(First in a series; second here.) Over on Sanityville, a link was provided to a reformed pastor criticizing special children’s instruction during the sermon in Lord’s Day corporate worship. Utterly weary of such criticisms of the decisions and varying practices made by other churches’ elders concerning church life and corporate worship, I responded:
First, our own practice at Clearnote in Bloomington is to allow parents to keep their children or send them to children’s church, as they wish. We “provide” a children’s teaching during the sermon, and no father or mother has ever been pressured to send their children out to attend it. Strictly parent’s option.
Second, that children’s teaching is anything but babysitting. It’s instruction (by a man) in Scripture which is carefully done, and the goal is to prepare little children the better to participate in worship as they move into attending the sermon, also.
Third, we started this to provide the unchurched a modesty panel for their unruly children. We had a single mother attending with her children who was mortified at the public demonstration during the sermon of how out of control her children were, and the elders decided the kind thing to do was to offer a children’s service only during the sermon and, to keep her from having any scarlet letter pinned to her shirt, send our own children out with her children. The pastors and elders’ children, that is. It has worked well allowing us to have a lack of embarrassment of newcomers during the sermon.
Fourth, we also have students leave during the sermon to a Chinese sermon led by our internationals pastor. Little children have a different proclamation of the Word than the rest of the adults during Lord’s Day worship as Chinese have a different proclamation of the Word than the rest of the adults during Lord’s Day worship. Argue with both or argue with neither.
Finally, this is the sort of thing (like wine in communion, youth groups, schooling choices, etc.) that each should decide for himself without condemning others. If believers can’t keep from criticizing others at these points, it’s not their Biblical commitments that are showing, but their censoriousness. In Scripture, children were sometimes specially noted as present during the reading of God’s Word.
It is true that children pick up an amazing amount of the sermon/teaching while coloring or using their finger to trace their father’s veins on the back of his hand. It is true that children can and should be taught to sit quietly for long periods of time, and listen. It is true that children to the very youngest ages benefit from corporate worship at every particular (including the sacraments when they are not participating) in many ways both known and unknown (the wind blows where it wishes). It is true I regularly exhort the souls of our congregation to make their children sitting (next to them) in worship enjoying, and benefiting from it one of the highest priorities of their fatherhood, and those in worship here at our church would see this demonstrated each Lord’s Day, I believe. (I gave this exhortation to the congregation again recently.)
It is not true that it is sinful to provide the Word of God to particular sets of people at particular levels of communication fitting their maturity or language comprehension during the same period of corporate Lord’s Day worship. To state there is no Scriptural “warrant” for it is schismatic. Note this statement of Scripture about those “who could listen with understanding”:
Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month. (Nehemiah 8:2)
Do we really think, for instance, that when the Apostle Paul was preaching so late at night that Eutychus fell out the window, all the children were present because there was no Biblical warrant for their absence?
More churches of Biblical commitments should think charitably about the needs of all their people and lovingly provide for them. Love,