I recently met with a young couple who left a church in the area because they were asked to keep one of their children quiet during the sermon. This isn’t the first story like this that I’ve heard and it won’t be the last. In fact, a few months ago a family member was attending her home church and was told her daughter was being too disruptive during the service and she would need to quiet down or leave. This is especially shocking because this church doesn’t offer a nursery. My sister-in-law and her daughter now drive an hour one-way to a church on Sunday mornings where they are welcomed with open arms.
Regardless of who anyone is and who their kids are, as a parent and a pastor these stories disappoint me.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve preached through, in my very young career, children crying or babbling, people coughing, cell phones ringing and who knows what else. It comes with the territory and if it bothers you as a preacher then it’s time to find a new job.
But let’s go back to that young couple. A big reason one of their children was in worship with them is because they weren’t feeling the Sunday School program was a formative place for their kids to be.
This is a discussion we’ve been having as City Square Church continues to grow and more families with children become involved. We currently have a family group that meets each week where the adults do a small group study and the kids (ages 1-6) are chaperoned by a couple of child care workers. My tendency has been to want to form some sort of educational “program” for the kids and we’ve been on the lookout for something that might be good as a “one room” curriculum.
However, when I mentioned this to the young couple, they asked “why?” Why do you need to institutionalize it? Why not just let the kids play, create and imagine together? They suggested perhaps offering more than just toys for kids, perhaps different types of art supplies or a snack they make together each week, but not much more.
This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t teach our kids about or model faith at home, in fact it might be more effective than any felt board or craft related Sunday School lesson.
Then again, maybe Richard Dawkins has a point about not indoctrinating our children, in the first place. Scandalous, I know.
What do you think? How should we teach children about faith? Should religious education be institutional or organic? Imaginative or doctrinal?
Regardless about how we feel about this post can we please all agree that children are always welcome in worship and we’ll only expect them to behave like children? It’s messy but it’s a beautiful thing and I think it’s what the kingdom of God is supposed to look and sound like.