Stop Chasing Children Out of Churches!
Church. It’s a term that the great majority of us are familiar with whether we believe in a religion or do not. Some of us know churches as places that have hurt us while others see them as places that build us up. It honestly depends on the churches we have been to because they are not all the same. I have noticed something with a lot of churches (not all of them), though, and it is incredibly disheartening. That one thing is requiring young children to be placed into the nursery or children’s church/worship away from their parents.
Humiliated For Having Children?
One Sunday, my husband and I thought, “Let’s try that one church.” We hop in the car, hoping to praise God, listen to His word, and fellowship with other believers. As we walk in, we’re having a good feeling about the morning and my husband held the door open for us. With a toddler in my arms we walk to the sanctuary/main worship room doors. A man stood in front to welcome people into the sanctuary, and my husband approached we said, “Good morning!” In response, he held his hand out like a stop sign. He said, “We have an older than 3 years old policy in the sanctuary.” We asked, “Well, then what do we do?” He was enthusiastic to point us in the direction of where the nursery was and said we could drop our child off and come back. If we refused to drop our child off in the nursery, we would have to sit out in the cafe area and watch the worship band and pastor preach on a television screen. He didn’t do this quietly, there were others nearby, and it felt almost humiliating.
So There We Sat…
In the cafe area, we saw the man still standing at the doors throughout the entire service. It seemed he was more of a bouncer than a host. My husband and I saw childless couples walk in, greeted with a smile. We saw a mother who dropped her child(ren) off at the nursery and received a smile as the man held the sanctuary doors open. In the cafe, there were some single people that were sitting out in the area, but there were plenty of people with small children that couldn’t go in because of this ridiculous policy. So, why does this man greet couples with children with a great frown and a, “You may not enter here,” but to those that aren’t accompanied by children, they are greeted with a, “Good morning,” and a smile. How is this okay?! Let me put it plain and simple, “IT IS NOT OKAY!” There are many reasons I do not want to use the church nursery or children’s church, but that is for another post.
I Didn’t Come to Church to Watch TV
You know, if I wanted to watch a sermon on the television screen, I would have stayed at home and turned on one of those sermon channels. On the other hand, I could have probably gone online and found a sermon to watch. We all need fellowship with other believers, it is important. God did not make us to be isolated beings by ourselves. Socialization is something that we do in fact need, and it is good for our physical, mental, emotional, and physical health! While you are outside the sanctuary doors when the sermon is over, the sanctuary doors are still closed. People fellowship on the outside and by the time they walk out of the doors, most of them have done their fellowship thing and are ready to eat at a local buffet. So where does that leave the parents with the children with them? Alone and isolated.
The Sad Thing
It isn’t only this church we tried to visit that has this policy. My husband and I, when we were looking for churches, went to many different ones. Often times, we were faced with this issue. I was astounded at how unwelcoming churches were to children! It makes me want to explode, quite literally. However, we usually leave and do not return. Some church websites will tell you that you must drop your little ones off at the nursery or watch the whole thing on a television screen. It feels ostracizing and discriminatory to me. Other church websites will not tell you about their child policy so you go in and it’s a surprise. It can vary, some kids under 3 aren’t allowed while others under 13 aren’t allowed. It gets ridiculous! I mean, church is supposed to be a welcoming place, but it becomes hostile if you have children you would like to keep with you. You wanted to listen to that Sunday’s sermon, but nope – you are turned away at the sanctuary door. It alarms me how common this is.
Why Chase Out a Blessing?
This baffles my mind so much because it isn’t even Biblical for one. There is nothing in the Bible that specifically states we must send our children away as we worship Him. In fact, it doesn’t exactly mention keep our children with us while we worship, either. The issue isn’t covered as an exact answer on yea or nay for this. However, I feel that the scripture below supports children being allowed to worship with their families (no matter how young). Jesus didn’t shoo children away:
Psalm 127:3-5 (NIV):
3 Children are a heritage from the Lord,
offspring a reward from him.
4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
5 Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their opponents in court.
Mark 10:13 – 16 (NIV):
13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.
So Why a “Requirement”?
