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Welcome to Church ... Kids Not Invited

Mike Thomas

I was so distracted once at a church service (away from here), from an overwhelming amount of noise from the audience, that I had a hard time concentrating on the lesson. I tried focusing my attention on the speaker, but the person behind me and a few others across the isle were extremely loud—for what seemed to be every 30 seconds. The problem? You may think I am referring to rowdy kids or fussy children, with parents who would not take them out, but in fact I am referring to adults. The noise was coming from grown people during an adult Bible class! They had coughing attacks that made it difficult for them to sit quietly.

What did I do as a member of the audience? Instead of giving them the “evil eye” or condemning them, I extended patience to them with the hope they would quiet down in a little bit. And, after a few minutes, their coughing subsided. I may have missed a few comments the speaker was making, until the coughing stopped, but I eventually picked up on the lesson and was able to benefit from the study.

I recently learned of a church of Christ that does not permit small children in the auditorium during worship services. If the children want to accompany their parents to services, they must go to a daycare within the building during worship. While this might sound like a great solution to the “fuss” caused by small children, it reeks of foulness and self-centeredness to me. How can parents rear their children in the “training and admonition of the Lord” while leaving out one of the most essential aspects to godly living: worship? What kind of message does this send to the children regarding church services? To any honest observer it says, “If you bother me in church, I will have you removed.” There can be no other message sent!

How can the adults at that church teach the children about patience and longsuffering if they exclude children from worship for an occasional cry or whimper? I agree that excessively noisy kids should be removed—to a nursery or cry room to meet their needs. But that is a “horse of a different color” than not permitting them in worship services all together. If such is the case with children, what about adults who make excessive noise, as in coughing or sneezing too much? Are they to be denied entrance for not controlling their irritated throats and noses? To be consistent, such would have to be the case — for a coughing adult is no quieter than a toddler needing a diaper change!

If the reasoning behind keeping children out of worship is that it keeps things under control in the assembly, the people need to rethink their reasoning. They might think they are teaching the children the importance of worship by not permitting them to be in the assembly until they are quiet, but in reality it says the exact opposite. If worship is essential for Christian growth, which it is (I Corinthians 11:30; Hebrews 10:24-25), why are we not permitting them to witness and partake of it with us? How are we training them to worship God when we won’t even show them how to do it? Would we do the same with other “important” assemblies (funerals, weddings, etc.)? Even the Jews were taught to let their children see them worship so that “when your children say to you, 'What do you mean by this service?'“ they could then explain the need for worshipping God (Exodus 12:26-27). How can we do any less with a much greater covenant?

[If the matter is over “Children’s Church” in place of worship, then such would be just as wicked because godly “men” are to lead in worship (cf., I Timothy 2:8), and not children or women. Creating a separate assembly for children (or women) just for the sake of letting them have the lead in worship is just another way of resisting God’s will for women and children to be in submission to men.]

There must be a balance in the noise that takes place in the assembly. Those who are making the noise should do all they can to control it as soon as possible (I Corinthians 14:33). Those who are not making the noise must show patience and do their best to concentrate on God. The solution is not to ban small children from worship, else adults with health problems would need to be kicked out as well. Instead, our emphasis should be on the worship and praise of God, which is why we are assembled in the first place (Ephesians 5:19-20). God tells us He is a God who “is greater than our heart, and knows all things” (I John 3:20), so why should I be impatient with someone who needs 5 seconds to get their noise under control? If God can still hear our prayers, songs and praise, why should I stop offering it to Him because of a crying baby or coughing adult? Is it in keeping with God’s character to be impatient with others? Or is it in keeping with His attitude to be inconsiderate of others when we are making excessive noise? Then why should His worshippers fail to demonstrate such qualities in the most sacred assembly on earth — worship? How ironic it must be to God for people to gather in His name to worship Him (a selfless and considerate being) yet fail to extend the same attitude toward one another. Can people truly love God without showing such love to others (I John 4:20-21)?