“Children’s Church” is intended to be a time of children ages ~3-7, having a dedicated time of song, teaching, and sermon(ette), separate from their parents, who simultaneously attend the normal church service. When I ask about children participating in the normal church or home group activities or Bible studies, I hear a number of reasons. I documented my thoughts as I reconciled these reasons against the Biblical witness.
Q: Children can’t sit still, and they would be a distraction to me and those around me.
A: A parent should be sacrificing to mature a child. Do we choose to study how to do this well, while declining to do it? Children are taught and adapt to the norms that are expected of them. They will come to adopt behavior as they are allowed to exhibit. If a child is taught that they can avoid adult disciplined settings to something they “want more” or “like more”, loving parents that allow it or choose it must believe there is some reason to teach this expectation. I don’t know what it is. What children are taught is was they become. Doesn’t this idea just grow children into adults who try to escape disciplined settings?
- If a child is disrespectful toward parents, and allowed to be this way, it teaches the child to value individual wants instead of deference for the respect and honor shown to another.
- I’ve heard it said that it’s best to not spank children, lest they learn to hit back. This attitude appears to be unaware of God’s teaching in this area. Spanking is not hitting. Neither the motive nor the action are the same.
- As a child, if we are trained to have our time away from responsibility, then as an adult, this manifests into other ways of escape – guy time “with the men” when we don’t care for our family, sometimes going to excess with alcohol or other female company. Or “time for the women” to get away from their families – for dinner, nails, and a movie – declining care for others that God speaks well of.
Q: It’s difficult for younger children to understand an adult message in the sermon.
A: For a child, maybe it’s not as much about hearing and applying the sermon, as it is about watching and being part of their parents doing so. If a parent runs to and fro trying to manage many projects, but cannot find time to sit still and peacefully absorb and live God’s Word, then that’s probably what they’re teaching their children to be like, also. If a parent respectfully works to hear God’s Ways, and demonstrates a life-changing effect, then the children will model after this. Intellectual dissection, or even being smart, is not something God puts a premium on.
Q: Teaching and activities must be age-specific, or “different people learn in different ways”.
A: This theme doesn’t seem to be present in the Scriptures. If we are taught to amplify and esteem our differences, rather to appreciate our sinful similarities in the face of God, there are costs:
- Age-appropriate expectations later manifest with gender-appropriate, and race-appropriate, and income-appropriate expectations. At the extreme, they become “I’m breathing, so I deserve my rights” expectations, which are burdensome to society. The family of God is fractured away from being a purposeful functioning body where differences can come together and become more.
- I levy my preferences to become the burden of others, and require that others respect my individuality — usually again manifest in “I get to do/be what I want”. Instead, we should be taught that others should be put first.
- Learning the knowledge in the sermon – being smart – getting the grade – answering the test – becomes the value and espoused beauty of life. This is contrary to Scripture. Why have we replaced behaving well with being smart?
Q: You haven’t met ~my~ children. They require exceptions to the otherwise fine ideas.
A: There is no temptation to someone that hasn’t been played out many times before for others. Any person’s life is not a special case. Honoring exceptions is a dangerous theology and social paradigm to model or teach to our children (see previous question about differences). When grown up, such an attitude allowed in the presence of children manifests itself as (for example):
- A belief that divorce is wrong. Except, in my case, you haven’t met my spouse…
- Parents should be honored. Except, in my case, I have this job vocation I have to pursue…
- Debt is wrong. Except, in my case, we need this car, house, furniture…
Q: I love my children and want the best for them.
A: The act of loving children is often incorrectly framed or measured by physical provision. A shopping spree. Christmas presents. Clothes they need or want. Fun time with friends. A lack of complaining from them. God explains that loving children is a much wider concept than that, and may be opposite.