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Raising Real Men – Children in Church {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

September 23, 2012

Cover Children in Church
I don’t usually post on Sundays, but I thought this topic was perfect for a Sunday post.  Recently I received an advanced copy of Children in Church:  Nurturing Hearts of Worship by Curt and Sandra Lovelace from Hal and Melanie Young, publishers of Raising Real Men.  This book focuses on how to bring children into and make them a part of corporate worship with their families.  It discusses the debate of whether or not children should be included with the masses for the entirety of the service or whether they should enjoy a time away with their peers learning on an age appropriate level.

Fortunately, I am blessed to attend an assembly where children are welcomed and provided for at the same time.  There is an announcement made every Sunday morning addressing our stance on family-centered worship while at the same time taking into account needs of families with children.  We have glass training rooms at the back of the congregation that have pews in them for training children to sit while allowing fidgeting and occasional verbal outbursts.  We also have an attended nursery for children aged 2 and under as well as a nursing mothers room complete with a baby changing station and rocking chairs.  All these rooms have audio piped in of the service, but honestly the only place you can really hear it is in the training rooms.  The other two rooms do not truly lend themselves well to paying attention to the service.  Even while all these convenient facilities are in place, we still encourage parents to stay in the auditorium for the worship services.  These options are only there for “if your child is bothering you, because they don’t bother us!”  What a blessing to have church leaders and a church family willing to work with young families to keep their little ones together with them while at the same time offering different avenues of education if you want to take advantage of it.

This was such a timely book for me as my congregation starts children’s church each year after Labor Day. Our children’s church convenes right after the Lord’s Supper and covers the time of the sermon, the remaining songs, closing prayer, and announcements.  Children are not required to attend, but most parents take advantage of this opportunity to hear God’s Word preached without the interruptions of their children, so most all parents in the congregation send their children to children’s church.  It is only for ages 3 through 2nd grade.

Each year my husband and I discuss whether or not to send our eligible children to class during this time.  There have been times that we haven’t for various reasons, but we do wonder and seek clarity over whether or not to keep our children with us in the assembly for the lesson, remaining prayers, and songs.  I found that I identified with the authors on most all the points they made in this book and their gentle suggestions caused me to discuss the topic again with my husband.

Children In Church consists of 10 chapters written to parents with a final chapter being written specifically to church leaders.  The chapter headings are as follows:  1-Bringing Them In, 2-Understanding the Elements, 3-Counting the Cost, 4-Laying the Foundation, 5-Getting Ready, 6-Packing the Bag, 7-Drawing the Word, 8-Preparing a Plan, 9-Facing the Challenges, 10-Growing as Disciples, 11-Note to Church Leaders

Throughout the book, Curt and Sandra share from their thirty years of experience in ministry with the reader.  They speak of how they managed to keep their children in the sanctuary with them through the “hard years” while the children were still very little and they give manageable examples of how the reader can do that, too.  It wasn’t that they had perfect children, it was that they felt a calling from God to keep their children with them so they made it work.  This was even while Curt was a pulpit minister so Sandra was handling their children solo!  What a testimony to us all that it can be done.

While reading this book  it shocked me to find how many instances of insistence that children be removed from the assembly!  They spoke of times where it was written in the bulletin that the children would be dismissed.  Now.  Without any other options.  They spoke of well meaning people greeting them at the door and asking them to take their children to the nursery before services even started.  Amazing!  In my 11 years of parenting and attending worship services with my children, I have only heard mention of one time when a woman offered to take a crying baby to the nursery in a mother’s stead.  That was offensive to me as a mother though I’m sure the woman was just trying to help.

The Lovelaces express their desire that children remain in the assembly with their families by siting several scriptures.  For example, Joshua 8:35, “There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the aliens who lived among them.”  And another in Deuteronomy 29:10-11, “All of you are standing today in the presence of the LORD your God-your leaders and chief men, your elders and officials, and all the other men of Israel together with your children and your wives, and the aliens living in your camps that chop your wood and carry your water.”

They also pointed out that on the occasions when you must leave the sanctuary to discipline your child that you bring them right back to the sanctuary as quickly as possible.  The child needs to learn that acting up does not get them a free ride to a room full of toys and other children with which to play.  

The confusion for most people, they say, when deciding what to do with their children during the worship service is how difficult will it be to keep my child with me and will I be a distraction to those around me if my child is present.  However, with just the two scriptures sited above, it is easy to see that the Lord expected children to be in the worship assembly with their parents, and that is just the point Curt and Sandra are trying to make.  They don’t condemn church ministries that offer childcare, but rather they state,

…what is meant as a sacrificial provision by the church can often cause parents to allow their primary responsibility for spiritual nurturing of their children to take a back seat. – page 22

The key is to have everyone on board – to offer children ways to understand the goings on of the assembly while at the same time have other worshipers supporting the parents in their endeavors to keep the children with the family.  How exactly do you offer kids a way to understand the worship service?  You involve them in it.  And, you don’t expect your children to act like miniature adults.  It is okay to have quiet discussions with your children about what is happening during the service.  You can of course go into more detail in the privacy and convenience of your own home, but there is nothing wrong with explaining things as they are happening.  I know my children are required to “pray” when the congregation is praying and sing when the congregation is singing and to sit and stand at appropriate times.  I can’t force them to take part with their hearts, but I can encourage their outward actions that will (hopefully) in turn become inward actions.  Even the tiniest children can fold their hands for prayer or put a quarter in the collection plate.  These seem like small steps but the authors say they are crucial ones.  On page 33 they state, “We can not conjure up nor replace the intimacy of humble hearts opened in unity before the throne of grace.  We cannot articulate or imitate the mystery of God’s relationship revealed within the corporate expression of His body.”  In other words, there is no replacing the experience children will get from participating in corporate worship.

Great Waters Press LogoMy opinion?  It is important for every family to examine their stance on how to worship.  This book offers a critical look at the options and presents crucial points that families should discuss and decide upon.  I think it is a good read for anyone who has ever considered whether or not children should be included in worship.  It answers many questions and poses a great challenge to church members with or without children of their own.  It was especially meaningful to me in my current state of raising young children in the Lord.

The publisher, Great Waters Press, has several other resources including A Cry From Egypt which some of my fellow crew members reviewed.  Children In Church is aimed at parents of children ages 8 and younger, while A Cry From Egypt is recommended for children older than 8.  Be sure to check out what my crew mates had to say about both books!  To purchase your advanced copy for only $12.00 or to find out more information, check out their website and find them on Facebook.


DISCLAIMER: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received a complimentary copy of Children in Church for the purpose of completing this review. All the opinions expressed here are my own and are offered honestly in exchange for the product. The receipt of the product in no way influenced my honest assessment.
One Comment leave one →
  1. Monica Walker permalink
    September 24, 2012 5:22 pm

    I think there should always be an optinon for parents but personally think Sunday school is great. I went to it all growing up and have had a personal relationship with Christ since I was very litttle. Now as a parent I went through a time where I was wondering if they should go or stay with me and I quickly thought of how Jesus taught us this. When the children came to Jesus he didn’t tell them to go sit like everyone else and listen. He took them on His lap. He shows us that children need to be ministered to differently, on their level.
    Allowing little ones to attend a class where they learn lessons at their age group I think is great. I never had a hard time transitioning to adult worship time when I was a teen and young adult. My children love telling me about what they learned and often the church coordinates it with sermons the pastor is teaching.
    Children will spend the majority of their lives as adults. I say let them enjoy the simpleness and fun of childhood as long as it’s not foolish or sinful.

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