I feel that many churches have adopted these rules based on societal standards, not on God’s words. Most of it seem to me to be based on convenience. Here are the excuses I see for not allowing children in the main sanctuary:
- It is difficult for others to listen to the sermon – kid’s are noisy
- Children don’t like to sit still and it is distracting
- Children can’t understand the sermon so they need to be in a Sunday school class or nursery where it can be taught to them at their level.
- Gives parents more of a focus on God and the sermon at hand without distraction
- Classes at a child’s level make learning the Bible fun (instead of sitting in a ‘boring’ main sanctuary)
- The pastor doesn’t have to worry about bringing up more “adult” topics
The Reasons Don’t Add Up
In my opinion, I don’t exactly understand it. I grew up in a church that always allowed babies and young children in the services. I never had an issue and attended this church the majority of my life. You see, if a child acted out or got out of control, the parents escorted their child outside. If a baby needed a diaper change, to nurse, or needed to be with mommy in a rocking chair they went to the baby room, closed the door, and had the option of looking out of a window or shutting the blinds for privacy. For adult topics, there could be separate Bible studies discussing that topic with adults so they may find their own childcare they are comfortable with. Parents do have a hard job, and they did their best to avoid distracting others. Sure, kids moved around a lot, and it may be a struggle to keep them in the pews, but at least they are there to serve the Lord. If children are a blessing from God and we are chasing them out of churches, what message does that send? It makes a welcoming church look like a hostile environment for families.
Parents Need Friendly Options
I believe that having a nursery or children’s church requirement is wrong. It basically says, “Okay, if you don’t comply, you cannot attend other believer’s in the main sanctuary.” It can cut us off from the fellowship we need from other believers. It makes a church establishment a controlling environment by demanding parents take their child to a church nursery. I like the idea of having an “optional” nursery and children’s church for those who feel it is best for them to utilize that. However, I do not believe parents should be turned away at the doors because they are holding the hands of God’s little blessings. Sitting in a cafe, cry room, or somewhere else isn’t exactly a family friendly option, even if the sermon can be seen on a television.
Children Feel the Holy Spirit
I am a firm believer that children can feel God’s presence. They can feel the Holy Spirit sweep through a room. Perhaps they dance, leap for joy, or are calm with His peaceful hand resting upon their shoulder. I have seen kids in churches where it was allowed, they danced during the worship music. I mean, they got on fire for Jesus! They were excited! Let them worship! Allow them to praise the loving God that gave them life! Sure, young children may not understand the sermons or God’s word, but they don’t need to be able to speak or understand a language to feel that He is there in the room with them. I feel that sending them elsewhere, we deprive them of that experience.
I Want to Be With My Family
No thank you, I want to be together with my family. There is no other way I would want it. Sure, it takes a lot of energy to keep a young child nearby with mom and dad. They may fuss, they may cry, they may need a diaper change, or they want some attention from mom and dad. At least they chose to be in church and worship God that morning. More than likely, those parents woke up on Sunday morning and both debated, “Honey, should we go in today or sleep in? I mean, we’re really tired.” Instead, they got up to drag themselves out of their bed, get themselves ready, get their children ready, and spend their time to worship God in church with other believers. That’s not easy when everyone is ready until the second you are about to walk out the door and someone needs a diaper change, someone told you they washed their hands in the toilet, or they spilled their cup of milk all over the carpet. Despite these challenges, the parents still went through the trouble to worship God in a church with their family.
Stop Chasing Children Away
They may not understand everything fully, but they can feel God’s presence. We all need to recognize that God gives us children as a blessing, not a curse. Parents are isolated enough when they raise their children because they are busy at home and can’t go out on a date when they want or they can’t go out on the town whenever they please. It may seem like a setback, but it’s a blessing with a purpose. God gives life to a child at the moment of conception and see’s that child every breath of their life. That child was given parents that God hopes will bring them up in His ways. He trusts parents with a blessing He gives them. We should stop chasing children away and allow them to be with their parents as they worship God. Children also learn by observing. If they observe us worshiping God they will understand that is a great thing to do. They see us sit still on Sunday’s and even if they can’t yet, they will be able to eventually in their own time. By chasing children out of church, you may be chasing families away from God. Yes, I said it. You might be chasing families away from God or from your church specifically because you are not welcoming their blessings that are important in their life.
Have you ever been to a church that didn’t allow children inside the main sanctuary? Tell us about it below in the comments!
[Image Credit: Daniel Tseng on unsplash.com]