It has taken me two years to write this post. Mostly because the last thing I want to do is sound critical of people who minister to children. Let me say that this post isn’t intended to change a culture of ministering to kids through Children’s Ministry in church. On the contrary, my goal here is to inspire parents that they can have an active role in ministering to their kids always. Even while they’re in the four walls of their place of worship. Please please please read this with the heart I am hopefully putting into this and remember that the title says “Why MY Kids go to ‘Big Church.'”
A few of years ago my wife and I decided that our children should stay with us in the “adult” service. Nobody did anything or was rude or hurt anyone, and we aren’t frustrated with “the system.” We just thought it was best for our family. Here are some reasons why:
My children’s discipleship is my responsibility.
Scriptures in Ephesians, Colossians, Deuteronomy, Proverbs, and many other books of the Bible tell us that we are responsible for training up Godly kids. I take this seriously. I teach my kids at home about scripture. I read the Bible with them and answer their questions about the Word. I know some parents don’t do this, and children’s church originally began to benefit kids in those families.
I’m not saying I teach them better than a kids pastor can at all. In fact, I have friends who are very great kids pastors and amazing bible teachers. My stance in my home is that my kids’ discipleship is my responsibility, and so I will be responsible, even while we’re at the the building we call church.
My kids need to learn to sit still and listen.
One of my pet peeves is hearing someone who has a short attention span say that they are ADD. It’s ridiculous to assume that just because you can’t pay attention to one thing for longer than thirty seconds you have a learning disability. It’s 2016 for crying out loud. The average YouTube video is just over four minutes long. Songs on the radio are limited to three minutes. We microwave our food and drive at 55 miles per hour, minimum. Our society is fast and furious. You’re not ADD! You live in the culture of sensory overload 24/7.
I believe we need to slow down sometimes. Sunday morning is a perfect opportunity to do this. My children can come and sit with us in church and possibly be bored for a change. What a concept! We don’t let them play on phones, iPads, or even play with toys (with the exception of our two year old on occasion.) We do give them a snack because breakfast isn’t usually as big on a rushed Sunday morning, but my kids are benefiting from being required to sit and listen for a bit. I am already seeing behavior changes because of it. It’s awesome!
I don’t believe my children need a “kid’s style” church service.
I’ve seen it too many times. Our culture of custom age specific church services train our children to be selfish church goers. Church leaders complain about the young generations not attending church when they leave home, but in reality, we created this epidemic. Some of them haven’t ever been to main church service until they were teenagers.
By always segregating our congregation by age, we teach a message that church attendees should look for what suits them best and speaks to their individual needs most. In reality, being a part of the body should be about sacrifice. We are there to serve God and others before ourselves. This is how we inspire our kids to live as Christ–not by presenting a bible lesson that tells them truth, but by living the truth in front of them every day and especially in service on Sunday morning.
I want my kids to see church as something they belong to and contribute to, not something that exists to please them.
My kids don’t need “church” to teach them bible stories.
When I was a child, I used to get in trouble in Sunday school for correcting the teachers when they would get Bible stories wrong. The teacher would tell my mother that I had spoken up and corrected them, and she would ask if I was right. When they said I was, she would just casually tell them they should study better and get the stories right next time. You see, I was surrounded by God’s word as a kid. I had books and toys and videos that taught me the story of God. My children have the same thing.
We joke in our family about how often our daughter came in from her kid’s class with a color sheet about the first day of creation. I don’t know if they were training new leaders or what, but it seemed like every time she’d go to class that was what they were learning about. The stories about God are good to remind us of who God is but application is so critical. Too often we find our kids are learning about God but not learning what they need to do to live out their relationship with God every day. Yes, that’s our job. Since we are surrounding them with the Bible all the time and it falls to us to teach them how to live out what they learn, why not just take the responsibility always, even at church? That’s what we’ve decided.
