This will probably get me in trouble, but... I think it's possible that children shouldn't be allowed in church, at least not until they've been trained. I don't mean that typical genteel parental kind of training. I'm talking more like kid-to-kid warning and wisdom. Call it "How-to-Survive-the-Next-Hour-Without-Getting-Spanked-101."

For example, I learned at a very young age that, when the elderly Edith Cooper began her weekly snore, looking back at her would invariably produce a tiny ping from my mother's index finger. Mother was a firm believer in the Head-Always-Forward theology. Once, when the second to the last pew completely collapsed, sending three people through the floor into the basement, emitting a cloud of centuries-old dust, I hesitantly glanced up at my mother only to watch her simply nod to the pastor and quietly say "Amen." She was a rock.

Young children coming to church for the first time need to be warned. Don't look back! Or if you must, do so with technique. I eventually learned that if I dropped the bulletin at the correct moment, when returning from my retrieval lean, I could swipe a quick backward glance that was, if not elegant, at least permissible. But there is a firm once-per-service allotment of this technique. Use judiciously. You've been warned.

Children should also be told about the risks involved when they are all taken up front for a "children's message." Who invented this terror-filled activity? This situation is fraught with peril. The first rule is simple — don't offer anything unless asked. The second rule is also simple — when asked "How do we prepare our homes for an honored guest?" never answer with "Mommy finally cleans the basement toilet." Again, you've been warned.

While there is a risk in saying too much, there can also be a risk in saying too little. A visiting pastor shared with us a time when he called all the children forward and asked a seemingly simple question.

"Hi, kids! Got a question for ya'. What's little and gray, has a long fluffy tail, skitters around on trees and stores up nuts for the winter?"

Total silence met this man's eager face.

A little surprised, he nonetheless cheerily continued.

"Oh, come on, guys. Let's try again. Little and gray, long fluffy tail, skitters around on trees and stores up nuts for the winter."

Again... not a peep, but this time the children's eyes were huge and fearful.

This visiting pastor was clearly becoming agitated.

"Kids... this isn't tough. The story won't work unless you answer. So help me out." He shot through the question again. "Little and gray. Long fluffy tail. Skitters around on trees. Stores up nuts for the winter!"

Finally, one kid timidly raised his hand. Clearly fearful at this line of questioning, he nonetheless took a deep breath and said, "Pastor ... I know we're always supposed to say 'Jesus' ... but that really sounds like a squirrel to me."

This kid knew one of the most basic forms of church survival. When in doubt, answer "Jesus." Nine times out of 10, it'll be the answer they want. But, as it turns out, listening is also a pretty good strategy. Who knew?

I actually love the buried truth in that concept. When in doubt, answer "Jesus." Not only is it usually the right answer to the teacher's question, it's the right answer to most of life's questions. I love it when we actually learn something from our kids.

Children are so beloved of Jesus. He took their previous status in the ancient Roman world as disposable second-class citizens and turned it on its head. Not only did he welcome children to his ministry, even into his arms, he went on to elevate them as an example of the childlike heart and meekness with which we, the adults, should approach the throne of the King of the universe.