A couple of weeks ago I was sitting at lunch with some fellow Children’s Pastors/Directors. We were discussing a new remodel of a church who was building a new children’s wing. It came up that they had decided to not allow children in the sanctuary. This is a hot topic in some churches and those around the table had different opinions.
I blinked, and looked at him probably a couple of seconds longer than is allowed. My mind processing what he just said.
I picked at my pasta dish and took a sip of my water to fill my mouth so I wouldn’t say anything, knowing my filter is not the best at times and I had to buy myself another minute or so. My mind in that couple of minutes flashing back to my childhood. Almost every Sunday spent in a pew, with a pencil and an offering envelope. With my sister in her polyester dress and my brother with a hamster in his pocket. (Not kidding, he really did it once). Church felt like a second home to me. No kids in church??? I just couldn’t get my head around how this was even right.
I wanted to digest the opinions stated by fellow brothers and sisters who were serving children and families right along me. We support each other and I didn’t want to discourage them. I want to be open to what is best for kids. I don’t know everything and wanted to think this through.
But the more I chewed on this idea, the more it didn’t sit right. The kids in my ministry sat in the service with their parents and then were dismissed for Sunday school. This allowed families to sing together, to sit together side by side, and to well, be part of everyone else for the first 35 minutes of the service.
Here are the reasons I came up with on why children should experience at least part of the service in the sanctuary with all other people.
- Children are part of the body of Christ, the group of believers gathered together, as much as the elderly, the disabled, the rich, the poor, the single, the married, the smart, and the slow. We all are part of one body. What it means to see Jesus through the ways that others can show us. You see, others show us parts of Jesus we don’t see for ourselves. It takes all of us. Otherwise, where do we stop the segregation? I get it for other events, but church is all of us. We are family.
- Can you imagine your children without a memory of you as a in church? So much is learned by little ones watching. They watch not only us as parents, but others. They see one example after another of people coming together to worship God. All this is missed if they aren’t allowed to be part of the bigger service.
- They will live up to duplicate what they see. My son used to love seeing the guitar player and asked when he can go do that too. They see people serving. They feel part of what the adults are doing and like there is something important going on.
- It is important for all the older people, and teens, to see the children. To remember they are part of the church. To remember and see their value and need for people to serve in teaching them/ministering to them. They need to be seen, just like Jesus saw them. He saw them as important and made a way for them in the crowd. We must do the same. We need to see them for our own good as adults. To remember the next generation we are passing down our faith to. To remember to pray for them and their parents. And to be encouraged by their sweet voices in song, and sweet smiles at us over their dad’s shoulder as we stand to sing.
I can remember many times in church as a child.
Did I always sit there like an angel? No.
Did I always seem entertained? No.
Did I tune out of what the pastor was saying sometimes? Yes. A lot.
Did I see the bigger picture of people who loved God? Yes
Did I learn that church was a special place to be? Yes
Did I feel part of something really important? Yes
This is a picture of my Grandpa Cliff and Grandma Mabel’s church in Kuroki, Saskatchewan, Canada. I still remember the smell of this building when I close my eyes. I remember that we got to go to Sunday school and get crayons in the basement and learn from a nice lady who gave us Arrowroot cookies. I remember the hard pews and stained glass windows and felt like it was God’s castle. I learned that He was nice, just like this place was nice.
This is my other grandparents church. I remember the toys in the nursery, writing on my hands with my cousins in the service with the pens in the pew, and singing at the front as my aunt played the piano with the group of cousins that happened to be at the farm that weekend. I remember my other aunt teaching Sunday school with the orange windows, using puppets. Knowing that she cared. I don’t remember what was said, but I remember feeling safe and loved and like it was a safe place. My brother would climb that bell tower to the left. Boys. But I felt a part of it all. Even as a little girl who looked like she wasn’t paying attention.
The picture below was my home church growing up. We would often see my grandparents on the weekends, but when we weren’t visiting we were home. First Baptist Church, Regina, Saskatchewan. It was a historical building with beautiful stained glass dome ceiling, and shiny pews. I grew up here. In the halls playing Gorgon in youth group, and eating meals in the basement for potlucks. It is where I taught my first Sunday school class as a high school student.
I can look back and see myself and my teenage friends talking and looking through each other’s purses during the sermon. Looking disrespectful I’m sure. But I was in taking during all of that. I was learning from all the gray-haired women, including my grandma, who were in the congregation. I was learning that this Christianity is not just a fad, it was real. I was seeing faithful old ladies make their way to church when it would have been easier to stay home. All of this imprinted on my mind. And all of this imprints on our kids minds.
Let us not forget to include the little ones among us. Let us not forget to include the destitute, the widow, the poor, the rich, the singles, the married, the skeptics, the thinkers and the feelers.
For someday soon, they will be the church and I want them to remember us and be encouraged in their faith.
That the next generation will treasure the One Who came for them. May they see Him clearly. And may they always be allowed in the sanctuary.