Children Belong in Church
Is the sound of children disturbing or delightful? How children and adults benefit from children attending worship.
“I wonder if it’s worth it to bring him to church at all.”
Steve Bilitz, family ministry director at Christ, North St. Paul, Minn., remembers hearing these words from a mother, screaming son in tow, after her third trip to the cry room. Many parents admit thing the same. They worry their child is disturbing others and not “getting anything out of” the service anyway.
Worship Benefits the Children
Bilitz, however, says having the child in the pew is worth it. “I asked the mother, ‘Do you believe the Holy Spirit worked at your son’s baptism? Why not now? Who’s to know how the Spirit works?'” He adds, “We need to remind each other to be a little more tolerant of those little ones. Children belong in church.”
Paul’s injunction to fathers to “bring [children] up in the training and instruction of the Lord” and Christ’s words to Peter, “Feed my lambs,” summon parents and the church to the spiritual education of children. Gerald Kastens, [former] youth discipleship administrator, believes some of that spiritual education takes place during the worship service. “One of the most important things we can do is bring our children to church regularly.”
Developmental psychologists tell us little ones absorb more than we think they do. Even as children play, they soak up the Word, the liturgy, and our Lutheran chorales, memorizing and storing them for a lifetime. They also respond emotionally to the worship setting, enjoying the togetherness of the family of believers and sensing the beating of the sinner’s heart: sorrow over sin, joy in forgiveness.
Most important, children hear “the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done” (Psalm 78:4) and the gospel promise.
Children in Worship Benefit the Congregation
Bilitz emphasizes that seeing the Spirit’s work in the next generation benefits the whole congregation, especially older members. “Seeing and hearing little ones reminds them they still have an important role to play in the congregation: to support Christian education and training.”
Kastens adds, “The sound of children is the sound of a healthy and growing church.”
Most churches have a cry room for shortterm problems. Is a nursery where children play during the service ever a good idea? Some say yes. They opt for the nursery so they can feed their own souls instead of monitoring their children’s behavior.
“We say that parents should bring their children to church, but it isn’t always that easy,” says Pastor Robert Hartman, evangelism administrator. He raises the important issue of visitor friendliness. “Many visitors expect a nursery. If they have children and see there’s no place for them, they may not be back.”
Still, all agree that congregations need to do everything possible to underscore Jesus’ invitation: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
Laurie Biedenbender is a member at Epiphany, Racine, Wisconsin.