Should Children Be in the Church Service?What is a "family-friendly" church. . . one that has a separate class or church service for each age group, or one that allows and encourages families to worship together?
What if your baby doesn't like to be left in the church nursery, or what if you are afraid to leave her there? Or perhaps you just don't have any desire to leave her there; maybe you feel that your baby belongs with you.
If you are in this situation, you are definitely not alone, though you may feel like it! Sadly, it can be hard, very hard, to find a church that welcomes children into the service, and even harder to find one that doesn't mind little baby noises punctuating the sermon. Some churches do not allow children of a certain age in the service. Sometimes the pastor will not mind children being there, but still you might get "dirty" looks from people in the congregation. Or you might be told way too often that, "There is a nursery where you can leave your baby."
Some parents decide not to go to church at all because their children (and their little children noises) aren't welcome in the service with them. For parents who otherwise like their church, I'd like to encourage those who are bold to try and change their church's beliefs in regards to this. I believe that children should be fully welcomed into the church service. Jesus loves children! We shouldn't go to church to get away from our little ones. The separation of families in the church, I feel, is not healthy for each family's spiritual growth or for our churches as a whole.
If you do not feel that you want to attend your current church because of their views against children being with their parents in the church service, then I urge you not to give up church all together. Fellowshipping and worshipping with other Christians is so important that I believe it would be worth your while to search for a good church. Visit many churches. Post e-mails to various Christian mailing lists mentioning that you are looking for a church in your area where children are welcome in the service, perhaps a church where there isn't a nursery. You might try looking for a church with a "cry-room."
Above all, pray.
Our ExperiencesBoth of our children (ages three and eight months old) attend church with us and sit in the service with us. It all started when we couldn't bring ourselves to put our first child in the nursery when she was a baby. She was a high-need baby, and I knew she needed me to be with her. She was a noisy baby, not content to sit quietly in church, so as she grew older, my husband and I took turns taking care of her--after I nursed her one of us would care for her during the morning service and then the other person would care for her during the evening service. Then we switched the next week.
As time went by, we came to realize that we didn't ever want to put her in the nursery during the church service, but instead wanted her to be with us. We even brought her to our Sunday School class with us.
When she was a year old, we changed churches. The new church kept reminding us every week that they had a nursery. But they also had a cry room, and Ellen and I would spend quite a lot of time in there. Because of their view towards children and some other reasons, we decided, after about three months to search for another church. One of the most important things we looked for was a church where our children would be welcome in the church services and they wouldn't have to be quiet as a church mouse.
It took a while (and we visited a lot of churches!), but we finally heard about one from some people on an Internet mailing list. It was a relief to see other parents with their children in the service. And there was no nursery! Instead, the parents took care of their own children during the service (what a novel concept, hunh?).
After attending that church for about two years (and traveling 45 minutes each way every Sunday), we heard about a church in our area that was starting up. It was a special church... they encouraged you to bring your children in the service with you!! And we had very similar doctrinal beliefs--so much so, that it was eerie... no, lol, of course it was God's plan!
It's not always easy having our children in the service with us, but it's a joy! I believe it is where God wants our children to be on Sunday morning--in church learning how to worship and learning about Jesus. Besides, we do everything else together as a family, why should church be any different?
Ellen was not able to sit through a whole service until she turned two years old. Then it became easier and easier for her to sit through the service, and now (at age three) she does really good. My mom attends church with us, and she helps with Ellen. Ellen does have stickers and draws during the service. We also have something for her to eat if she needs it because when she goes too long without eating she has trouble staying calm. At age three and a half, she doesn't always need to eat during the service any more.
When our baby gets antsy, we often walk him around--we do this at the back of the church when he isn't too noisy--and are usually able to hear most of the service this way. I am happy to say that baby noises are welcome at this church!
Things that helped Ellen learn to sit through the service...
"When all Israel is come to appear before the Lord thy God in the place which He shall choose thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men and women and children (the Hebrew word here is 'taph' meaning the little toddlers)...that they may hear, and that they may learn and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the words of this law, and that their children....may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God..." Deuteronomy 31:11-13
LinksThe Session of the Beal Heights PCA on Children in Congregational Worship (1996) or "Why a 'Cry Room'?"
Recommended ReadingParenting in the Pew: Guiding Your Children into the Joy of Worship by Robbie Castleman
The Kidz are People Too Page