I love children. I’m just not that good with them. I love my own children, and I seek to do my best in showing my love and support to them, as well as discipline when and if needed. But I’m not good at getting down on their level. I try, but I usually fail. The other day I was reading Stone Soup to a class of first graders at our local elementary school. I tried to teach them what it meant to “think outside the box.” I quickly realized that I had not been called to teach first graders. That being said, I still love children and I love to see them in big church. I get why churches tend to go for children’s church and nursery. Which, by the way, we offer the nursery. Children are wiggly. They can and usually are noisy. They can be distracting. But that’s children. That has always been children.
Children can be taught to be quiet, but it is almost impossible to teach children to be completely still. For that matter, how many adults do I see wiggling around during worship service? Legs cross, arms go up, seats are adjusted, bathrooms get walked to, notes are written, Bibles get flipped through, and sadly some statuses are checked and updated on social media. Children just haven’t learned to fine art of refined wigglement. They will though.
Children are wiggly. They can and usually are noisy. They can be distracting. But that’s children. That has always been children.
Here is the thing with children though. Children are natural explorers. They want to learn. The reason babies put so much in their mouths is not because they are tasty, but because the mouth is their mode of exploration. They want to learn about an object in their hand so they explore it with their mouths. Children are interested in just about everything, including Jesus and God. Why do we do what we do? Who are these people we cannot see, but give so much devotion and time to? What are these big books in the pews? We were all there at one point in time. At one time it was all fresh and new and confusing and great all at the same time. We’ve lost much of the excitement and wonder that comes with worship service. And children get it. They may be noisy about it, but excitement tends to be a bit loud (just watch me watch the Atlanta Falcons play).
When Jesus’ disciples wanted to push the children to the side and not bother him with such as they, “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven’,” (Matthew 19:14, ESV). Jesus would not allow the children to be treated as second class, but elevated their status by healing them and defending them. I bet that these children were much like our children. They clamored and they wiggled and they talked above a whisper. Jesus said, “do not hinder them.” Children need Jesus as much as adults do. While children can be distracting and easily distracted, adults ought have the maturity to block out distractions. We do so in our cars (hopefully), we do so at our jobs, we do so in all areas of life, and so we should not be so shocked when we may be called upon to muster up the will to block distractions caused by the wonderment (and sometimes boredom) of children.
Personally, as a pastor, I find it hard to be distracted. I rarely even notice noise or bathroom-goings. I’m in a zone. Perhaps I owe that to my mom. When I was a kid playing recreational basketball, she would tell me to zone out the shouts from the bleachers and heckles from the opposing players, and concentrate on what I was doing. That’s what we need to do as adults. Zone out what is going on around us and zone in on what we are doing: worshipping and part of that being the hearing of God’s Word expounded.
While children can be distracting and easily distracted, adults ought have the maturity to block out distractions.
I am thankful that my church gets it. I have not heard complaints from our members on having children in the service. They get the need for children to hear and receive God’s Word. Praise God for the people who will not hinder the children from coming.
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