Children and Worship

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VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
As a parent of a two very active children (my son is age 3 and my daughter is age 2), I have wrestled with the conviction I have that children belong in the worship of God yet there is no doubt that young children can be a distraction in worship. We are working on discipline issues and, by the grace of God, seeing much fruit, but in the meantime, I am encouraged by the following article, which I thought I would share with other parents who may be in a similar boat:

http://www.all-of-grace.org/pub/others/childworship.html
 

ReformedWretch

Puritan Board Doctor
My daughter is 21, and we adopted her as a teen, so I never had this problem. But I do have something to toss in here.

Our Chruch literally has more children than adults and while none of them "yell out" or "fidget" to a terrible degree, many do come in and bring coloring books, and other items to keep them busy. While I can see hwo the parents would think this is a good idea, it is also very distracting. Pages turning, markers being sifted through, etc is just as distracting in my opinion as whispers and moving around.

Thoughts on that anyone? Am I being too picky?
 

inspector

Puritan Board Freshman
I have 4 kids and I tried to bring them to services, but not only were they a distraction to others but to me the most. The wife and I could not pay attention to the Pastor and keep the kids in line at the same time. Unless they fell asleep it did not work. We put them in the nursery or childrens church.

Alot of times the parents are a bigger discraction because they get up and walk out of the srvice midway in the sermon and come back in 10 min. later and bring the child back with them. I never did that. If we tried to bring our little one into service, we sat in the back in case we had to bail out it would not bother to many people.
 

pastorway

Puritan Board Senior
Does anyone think it is a bit selfish to deny our little ones the means of grace (preaching of the Word) so that we might not be distracted for a moment or two?

All through the Scriptures God commanded the people to gather for worship and bring everyone in the family. When and why did the church change that? Why do we think it is normal and necessary to remove children from the worship of God?

Suffer the Little Children to Come to Me - Click here for our church's stance on the topic.

Next time a child is a distraction, use the opportunity to pray for that child and his parent, that God would make the means effectual, and save or sanctify those who now have your attention. Use the opportunity to enhance worship through prayer rather than getting aggitated and thinking wrong thoughts toward the kid or his parents! (which by the way would only be defiling worship through a focus on self instead of Christ!!).

Phillip

[Edited on 10-19-04 by pastorway]
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
Originally posted by pastorway
Does anyone think it is a bit selfish to deny our little ones the means of grace (preaching of the Word) so that we might not be distracted for a moment or two?

All through the Scriptures God commanded the people to gather for worship and bring everyone in the family. When and why did the church change that? Why do we think it is normal and necessary to remove children from the worship of God?

Suffer the Little Children to Come to Me - Click here for our church's stance on the topic.

Next time a child is a distraction, use the opportunity to pray for that child and his parent, that God would make the means effectual, and save or sanctify those who now have your attention. Use the opportunity to enhance worship through prayer rather than getting aggitated and thinking wrong thoughts toward the kid or his parents! (which by the way would only be defiling worship through a focus on self instead of Christ!!).

Phillip

[Edited on 10-19-04 by pastorway]
:amen:
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
Originally posted by pastorway
Does anyone think it is a bit selfish to deny our little ones the means of grace (preaching of the Word) so that we might not be distracted for a moment or two?

All through the Scriptures God commanded the people to gather for worship and bring everyone in the family. When and why did the church change that? Why do we think it is normal and necessary to remove children from the worship of God?

Suffer the Little Children to Come to Me - Click here for our church's stance on the topic.

Next time a child is a distraction, use the opportunity to pray for that child and his parent, that God would make the means effectual, and save or sanctify those who now have your attention. Use the opportunity to enhance worship through prayer rather than getting aggitated and thinking wrong thoughts toward the kid or his parents! (which by the way would only be defiling worship through a focus on self instead of Christ!!).

Phillip

[Edited on 10-19-04 by pastorway]
I agree generally with Phillip that patience and tolerance is the word here, but based on Ezra 8, as well as the fact that the Word does not "magically" work in those who have no understanding, I would say that there is no requirement that infants be in worship.

So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law
I do find it especially interesting that Phillip would make the Word a means of grace apart from any understanding of that Word (remember that Phillip does not believe the sacraments are means of grace).
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I find that annoyed adults are more a distraction than kids. It does my heart good to see them in church, participating in worship. Finger-pointing is so, well, unworshipful.
 

pastorway

Puritan Board Senior
I am not getting into the sacramental debate here. I just wanted to post and point out that the church has moved away from what it once practiced.

