Suffer the Little Children
Have you ever wondered when Children's Church (that time on a Sunday morning when kids under a certain age are separated from their parents in the sanctuary) was invented?
A satirist and Lutheran pastor tells the whole humorous story in the following video:
Kidding aside, there are serious issues with Children's Church.
Instead of basing my post on the opinions of the Vicar and Mr. Thompson, who will "not suffer the little children" in the satirical video, I want to share a quote from a real church that I went to just two weeks ago.
Our Auditorium environment is designed for adults, so we ask that you please do not bring children into the gathering, but rather help them connect in one of our safe and fun kidVenture Island environments for children six weeks and old and older. If your child is younger than six weeks old, we have a specially designed Family Comfort Room for you and your child. Thank you for helping us keep the Auditorium focused on worship.
This quote is from a printed bulletin I was given as I gathered to worship at LCBC (Lives Changed By Christ). In order to keep their sanctuary "focused on worship," LCBC has asked children not to come in.
I'll admit that children can be loud and distracting. That's the nature of small human beings who haven't had their prefrontal cortex develop, yet.
Their loud crying can distract me from what the leaders are saying, but does it distract from worship itself?
What is worship? Is it only the words in the songs and the preaching of God's word? No. Everything we do, when done unto the Lord, is an act of worship. (I'm sure that LCBC would agree that giving money to the church is an act of worship - and I haven't seen kids interfere with that.)
More than this, God's word makes clear that children can - and do - worship God.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. - Psalm 8:2
Jesus quotes this verse (using a different translation) in Matthew's gospel. In chapter 21, all the Pharisees (religious leaders) are upset to hear the children in the temple crying out, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" They challenge Jesus about this, asking him if he hears what the children are saying.
And Jesus said to them, "Yes; have you never read, 'Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies, you have prepared praise'?" - Matthew 21:16
So in Jesus' time, children were in the temple. And he pointed out that they were correctly worshiping him when the Pharisee adults were not.
It is not a Biblical practice to separate children from adults during worship in the Temple.
Furthermore, I think that it is a bad practice, with consequences that are being felt now throughout the world.
As Mr. Thompson from the video above says, "It is worth noting that kicking annoying Christians out of the sanctuary in order to stay nice and cozy is not substantially different from kicking annoying doctrine out of the sanctuary when it makes you equally uncomfortable."
For another thing, children are not the only annoying and distracting people in a sanctuary. My congregation has a young man who has a number of mental and physical handicaps which cause him to groan and make loud distracting noises during the sermon.
Should we ask this young man not to enter the sanctuary for the same reason we ask children not to enter?
Mr. Thompson also fears that, "Since one of the greatest causes of youth turning away from the faith is never seeing their parents exercise the faith ... I'm afraid that [Children's Church] will keep our sanctuaries rather empty in thirty years."
I agree with Mr. Thompson's fear. I've seen many people who grew up in the church leave because it didn't ever mean anything to them. All church meant to them growing up was arts and crafts with a nice story put in.
We should seriously re-evaluate our ideas about keeping Children in the sanctuary with us. Families with young children should all be welcomed to stay in the sanctuary. For those of us who don't have any children, we must be careful never to add to the burden of a crying child. Instead of talking about how difficult it is to hear the sermon because of crying children, we should remark on how encouraging it is to see families worship God together.
Children don't have a prefrontal cortex to regulate their behavior. They can't be expected to always be self-controlled. Adults who do have a prefrontal cortex have no excuse for rebuking the people who come to Jesus.
Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven." - Matthew 19:13-14