with the child must be sensitive to the the distraction their child is making. In my experience, it seems the parents are far more accutely aware of every peep and are far more uncomforatable when their child makes some noise. The goal is to raise the bar on the child, not lower it to turn the sanctuary into a preschool classroom.
So for some people, having a Sunday school (say children under 12) option for them is good in growing them and their children spiritually.
Here are my conclusions so far:
1. Children should be welcomed in church. Having multiple generations together is good for all.
2. Families should be encouraged to disciple and worship with their children.
3.We live in a less than ideal culture and we need to help those who are not ready to make disciples, but rather need to be discipled and Sunday school is a viable option.
4. This is not a simple or easy endeavor, but is well worth it!