As for Ezra, if everyone who could understand was there then where were those who could not understand? And if all those who could understand were there, who was watchin' em?

Ezra gives us one instance, but here are others where the people gathered for worship:

At the renewal of the covenant recorded in Deuteronomy 29, we are specifically told that the "little ones" (v. 11) were present. The word translated "little ones" literally means: "those who walk with quick tripping steps," i.e., toddlers.

Similarly at the sabbatical year convocation we are told that the men, women, strangers, and children were to be gathered and instructed. "When all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place which He will choose, you shall read this law in front of all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, the men and the women and children and the alien who is in your town, in order that they may hear and learn and fear the Lord your God, and be careful to observe all the words of this law. And their children, who have not known, will hear and learn to fear the Lord your God." (Deut.31:11-13).

Then again, in Joshua 8:35, we are told that "all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them" attended to the reading of the Word by Joshua. And again we read of similar gatherings during the time of Jehoshaphat (2Chr.20:13) and during the reformation of Ezra (Neh.8:2-3; 12:43) as well as the revival of Josiah in which the king read aloud (long before the day of cushioned pews and air-conditioned sanctuaries!) "all the words of the book of the covenant" to "all the people both small and great".
Phillip
 

Abd_Yesua_alMasih

Puritan Board Junior
Being only a teenager I have no practicle experience but I do remember a young child who was in our family for a while who would run about during the service and steal everyones keys before putting them up the front for everyone to collect. He was hyper... turn your back for a second and it was like he had teleported to the other side of the hall.

Does Sunday School not work the same in America? Over here the kids are often taken out and taught seperatly and are only in the service for about half the time. They are there for singing etc... and often go out just before the sermon. That way perants can learn and be edified by the sermon and their children can do things better suited to their own understanding.
 

inspector

Puritan Board Freshman
In my area, most all Churches provide a nursery for the babies. It is usually for newborns through about 3 years. Some Churches have childrens church for kids in kindergarten to the 5th grade.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Fraser:

Some churches do that here too. In the churches that my family and I have attended, if that was done we did not participate in Sunday School. And if confronted on the issue, I would answer that they made the choice, not me: They placed Sunday School against attending the service, and my children belonged in the service; they don't "belong" in Sunday School. The latter is voluntary, the former is mandatory.

But at the same time, there are some who make it an issue, and demand that Sunday School must be during the service, so that children have a service to their level too. But I find it is not consistent, because their "preachers" and "elders" are mothers, older sisters, and sometimes some men from the congregation, but not real office-bearers. I mean, its not a service at all. (For the Dutch, they do have collections, so it might qualify in that way :D ) I am not saying that their intentions are wrong in every case, but I do think that the solutions they present are misguided. But that's not the nub of their understanding either. For some it is just as simple as it being a matter of choice whether children belong in the service. And they are not altogether wrong that my reaction is just that, as reaction.

So for me its not whether they have Sunday School during the service, but more what the reasons are. I think children belong in the service, and that's where mine will be. If its a matter of choice, then I expect it to be maintained as such, and that that means there is more than one choice to choose from. And if my family is discriminated against for that, (e.g. "We should not consider John for a position in the church because his children don't attend Sunday School, showing a lack of commitment and family leadership by him" ) then I have no qualms putting my commitment against theirs.

I agree with Phillip, as he expressed it so well:
Does anyone think it is a bit selfish to deny our little ones the means of grace (preaching of the Word) so that we might not be distracted for a moment or two?

All through the Scriptures God commanded the people to gather for worship and bring everyone in the family. When and why did the church change that? Why do we think it is normal and necessary to remove children from the worship of God?

Suffer the Little Children to Come to Me
[Edited on 19-10-2004 by JohnV]
 

Abd_Yesua_alMasih

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by JohnV
Fraser:

Some churches do that here too. In the churches that my family and I have attended, if that was done we did not participate in Sunday School. And if confronted on the issue, I would answer that they made the choice, not me: They placed Sunday School against attending the service, and my children belonged in the service; they don't "belong" in Sunday School. The latter is voluntary, the former is mandatory.

