By Cliff Sabroe (Father of 5 loud blessings)
The lyrics of the popular worship hymn read “Peace be Still”, but as a parent I am thinking to myself “please be quiet”. This is while I try to keep a rambunctious 4 year old from making car noises and a hungry 6 year old from stealing goldfish crackers from his 2 year old sister. No one wants to be distracted in worship, and no one wants to distract another from offering praise to God (whether it be from a loud conversation, cell phone ring or baby crying), however, the reality is, there will always be disruptions. Maybe the Disciples desired a “disruption free service” and that is why they stopped the children from coming near to Jesus. We must remember how Jesus handled the situation.
But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.“Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them. (Mark 10:14-15)
Our congregation is blessed with a lot of little children. Little children make noise, they scream, they cry and sometimes they bang their heads loudly on the back of the pew when sitting down. Many parents realize when their kids are being disruptive and promptly remove them from the assembly. (No parent wants their child to distract others from worshiping). This article seeks to ask the question - What can we do as a church to make sure we do not “hinder” the little children as the disciples did?
Understand that parents are nervous and feel like they are being judged every time their child makes a sound.
You might not think that your sideways glances are being noticed but they are (hopefully that is not your intent). Phillip Meade describes it this way “Parents endlessly worry about their children bothering other people, whether in restaurants, at the park, or in preschool. Unfortunately, nothing will elicit sweat drops on the foreheads of anxious parents more than sitting down in a church pew on Sunday morning with a 2 year old.”
Parents need the love and comfort of an accepting church family that will embrace and welcome children in the worship assembly with open arms.“Parents need to look forward, even long for the arrival of Sunday morning when they can rest easy for one hour, knowing their crying, struggling child is surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ who are not only tolerant of their presence, but overwhelmingly thankful for it” (ibid).
Truly believe in the importance of children seeing their parents worship.
Many of us learned about worship from seeing it modeled by our parents. If the moment a child makes a peep they are banished to the foyer or cry room to never return, they will never experience the joy of congregational praise. Some of the most formative years of a child’s life are the first 3, yet many kids are not spending that time in worship because their parents feel obligated to remove them because of the comments and looks of others. Allowing a little disruption in worship now, can result in a lifetime of faithfulness.
Let the children know you value them.
Although children do not fully comprehend all of worship, they can sense when their presence is desired. When little 5 year old’s hand is embraced by an older christian and they hear a comment like “that was a good “amen’” or “good job singing”, they will quickly learn they are valued. Children have a special place in the heart of God, let us let them know they have a special place with us in worship.
It is hard to bring your children to worship every week knowing they most likely not behave. The temptation to stay at home is very real. Let’s make sure that our church is always a welcoming place for children. It has been written “…that a quiet church is a dying church. There is some truth in that. So smile when you see those children struggling to get through the hour. Let’s help parents see that the one place a week where they will not be judged for those amazingly loud and at times annoying children is right smack dab in the middle of the worship service” (ibid).
May we always remember the words of Jesus, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God”.