There has been a lot of talk recently about bringing the children back into the worship service. While I think it is very helpful for children to see mom and dad worshipping and it can make the transition easier if the little ones learn the same songs as the grown ups, when it comes to the teaching time we release kids 10 and under to age appropriate programs downstairs. We do it for the following reasons:
We believe in the transforming power of the preached Word of God
Amazing things happen in us as a congregation when the Word of God washes over us as the Spirit of God works within us. When we hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached from the whole canon of Scripture, we are changed, by one degree of glory to the next – this is the work of the Spirit in us (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Hearing matters and it can be difficult for moms and dads to hear while caring for a younger child.
We do a couple of services a year with the kids in and the change in the listening environment is incredible.
Every fussing toddler is surrounded by a 20 person circle of distraction. Mothers are sorting through their purses looking for Fishy Crackers, dads are scowling, ladies near by are making faces they believe to be entertaining and kids in the row behind are staring wide eyed at the entire process.
Of course it is entirely understandable and it certainly isn’t the child’s fault. Human beings are easily distracted. Children are delightfully distracting. Therefore, during the sermon portion of our service we dismiss the little ones to a time of preparatory learning downstairs.
We believe in the reality of learning styles and stages
There is a reason that very few schools place grade 8 students in the same classroom as grade 2 students. 13 year olds and 7 years olds are very different people and they tend to learn in very different ways. Therefore, to maximize their learning potential, it seems to make sense to us as a society to split them up into different learning environments.
If we do this in every other arena of life, why would we not do it in church?
Children learn well through song, play, rhyme and action. They need to focus on memorizing basic elements and recognizing certain fundamentals. Their brains aren’t fully developed and they aren’t capable of abstract thought or complex reasoning. The Apostle Paul acknowledges this in 1 Corinthians:
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. (1 Corinthians 13:11 ESV)
Just as you would treat a tiny shoot differently than a full grown tree, so too there is great wisdom in treating children different than adults.
It makes sense to have children in the service to see mom and dad praying and singing and it makes sense for them to “get a feel” for adult church, but after the singing, praying and offering, when it is time for grown up learning, it is time for the little ones to go downstairs for children’s church. They will learn more and mom and dad will too.
We believe in blessing and equipping mom and dad
I’ve had a number of young parents – moms in particular – tell me how much they appreciate the fact that we have dedicated and well trained volunteers downstairs willing to teach their kids for an hour so that she can learn in the sanctuary with other adults.
She appreciates the break.
She appreciates an hour and a place where she can sit uninterrupted with her Bible open and a highlighter in her hand listening to the Word of the Lord.
She needs a full tank because mommies leak.
Parenting sucks the life out of you – I know, because I have 5 kids. We teach them, we do Family Devotions, we do bedtime prayers; I just took a break from writing this blog to pray with a crying child – I get it! Parenting is physically, emotionally and spiritual EXHAUSTING.
See that word again: EXHAUSTING.
As in “takes it all out of you.”
So let’s work together to put some of that back in!
Let’s prioritize mom and dad for 45 minutes. Johnny and Susy are likely the centre of attention for most of the week, but for 40- 45 minutes let’s do our best to care for mom and dad.
They need their tank full to face the challenges that lie ahead.
But What Does The Bible Have To Say?
It surprises me how often this part of the process is skipped. I’ve heard a lot of “opinions” about what is good for kids and how kids need to learn to sit still and how iPads are ruining the world.
I agree with a lot of that.
But where is that in the Bible?
Here is what I see in the closest parallel passage I could find:
So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. (Nehemiah 8:2–3 ESV)
Men and women.
All who could understand.
Seems like a good practice to me.
Let’s worship together – absolutely! But let’s reserve a portion of the service for age appropriate learning.
Mom and dad need it.
And Johnny and Susie need it too.
To listen to Pastor Paul’s Into The Word devotional podcast on the TGC Canada website see here. You can also find it on iTunes.