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Last month we began looking at the topic of children in church as requested in this e-mail.
We have three children and one due in January. Their ages are six, four, and one. We have always thought it was important to have our children in church with us so we have done that from the birth of our first child. Not long ago we joined a church that was as close as we could find to what we wanted. Just recently we were asked to put our one-year-old in the nursery because of the noise and distraction he was causing. Could you refer me to any Dad’s Corners that may address this issue? A questioning dad
If you haven’t read Part One, it would be helpful for you to read it first.
When we left off, I had just finished describing how we taught our children to sit quietly in church. Prior to the child’s accomplishment of that ability, one of us would immediately take him out of church if he made noise. Even after a child had learned to sit quietly, if he were cranky due to teething, for example, then one of us was prepared to take him out of worship or stand in the back with him.
It was our practice when we had young ones to always sit as close to the back of the sanctuary as we could, preferably in the back row. We wanted to be together and not be a distraction to anyone if we needed to take a child out of the service.
There is something a bit amusing about noisy children, though, that we have noticed, and a reader commented on following last month’s Corner. Little children are much smarter than sometimes imagined. They quickly learn that if they make a noise, they are taken out of the service and allowed to get down to play in the cry room or hallway. So instead of taking them out being a deterrent to their noise, it becomes a reward. To prevent the children from training the parent, we would recommend that if you take your child out of the service for being noisy, find a place where you can continue to practice sitting quietly without him disturbing others. Teri often sat outside the service in the back of the entryway holding one of our children who was still learning to sit quietly on her lap. It was a temporary season, and one that was well worth investing the time and inconvenience into knowing that we would soon be able to worship as a family with all of our children beside us. We loved having our children with us during worship. I still remember holding a little one on my lap and cuddling him while we worshipped.
We believe a major reason that parents often fail at teaching their children to sit quietly is that the parent isn’t committed to the goal. For example when taking the child out to the cry room, it is more enjoyable for the parent to fellowship with other adults than to sit quietly, teaching their child to be quiet while listening to the message.
Teaching children to be quiet and have self-control takes commitment, consistency, and effort, but there are a number of benefits that are likely to result. (If you are fine with your children in children’s church or Sunday School, you need not read any further. I’m not seeking to change your mind in this area. I leave that fully between each parent and the Lord. He is the One Who should be directing each of us.) First, when your children are in church with you, you know what they are learning. One dad on staff at a church shared that it was his responsibility to sequentially sit in on Sunday School classes to confirm that the material was being taught correctly. He was always ready to take over a class and begin teaching if necessary, and that did happen on occasion. I appreciated the care this church was taking to teach accurate and appropriate information, but as he acknowledged, there were times he had to step in and take over. He was only one person with several classes to monitor. How much better to have the children with the parents, and then there is no doubt as to what the children are being taught.
The second benefit of children in church with their parents is the avoidance of developing an entertainment-centered appetite for worship. One of the appetites that we can inadvertently give to our children is the appetite of entertainment; this appetite is one of the hardest to break. Once a child has been hooked by it, he will struggle with wanting everything to be fun and exciting. I have heard that many children’s church programs that run concurrent with the preaching service are highly entertaining with the goal of keeping the children’s interest. That may work for awhile, but it teaches the children that church must be wild, humorous, or exciting in order for them to be interested in it. What is reaped from those seeds sown is that when finally exposed to Biblical preaching, it can be seen as boring. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).
Another outcome from having your children with you in church will be that your children will learn to reverence God and His Word. The Word of God is so valuable and critical to our lives that our children must learn to respect it by sitting quietly and being attentive. If we honor the Father and His Word, should we not teach our children reverence?
To invest the time to teach children to sit quietly in church means that you don’t have to leave your church just because it isn’t family-integrated as we know some have done. Perhaps others have been disturbed by your children’s noise and will now be happy when they observe them sitting quietly and not being a distraction.
A further benefit of children in church is that they should be challenged and instructed spiritually. Some might question how much young children will understand in an adult service. Have you ever looked at reading primers from the 1800’s? Children were learning material that was shockingly difficult. Much of our education now is “dumbed-down” with the likely result that children of today are not as well-educated when compared to children of a century or two earlier. When given the opportunity, children demonstrate an uncanny ability to learn and understand. There is something incredible about how a child’s spirit can absorb the spiritual truth of the Word. By having our children in church with us we are helping to teach and grow them spiritually.
As we have our children in church with us we can help them learn to respect others, and others will often see that children are a blessing rather than an inconvenience. Part of communicating to a child that it is important to be quiet in church will be discussing the need to respect those around us and not to interfere with their ability to worship by distracting them. Through this our children develop respect for others and instead of them being a curse to worshippers when they are noisy and a distraction in church, they become a testimony of blessing to the Lord. I’ve talked to many families who mention how their children receive compliments for being well-behaved in church.
We can show others that children are a blessing by teaching them to reverence the Lord and respect others while in church by being still and quiet. We have found it such a blessing to worship together as a family which we have done from the time we first realized our children didn’t have to be in the nursery and children’s church. We have been pleased with the positive fruit we have seen in our children’s lives when the Lord told us to take responsibility for discipling our children. I would encourage you to get a word from the Lord and obey. Obedience will always yield glorifying fruit.
I want to encourage you as the dad to take the leadership role in teaching your children to be quiet in church. Set up a plan for this part of their education by practicing during family Bible time. Then you can enjoy the pleasant fruit of having your children worship with you while not disturbing others in church. I think your wife and your children will be blessed by your efforts.