Churches all over the place frequently struggle and wrestle with the issue of having children in their worship services. If you simply attend a church (which is another issue for another day) you may wonder, "Is this seriously an issue?" Absolutely! And many hours of many staff meetings are spent hashing it out each week. In fact, Newspring Church in Anderson, SC, does not allow younger children in their worship services at all. On there website they let newcomers know this:
"We are so passionate about kids learning about Jesus in a way they can understand that we do not allow them in our service designed for adults and students (6th grade and older). All kids (babies through 5th grade) attend Kidspring each Sunday."
I bring this up because I think it's worth having the conversation and helping people understand why this is such an important issue to consider. At The Brook, there are not many things we openly, publicly FORBID. We don't have any signs that read: NO KIDS IN THE WORSHIP SERVICE! At the same time, I (and all of our staff and leadership) would completely agree with Newspring's philosophy and reasoning behind this. I want to explain WHY we think this is the best option for everyone.
First off, as Newspring puts it on the website, kids don't learn like adults. I know most people read/hear that and think, "Well, duh." But the fact is, while most people believe that they don't always act on it. Not only are our worship services designed to draw in and reach people 16-18 and older, our kids worship service is completely geared toward them. And if you took a Sunday and joined in on what happens in Faith Factory (our service for kids K-4th Grade), you'd see that kids not only learn differently than we do, they seem to worship differently as well. A very GOOD differently! They aren't inhibited. They aren't worried about whether or not someone cares if they bust out in dance. I think they figure, "The Bible says to dance, sing, shout, and celebrate who God is!", so let's do it. Why would we want to squash that? If we allow a generation or two to truly learn what it means to freely worship the Lord, maybe they'll come into our services and start to shake the place!
On this same note, we hear all kinds of reasoning behind why parents sometimes bring their kids into the worship service. Here are a couple:
"My kid just doesn't feel comfortable in the kids service."
Guess what? If they never go, they never will. Consider this: Could it be much more to their benefit for YOU to go with them for awhile, until they become more "comfortable", rather than bringing them with you so they can draw on a bulletin or play Angry Birds for 45 minutes? Something to think about.
"My son/daughter just seems to be more mature than what they're doing in the kids service."
Really? If that's the truth, then for the sake of all the other children, please allow them to GO to the kids service and rub off on all the other children! If they're that "mature", then they'll certainly see the role of spiritual leadership that the Lord is calling them on to as a mature believer. You know, like it says in Hebrews 5:11-6:1. There are a TON of ways they can be leading!
Another factor in all of this is a concept that I think we often fail to consider: other people. When a child starts talking - squirming - yelling - it distracts everyone around them. And we're not just talking about the person in the seat behind you. People on the complete opposite side of a sanctuary start bending their necks, trying to figure out, "Where is that noise coming from?" The pastor or preacher, attempting to deliver a message that they've (hopefully) spent a LONG time preparing and praying over is stopped dead cold in the middle of a train of thought, often left fumbling to remember, "What in the world was I saying?" Are we considering the 100-150-300 other people who are present?
One last thing I think is worth discussing. I firmly believe that there are some parents - and I think (hope & pray) that they are few and far between - who bring their kid(s) with them to the worship service as an excuse. An excuse to not pay attention themselves. An excuse to get up and walk out early. An excuse of "They need to hear this more than I do!" If you've struggled, wrestled with, or been guilty of this, I hope you'll begin to understand: Your child is not an excuse. Don't use them as one. You will regret it and so will they.
We work incredibly hard at The Brook to craft an opportunity every single week for our kids to fully experience the power and presence of God - and to do it in an environment designed uniquely for them. As a parent, we encourage you to take full advantage of this. And remember: ALL KIDS WORSHIP. It's our responsibility as parents to teach them WHO it is that they were made and designed to worship.