We get to walk with our children through the Bible, whether from their own exploration of scripture or something they heard in service with us on a Sunday morning. Just a few nights ago I was telling my kids the story of deciding to follow Christ when I was about seven years old. Our (almost) five year old told me she wanted to do that too. She said she wanted to follow God but that I had to teach her how. That is exactly why we take the initiative to teach our own children about God’s word and His plan for the world He created.
My children need to know I can praise God with them around.
The most common reason I hear for nursery, kids church, youth group, and so on is that parents need a break. Or that moms and dads need to have time to focus on God and church is the only time they can do that. I submit that if church is the only time you’re connecting with God, then you’re doing it wrong. And if you can’t worship with your kids around in a room full of music and people worshiping with you, you won’t be able to when you’re at home where there are no other believers inspiring you to worship, and you’re trying to cook, clean, etc while refereeing fights and changing diapers.
One of my best worship experiences was a few years ago while kneeling in praise (I grew up charismatic). As I knelt and sang, my daughter came up next to me and just wrapped her arms around me. My first thought was “Not now, I’m having a God moment.” Then a thought came to me, “She is one of the biggest reason’s I have to worship God. She is one of my many undeserved blessings.” Having realized that, how could I push her away? I couldn’t! I grabbed her and held her. She squeezed tighter and my tears began to flow. The thankfulness and joy I felt then surpassed any moment of worship I had ever experienced.
If I made it a regular, obligatory practice to drop my children off under the ministry of others, she and I would have missed that moment. A few Easters ago, my children went to main service instead of kid’s church, and I walked up front with my (then) four year old to pray a prayer that would offer her life to Christ.
You see, these are memories that I would never trade. These memories come from the stance that I am to minister to my kids always. Even when I’m there to be ministered to myself.
I don’t believe my children need to spend an hour and a half without a parent around other kids every week.
We are that crazy family that doesn’t believe kids benefit from spending a lot of unsupervised time with other children. It doesn’t make sense to us that our kids should learn so much from their peers, especially when it comes to how they’re supposed to behave socially. That said, we have four kids, AND WE LIVE IN A 32 FOOT MOTORHOME. So they don’t know what it is to be lonely or bored. They hang out with each other and enjoy it. They have family that they spend time playing with and enjoy that too. Our children are as social as any kid needs to be. That’s fine because “social” isn’t the problem. I believe it’s the “without a parent” I struggle with.
In a setting with ten, twenty, sixty, even over a hundred kids depending on the church, my children aren’t being supervised in the way we’d prefer. Our kids have their own personalities, they each handle certain things in certain ways, and to assume all their needs will be met in that Sunday morning “kid’s church” setting is naive. It just isn’t possible. There are kids who need to see more videos to engage. There are kids who love singing along and kids who would never ever sing loud enough for anyone to hear them. There are some who want to be told a story and some who want to get up and act it out. Some thrive in a group and some prefer one on one. Every child represents a different way to connect to the gospel, and it’s not fair to expect a children’s pastor or volunteer to be able to minister effectively to all of them. This is why our kids have parents. We know how they will connect with God best. While a kids church service can be a launching point for further ministry by mom and dad, this is undoubtedly why God puts the responsibility of discipleship in the hands of the parents. Parents are the key!
I enjoy knowing what my children heard from the word that day.
I wish I could count the number of times my son has whispered the end of a scripture to me while the Pastor is reading his reference verse for his message or how often my daughter smiles up at me to exclaim that she “loves this parable” when the speaker begins telling a story from scripture. It’s obvious that no matter how “behaved” my kids are in church, they’re listening.
We often talk about one time our (then) 18 month old daughter was pacing our row in church and seemed to be in her own little world. Pastor was sharing an illustration about a father telling his child “jump in the pool.” “JUMP,” he said. “JUMP,” again. She obviously heard some of what he was saying because the rest of the day she was saying “JUMP, JUMP, JUMP. JUMP IN THE POO.” It was an awesome reminder that they’re listening. Always.
