Children in the church family are so important

Children in the church family are so important

You know what it’s like. Partway through a service, you hear a baby cry. It distracts you, but you try to ignore it; the parents are trying their best. Then, a little later on, there is a rustling noise while a toddler opens a packet of chips during a prayer. And during the sermon, some unsettled small children talk to their parents, and a four-year-old runs past you to the toilet. You don’t make much indication on the outside, but inside you are seething. Why don’t the parents control their kids? Don’t they know I am trying to concentrate?

What is it that drives that reaction in most of us? (I am assuming many of you are more godly than me and noises like the ones above never bother you!) It is because we feel that the church service is grown-up business. It is adults who lead and preach, and we rightly understand that this time of gathering is so important. And these children are ruining it!

Matthew 19:13-15 will help us think in a more rounded way about this. Jesus is a busy man, healing, preaching, interacting with religious leaders, and teaching his disciples. In the midst of that busy grown-up business, people in the crowd are bringing small children to Jesus. The disciples try to stop them; surely Jesus has more important things to be doing! Yet Jesus rebukes the disciples, welcomes these children, and blesses them. Children are important to Jesus and are welcome. They are not relegated to the side of the main event.

The visible church is made up of those who confess faith in Christ and their children (WCF 25.2). Whether you are in a church that practices infant baptism or dedication of infants, Christians believe that the children of believers are an important part of the church family. We are to encourage them, teach them, pray for them, and have expectations on them to serve as they are able to.

So if Jesus’ example and our own theology says that children should be a welcome and valuable part of our church community, how can we ensure we show this in practice? It has to mean that children should be taught the Bible and the gospel intentionally through all their lives. Some churches do this with Sunday School during the sermon at a level appropriate for children, and others keep the children in the sermon. Some churches have children’s talks, others ensure the sermon is simple and understandable by kids. There is no one right way. But the answer cannot be removing the kids because they are a distraction.

There is a caveat here that should be mentioned. Parents do have a responsibility here. It is respectful and loving to try to ensure that others in church are not unduly distracted by your children. But even the best-behaved children will make noise, and it is impossible to have a church service with no distractions.

So next time you find your temper rising at the noise of children in a church service, remind yourself of this: children matter to Jesus. It is a blessing to have children in a church community, learning about God and his grace. Silently thank God for the children and work hard at getting used to just a little background noise.