Children in worship

(Jacob Gonzales) #1

I know this has been debated back and forth to death already in many places over the Internet. Still, any thoughts on not allowing children to attend Sunday School?

“without having a warrant in the Word of God for removing children from the worship service, I think pastors make a mistake when they implement such a practice.”

(Tim Bayly) #2

Ahem. If I do say so myself. Nationalities. Backgrounds. Theological understandings. Da king of diversity and pluralism, you understand. Cosmopolitan to the max! Dat be me. Sophisticated. Urbane.

Went to his post after writing the above and was flabbergasted to find he had a…


Now then, what were we talking about?

(Joel Norris) #3

Our church does not have a separate program for children, so they stay with the adults during the entire worship service (but we do have a cry room). When we visit other churches that send children out during the sermon, we keep our children with us.

The view of my church is that children are fully members (albeit non-communicant), so they should be present and participate as able in corporate worship with the adult members. Plus, we believe that the preaching of the Word is a supernatural means of grace, so why should we deny children a chance to hear that? More practically, it makes the transition to adulthood in the church seamless since it what they have experienced since birth. For example, my teenage daughter goes to (and is active in) the adult Sunday School (we have no Sunday School for youth), and she serves on the missions committee – it’s all normal for her.

Whether children are disruptive or not (on a more than occasional basis) in the worship service or during the sermon really depends on the parents. In our family, we allow the younger children to look at a book or draw while sitting (I think this would be regarded as indulgent by prior generations), and no other activities are allowed. The alternative is being removed from the service and made to stare at a blank wall until the child is willing to be quiet and return to fellowship in the service – even a young toddler can learn this. But if a parent views it as a matter of placating a child rather than commanding obedience, then disruption will continue. And even worse, if a parent believes it is cruel to require a child to deny his desires and sit still for an hour and a half, well, then there’s no hope.

(Zak Carter) #4

I’m conflicted in this issue. Everything in me says that kids should be in the worship service. But we basically do a “sermon release” for kids 5th grade and younger–we are all together for singing, most of the liturgy readings, and the Lords Supper (once a month when we observe it), but then are dismissed with volunteers to a Sunday School class before the sermon for the remainder of the service.

The rationale behind this is to show hospitality to visitors. Visiting parents are often distracted by their own unruly kids–especially when they themselves haven’t been around church before. Parents are able to give their full attention to the sermon and their children are able to meet and play with other kids and receive instruction geared more toward their age level. Our current routine for the kids is: Coloring, share a high and low from the week, learn & recite a catechism question, Bible story, short prayer, then games until their parents come get them.

Like I said, I’m conflicted about this. Our only kid is only 5 months old (the first of many, Lord willing), so my wife and I are only facing this theoretically with our own family. We both feel strongly right now that we want all our kids to be in the worship service with us, but I’m sure that will be harder once they are old enough to ask why they don’t go to Sunday School with the rest of the kids.

By the way (for context), we’re baptist and revitalizing (again, Lord willing) an almost 150-year-old church. There have been a lot of issues that have been dealt with and more that need to be dealt with, so this issue is not super high on the priority list.

(Christopher Preston) #5

Here’s another helpful article from today on the topic—

I’m not against children being taught in their own classes… But I certainly think we undervalue the blessing of being in the worship service with one’s parents, sitting under the Word.

(Tim Bayly) #6

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,

[Mod edit: This comment also made into a post on Warhorn Media’s site:

(Tim Bayly) #7

BTW, note how the post cited at the top of this thread simply assumes it is “pastors” who make the decisions about corporate worship. Does the man not have elders? Does he not submit such matters to them? Does he not value their counsel? When the plurality of the eldership is the essence of Presbyterianism (presbyteros means “elder”), why are such indications of a dismissive attitude towards elders’ wisdom and authority so constant among presbyterian pastors? We have got to get back to the authority of elders, and pastors’ submission to them in matters such as corporate worship and the sacraments, today in the reformed church. Got to.

Note also the high-handed censorious posturing of his second paragraph: “We are a Presbyterian church and, as such, believe children belong to the kingdom of God (Matt. 19:14). For us, there really is no question whether children belong in the worship service (Eph. 6:1). It would make more sense for me to cut off my right leg than it would for me to tell my children to leave the worship service (see 1 Cor. 12).”


[Moderator edit: This post, along with all other posts in this thread marked “Anonymous”, were deleted by the author and then un-deleted by the moderator with the consent of the author. We do not generally allow anonymous posting, but these comments were added back to keep the conversation from being confusing.]