It does us a lot of good being able to discuss what we heard about in service that morning. Especially when it’s something serious. We once watched a missions video that mentioned suicide as a major problem where the missionaries were ministering. If that video had been shown at school or in kid’s church, I would have had a little bit of a problem because those sensitive topics are the things that I believe our kids should learn about from their mother and me. We talked a little bit later that day about suicide. Mostly to our oldest who had a few questions. It wasn’t some crazy long discussion. He just wanted reassuring, and because I was there watching the same video, I could address the situation directly and help him think through what he had learned that morning.
Obviously, this is one of the most important reasons for our decision to keep our kids with us in church. We just want to have every opportunity to invest spiritually into our children’s lives. We believe the Word of God is powerful and will affect our children no matter what, but it is maximized when mom and dad are able to further explore and explain because we all learned the same thing that day.
I love hearing my kids sing “grown up” worship songs.
Every now and then a video of a kid in a car seat singing worship songs will pop up in my Facebook feed, and everyone I know is sharing it. The popularity of the videos like that proves that most people love hearing kids sing “grown up” worship songs. I think it is because we know there is no sincerity like that of a child. When my kids clap and sing a worship song, they mean it. They’ll often ask me what lyrics mean or why we say certain things (especially weird stuff about blood and pain and trampling roses), but most of the time if they’re singing, they’re IN IT!
Granted there are services when my children are interested in anything but singing along or standing and clapping. At first this would discourage us, and I’d use the line my mom used to use on me. “Stand up!” I would say. “You may be tired, but I’m sure Jesus was exhausted when He died on the cross for your sins. So get up and worship Him. He deserves it!” Now I don’t let it get to me. It seems that on the days they’re not into the music, they really are interested in communion or want to talk about the sermon or enjoy thumbing through their bible and asking questions. They worship every Sunday, just not always by standing up, singing, and clapping.
I think worship songs can provide good lessons for my kids. I think it’s great for them to hear the theology of worship songs. (Some worship songs.) Kids learn through music so what better way for my kids to learn the character of God than through singing about that very character. I can’t lie and say that this isn’t in some ways for me too. It does me good to see my kids worship. It is a model for me to live up to. We’re told to be like children. So if you’re in church with us and my kids are singing and praising that day, you should watch close. You might learn something.
My children will spend the larger portion of their lives attending “big church.”
Of all of these, this is the most influential in our decision. Our children will be in children’s ministry for eight to ten years. That’ not even a drop in the bucket that is their lifespan. The experiences they receive there will be all but lost in the future craziness of adolescence, puberty, and just growing up. The stories they heard will lose their flavor, the skits they saw will become lame, and the songs they sang will be mere fond memories. The benefit of children’s church for my children is limited in comparison to the benefits that come from being with their parents in main service.
It’s just who we are.
We walk into churches all over the country and get many types of reactions. We’ve been asked to take our kids to kids church, we’ve been welcomed with open arms, we’ve even had some folks block the doors and look at us like they’ll “lose their jobs” if they let us in there. It’s amazing to see the different cultures in different churches and different areas of the country. Keeping kids in service with us is just who we are.
We may have to quiet a yelping two year old or have some serious conversations with our children after service, but it’s all worth it. We are seeing discipleship in our children’s lives and watching them live out their faith outside the church walls. It’s just who we have decided to be as a family. Does this mean it’s who you are? Maybe not, but I’d like to give you permission to try it out. maybe you don’t know if it will be good for your kids because you haven’t given it a try. Maybe you’re a church leader who needs to make it a little easier for families like ours to enjoy a Sunday morning together. Maybe you have been wanting to make this switch but needed to hear some good reasons. Hopefully this helped you no matter who you are. We’ll keep doing it, and we’ll see you on Sunday morning. All six of us!
Author: Michael Prince
Michael Prince co-authored “What’s in Your Pocket? A parent’s guide to protecting your children online.” with his wife Melinda. They have four kids and live in an RV anywhere in the USA they see the need for an internet safety expert. Michael is leading the conversation in the American Church about family online security. He and Melinda founded BecauseFamily, a ministry that exists to inspire and equip parents to be the first influence in the lives of their children, in 2013. Michael is also a geek and loves Star Wars, Doctor Who, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and strategy board games.