But at the same time, there are some who make it an issue, and demand that Sunday School must be during the service, so that children have a service to their level too. But I find it is not consistent, because their "preachers" and "elders" are mothers, older sisters, and sometimes some men from the congregation, but not real office-bearers. I mean, its not a service at all. (For the Dutch, they do have collections, so it might qualify in that way :D ) I am not saying that their intentions are wrong in every case, but I do think that the solutions they present are misguided. But that's not the nub of their understanding either. For some it is just as simple as it being a matter of choice whether children belong in the service. And they are not altogether wrong that my reaction is just that, as reaction.

So for me its not whether they have Sunday School during the service, but more what the reasons are. I think children belong in the service, and that's where mine will be. If its a matter of choice, then I expect it to be maintained as such, and that that means there is more than one choice to choose from. And if my family is discriminated against for that, (e.g. "We should not consider John for a position in the church because his children don't attend Sunday School, showing a lack of commitment and family leadership by him" ) then I have no qualms putting my commitment against theirs.
I see your point well and now realise why some church's in America and only one church I have seen over here do that. One of my church's back home had a room off to the side where the little children could go and it had a one way window and speakers. That way children would not distract the parents but the people looking after the children - and the children themselves (although most were to young to understand) could hear the sermon, sing, do what ever without distacting everyone. You could say it was one way sound also so babies could cry as loud as they liked and not be heard by the congregation.

What if that was adapted for younger ones also until they got discipled enough to sit through a service among adults.
 

ReformedWretch

Puritan Board Doctor
Should the children be made to pay attention by the parents who bring them or no? If not, then what's the point of them being there?

I fear I am coming off sounding mean spirited, but I think that is a legitimate question.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Adam:

My children have notepads. If they have trouble keeping still or keeping from being distracted then we encourage use of the notepad. But we closely watch, or try to, what they are doing with it. Sometimes they doodle so quietly, and we are so engrossed in the sermon that we don't notice that they are doodling instead of writing. We have taken notepads away from them for doing that. The idea is to encourage attention to the service, the Word, and to proper participation. If it means training them by letting them copy texts while the sermon is going on, then that is what we do; but its not just any text that they are copying. They have to be on topic. This will show us whether or not they have picked up a reference or two by the minister. That's all we ask of the younger ones, while the older ones are to start taking notes if they can't listen, and show us they are listening.

This may sound rather strict in your setting, where there is an art class going on at the same time, but that is just a matter of convention. What I mean is that the settings have gotten used to different ways. Its not a matter of indifference, but its still a matter of what the people are used to, what they have practiced. But the whole idea of having the children in church is two-fold: they are members of the Covenant, and belong with God's people at worship; and they need to be trained in the way of worship so that they will fully know it when they are older.
 

ReformedWretch

Puritan Board Doctor
I can live with that John, and I suppose I am too easily distracted or maybe even selfish. I dunno...

I am going to start to sit in the front as almost everyone with kids sits towards the middle and back.:D
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
Ok, again I ask, what do you do with a 7 or 8 month old? They are completely and utterly incapable of paying attention, or doing anything but distracting.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Originally posted by fredtgreco
Ok, again I ask, what do you do with a 7 or 8 month old? They are completely and utterly incapable of paying attention, or doing anything but distracting.
Fred:
I'm sorry that I missed this question if you asked it before. I guess its up to me to answer, seeing that I said the things I did.

Jen and I usually brought our children into church at around 2 yrs. old, depending on the child. Before that they were in the nursery. One child could have been in church with us right from infancy, while another had trouble even at three yrs. But even the one that was easy needed attending during the service that an older one would not. It was not that they were distracting so much as that they often required attention for certain things that called for leaving the service. One child is one thing, but we have eleven children. There was always a young one to tend to, while the middle ones needed tending in another way, and the older ones in another way again. For us it was easier to keep them in the nursery until we felt they were ready to attend worship. For us that seemed to be around 2 yrs. of age, give or take some months.

If we are talking about one child, and he is well behaved, regular ( you know beforehand when he needs his diaper changed, when he will be hungry, etc., ) and not too cute for the people sitting one pew behind, then why not have the child in church? If we are talking about a younger sibling, then there are contingencies to the above qualifications, as there is one more to watch, to think about, and that can change things. Add to that one or more siblings and the whole scenario can change. It doesn't have to, mind you, but it can.

Each parent needs to have his own mind made up about this. It is not my business whether a parent decides that his child ought not to be in the service until three or four yrs. of age, if that's what he decides is best. And I can see that some would like to have their children trained during the interim, in a setting outside the service. I see this as a separate issue.

