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Church is for Children, Too

There is a fairly common practice within the denominations of conducting what is known as “children’s church.”  The idea is that the children of a congregation are separated from the main body during worship.  The children are assembled separately for their own worship, study, or playtime, while the adults are left to carry on their worship without the disturbances of children crying, fidgeting, or talking.

While few within the churches of Christ practice “children’s church,” the same mentality is often present among our members.  It is apparent that many Christians do not consider that children can be or should be engaged in the worship assemblies of the church.  Instead, the children are provided with ways to occupy and entertain themselves that have nothing to do with the worship that is going on around them.  There is no expectation for the children to participate with the church in singing, praying, or learning from the word of God.  The main concern is that the children are not loud or distracting for anyone else.

The truth is that the worship assemblies of the church are as important for our children as they are for the rest of us.  Children need to worship God in the assembly just as adults do.  Even though they may not have the capacity to understand all that is said or done, they can understand the simplicity of loving God and expressing that love in worship with others who love God.  Yet we deny them the opportunity when we provide them with entertaining distractions rather than encouraging instructions.

Children have always been a part of the worship that God’s people have collectively offered.  In ancient Israel, when the people assembled for the giving of the covenant, the reading of the Law, or the worship of God, their children were present.  Notice these passages from the Old Testament: Deut. 29:11-15; 31:11-13; Josh. 8:33-35; 2Chron. 20:4, 13; Ezra 10:1; Joel 2:15-17.  These Scriptures demonstrate the constant presence of children of all ages in these assemblies.  There were “nursing infants” (Joel 2:16).  There were also “little ones” (Josh. 8:35; 2Chron. 20:13), a term which is translated from the Hebrew word taph, which was derived from the tripping, short steps of small children (we would call them “toddlers”).  No one was excluded from these assemblies regardless of age.

Granted, small children do often create difficulties for their parents and the congregation during the assemblies of the church.  This is to be expected and understood, but it is not a reason to remove them physically or spiritually from the church.  Certainly, there are times when a crying baby needs to be taken out for various reasons.  Yet as that child matures and the parents give training, those occasions will become less frequent.

Consider the Lord’s attitude toward children.  When the people were bringing children to Him (even babies, Luke 18:15), the disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Matt. 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-15; Luke 18:15-17).  Apparently, the disciples did not feel that Jesus should be bothered with small children, but the Lord felt otherwise.  When Jesus cleansed the temple, the chief priests and the scribes were irritated by the praiseful shouts of the children, but Jesus said, “Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babes Thou hast prepared praise for Thyself?’” (Matt. 21:12-16).  When the disciples argued over which of them was the greatest, Jesus took a child and said, “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me” (Mark 9:33-37).  If the Lord has such regard for children, how dare we deny them from being part of His blessed church.

The essential lesson for the children to learn about the assembly is the importance and purpose of what is being done, and for that they must be present and engaged.  Parents may miss part of a song or a sermon as they struggle to train their children in the assembly, but that is part of their God-given duty.  The personal sacrifice that parents give and the investment they make in their children will pay dividends for eternity.  Let us understand that if we want the children to be the “church of tomorrow,” they must also be part of the church of today.  The children’s church is Christ’s church, the assembly of the children of God.

Stacey E. Durham




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