The problem with children’s church is you say you don’t pressure anyone to send their kids, but we were members of a small to medium PCA church and were like the only ones that didn’t send our children to children’s church and we were shunned and treated like the plague. Also, you wonder as children grow up and have to have their own youth worship service, they don’t know how to respect elders or they want their own contemporary worship. I’ve seen churches split and the younger generation in the church leave and form their own church. Also, from our experience the children church teachers and materials used weren’t very theologically sound.

(Joseph Bayly) #10

It is supernatural, not magical. Latin mass is as helpful to those who don’t know Latin as a sermon in English delivered in the presence of an infant. Preaching is no more a means of grace opus operatum than the Lord’s Supper.

This site doesn’t seem to be working quite right, but it quotes Hodge as follows. Note the qualifier. “The word of God, as far as adults are concerned, is an indispensable means of salvation.”

Sorry to hear that. Though I would encourage you to remember that anybody that is “different” can make people feel uncomfortable and not know how to interact. On the flip side, when we stand out we can feel many things as slights that are not meant that way at all. Perhaps you are judging correctly. Perhaps you are guilty of making mountains out of micro-agressions. I don’t claim to judge either way. It’s just that I’ve seen so many times in churches how decisions people make that are different than the majority—and especially different decisions we make about our children—both sides tend to feel judged by the other side in matters of freedom, but especially the minority side.

The rest of your comment is not an argument against the practice as much as it is an argument against doing the practice poorly.


Why not just don’t do it so it isn’t done poorly.

(Joseph Bayly) #12

Why not tell everybody to stop building houses since most builders today do a pretty shoddy job?

(Joseph Bayly) #14

Ok, then make the case that the Regulative Principle of Worship is being broken.

That’s a different argument than “I’ve seen it end badly” or even “I’ve never seen it end any way but badly.”

I do think you’ll have a hard time making the case that RPW prohibits this, though.

(Joseph Bayly) #16

Brother, that’s both a separate argument and fallacious. Hitler had a mustache. That doesn’t mean that others with mustaches are evil.

You’re throwing arguments at the wall to see if any stick. I’m open to a conversation, but not this, especially when you make a claim that is so far outside the realm of conversation, such as worship leaders being inappropriate. This is not the place to make that argument.

(Joseph Bayly) #18

This also has nothing to do with the topic of conversation. You are simply using it as a smear on those who have children’s church. Please stop.

(Tim Bayly) #19

And it was because you kept your children in worship with you? I’ve seen a lot in my days, but never (until you) have I heard of such a thing. About the other concerns you have, here in Bloomington it’s only small children and their leadership and curriculum is original. And since often the instruction has been by an elder, for that and other reasons, there’s no alienation between elders and children in our congregation. At all. Love,


Yes, it happened. Not many solid reformed people in eastern NC where I live.

(Tim Bayly) #21

Sorry about that, dear brother. May you find true fellowship. Warmly,

(Tim Bayly) #23

Seriously? You think that quote had anything to do with what we’re talking about here? To have your children with you in worship and then have a special Scripture teaching for them and the Chinese is to “exile [them] from worship?” Ridiculous. Then claiming this proves people “do not have a covenantal theology?”

Absurd. That Scott C. wrote it is no surprise. It’s merely divisive.

(Lee Gerrietts) #24

If they are not part of, present, or participating in the Corporate Public Worship, then wouldn’t they by nature of not being present be absent of any regulation?

I would think that a positive case based on scriptural principles would need to be made to justify the absence of Covenant children from the Corporate Worship, rather than practical/pragmatic reasons. Because there are practical answers/solutions to the reasons pastor Bayly stated that do not require removing people from corporate worship.

For example, Fathers (and mothers) could be communicating/explaining the teaching to their children after worship as a family. Or in the case of a language barrier, a translator w/ audio devices for those that want that assistance.

I can understand Jhar Dan’s comments about feeling pressure from others for not sending your children. We had attended our PCA church for 4 years actively when my wife and I had our first children. On multiple occasions after the service, we were approached by people to make sure we knew there was a children’s church & nursery which I believe were prompted by some of the noise my kids were making. I wouldn’t put it as strongly as Jhar, but it definitely came off as this is a place for adults and there is a place for Children. That said, the culture is changing in our church of more acceptance.

I always find this type of discussion edifying. Always appreciate Pastor Bayly’s comments, especially his critique of the PCA. They have been helpful for me when reading through the report on Female deacons and other topics.

(John M. ) #25


Do you oppose women teaching Scripture in children’s Sunday Schools/similar? I’d love your thoughts on the topic.