In my previous post, I asked “What about teenagers?” In that post, I said that it is more important for teenagers to have deep relationships with several more mature believers than for them to have a youth program (regardless of how great the youth program may be).
But, what about children? In general, when someone asks this question, they have one of two questions in mind: 1) How can children be included in the life of the church? 2) How can we make sure that children are not a distraction when the church meets? I’m going to consider these two question separately.
How can children be included in the life of the church?
First, we must realize that children ARE part of the life of the church. Children are not and should not be treated as second class citizens. Even the youngest child has fears and struggles and concerns. Those of us who are older and more mature (including more mature children) have two choices: we can ignore children or we can treat them as important parts of the church.
Just like the teenagers that I talked about yesterday, children need to have relationships with more mature believers. We need to talk with them, get to know them, sit in the floor and draw pictures with them. I would be concerned about any Christian who refuses to relate to children on their own level.
Also, we need to realize that children hear and learn more than we think they do. Sure, perhaps they are coloring pictures or playing or even talking to the person beside them, but they doesn’t mean that they don’t know what is being said or done.
Children (like adults) do not need Bible stories. Children (like adults) need to learn how the stories in the Bible relate to their own lives, and how those stories encourage them to trust God. By the way, when I’m teaching, I try to teach in a way that (at least) older children can understand the main points. There is no reason to use words that children cannot understand – unless, of course, we define those words very carefully. Having a expansive theological vocabulary is neither helpful nor a sign of maturity.
So, how do we include children? By recognizing they are part of the community and treating them as part of the community.
How can we make sure that children are not a distraction when the church meets?
This is one of the questions that I’m asked the most concerning children. The question itself demonstrates a misunderstanding of the church meeting.
We do not attend church meetings primarily in order to be built up ourselves, but instead we meet with the church in order to build up others. When people ask about children causing distractions, they are pointing out the fact that at times it becomes difficult to hear someone speak because the children are being noisy. This assumes that our main goal is to hear that person speak.
What if your reason for being at that meeting is to sit in the floor and play with that child? What if your reason for being at the meeting is to give a tired mother a break for a few minutes? What if your reason for being at that meeting is to love on a young boy or girl by coloring a picture with them? Listening to the person speaking is not always the most important thing to do while the church is meeting.
So, what should we do when children are a distracting us? What should we do when a child is talking or crying such that we can’t hear the person or people speaking? Recognize that we may be focusing on the wrong thing or wrong person. Instead of worrying about missing something that is said, realize that you may be missing an opportunity of service. Consider how God may want you to respond, then act on that.