As churches begin to reopen, the majority of congregations are not opening children’s ministries. Families will worship together. This change is drastic for most churches, creating a bit of anxiety for parents and preachers alike.
There are several obvious challenges that come with having kids of all ages in the worship space.
Kids distract parents from worship. They wiggle. They whisper. They have one hundred questions or observations. Parents don’t get a “break” to worship on their own.
Kids can’t sit through the whole service. Kids don’t have many environments where they have to sit still and be quiet for a lengthy amount of time. Parents will have to leave the service, causing distractions and causing them to miss the service.
Kids won’t get anything out of it. One of the major reasons that we typically have children’s ministry is to provide age-appropriate learning opportunities. Pastors typically preach to adults. There is a legitimate concern that we “waste” kids time by not providing age-specific instruction.
Kids might distract others. Kids can be distracting even at their quietest. Is it really fair to the other adults to be distracted by whispers or cries or other strange noises?
These challenges are real. But what if God is using this time to do something unique in our churches and our families?
What if in this season…
Parents play a more critical role in discipling their kids on Sunday morning. Instead of pulling into the parking lot and going separate ways, the whole family worships Jesus together. It is a sacrifice on the part of parents, but it is a long term investment in children’s spiritual lives. Deuteronomy 6 does not tell parents to disciple their children everywhere except for church.
Kids learn how to participate in a corporate worship service. There are some things about church life we just can’t teach in children’s experiences. Kids will sing the same songs as their parents. They will experience the ordinances of the church. Sometimes they will have to be taken out. But the long term benefit outweighs short term frustrations.
Kids learn more than we expect. When my oldest daughter was a preschooler, I would take her into the service with me. She would color while the pastor was preaching. I didn’t think she had a clue what was going on. But then he asked a question. She looked up at me and answered it, spot on. Don’t expect that kids will repeat all five points of the sermon, but they will absorb more than you think. Plus, now that everyone is experiencing worship together, families can easily continue the conversation after church is over.
Distractions are not the end of the world. Many of our churches need a little bit of the life that kids bring. What better time for kids to learn now to respect others than while they are cute enough to be quickly forgiven? That’s much better than when they are an obnoxious teenager or an adult. Most people in churches will be forgiving. We are truly all in this together.
In Isaiah 43:19, the Lord says, “Behold, I am doing a new thing.” As our churches experience another season of new things, may we find joy in the messiness of our families worshipping together in one room.
Jenny Smith serves as Minister to Children at West Bradenton Baptist Church in Bradenton, Florida. This article first appeared on Church Answers by Thom Rainer, the former CEO of Lifeway.