Its not a matter of when they can understand what is going on, but of whether they are old enough that they can sit at an hour at a time.
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Originally posted by pastorway
Does anyone think it is a bit selfish to deny our little ones the means of grace (preaching of the Word) so that we might not be distracted for a moment or two?
My sentiments exactly Pastor.

Fred,
I'm all for the infants room; as soon as they are able to sit on their own though, I would want my child in the sanctuary. My old pastor said that he had a rod that would drive the rebellion far from them..........

[Edited on 10-19-2004 by Scott Bushey]
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
Originally posted by Scott Bushey
Originally posted by pastorway
Does anyone think it is a bit selfish to deny our little ones the means of grace (preaching of the Word) so that we might not be distracted for a moment or two?
My sentiments exactly Pastor.

Fred,
I'm all for the infants room; as soon as they are able to sit on their own though, I would want my child in the sanctuary. My old pastor said that he had a rod that would drive the rebellion far from them..........

[Edited on 10-19-2004 by Scott Bushey]
Scott,

I'm in agreement with you when the child can sit. But I believe there is little or no benefit for the infant, and much distraction can occur - for example, many mothers get next to nothing from the Word because they are walking/rocking/soothing 6 month old babies who have no clue as to what is going on.
 

Abd_Yesua_alMasih

Puritan Board Junior
I must confess I hated being kept in church when I was little and while that is certainly not a reason to keep children out I wonder how many kids are forced to sit through services and never want to come near a church when they grow up. I know that certainly happens. Again I say my experiences should not have any say in this matter - I just thought I would add it.
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
There are, I think, different responsibilities that parents, children and church members in general have. Children are part of the covenant, which includes their parents and the church at large. They have a rightful place in the worship of God, no matter what their age. Infants, in my experience, often sleep right through a worship service, which at that tender age, is just fine. As children get older, parents ought to teach them to sit still and listen. This is to be accomplished in the worship service except for disciplinary situations which should be handled outside. Parents also have duty to see that others are distracted as little as possible. Other church members should aim to overlook such distractions and encourage children in the right attendance upon God's worship. Not to sound like Hillary Clinton, but sometimes it does "take a village to raise a child."

In our church, by conviction, we do not have Sunday School or a nursery. We do have a place for sleeping infants (so they won't be disturbed by our loud psalm-singing) and a temporary place for children in need of discipline. The aim is to include children in worship, following the pattern set forth in the article I referenced at the start of this thread.
 

LadyFlynt

Puritan Board Doctor
Okay time for my 2 cents. I'm a mother of 5 children. 17mos, 3, 41/2, 6, and 8)

Children CAN be taught to sit. There is use for a cryng room when an infant is inconsolable. My 18mos old sits better than my 3yr old. So we arrange seating positions based upon who needs more control (sits by Daddy). Some families have to get up more and so sit in the back. Some families find their children do better when right up front where they know all eyes are on them. I even know a woman who is quite accomplished at nursing during the service to the point that I was even clueless (having nursed all mine and just weaned the last one). This used to be accepted and in few churches today still is (mainly amish ones). Ladies sat in back corner, or on the end pews with blankets so as to be discreet (I remember this as a child, which wasn't long ago). It also helps if everyone's attitude is good. Nothing hurts worse than to have a person glare at you for a child sneezing when it's okay for an adult to do the same. If a young mother has several children and/or her husband isn't with her that day, instead of glaring, why don't another person come sit with her or take a child to go bounce on their lap while listening. Isn't this Christian charity and isn't this how our children learn? My children, young as they are (and when I myself when young), learn more from service than from playing in children's church. Even if not all of it is understood...Dad can clarify when the family gets home and test his children to see what they did understand.
I've been frustrated myself. But mainly from worrying about what everyone else was thinking than from my children.
LadyFlynt
 

street preacher

Puritan Board Freshman
At my church we have a very strict form of childrens church during the sermon. They really do learn alot in those classes. Before that though we all participate in worship and we do not have sunday school at all. I no longer put my children in childrens church because God commands that the whole family should be brought into the worship service. The New Testament church did this until the 17 or 1800's. We are all part of a huge covenant family including our children and they not only need to learn how to reverence and worship the Lord out of church but also in church through the act of participation. Our church is heading toward this.
 

turmeric

Megerator
I think I have a longer attention-span than some people because I was made to sit still in church. And we're talking Dispensational & pentecostal back in the '60's, not the in-and-out-in-1-hour variety either!
 
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