4 Reasons Even the Most Rambunctious Children Belong in Church
- Jessica Brodie Award-winning Christian Novelist and Journalist
- 2022 25 May
When I was a young mom, bringing my family to church was far from picture-perfect. It was usually just me with my preschooler and my toddler, one clinging desperately to my side and aching to be held, the other screaming their head off just for the pure joy of the sound.
But it was really important for me to bring my kids to church. I needed to be there, and I knew if we didn’t start going when they were young it probably wasn’t going to happen when things got a little easier. I tried to leave them in the church daycare, but I guess I was just too much of a softy, because their pleas and cries to “Stay with Mommy!” always found me guiding them into the sanctuary, glancing guiltily around when one of them made too much noise, and trying my best to glean whatever wisdom I could from the sermon.
Luckily, the two churches I belonged to in those days — one in one state, and one in another after we moved — were really nice about it. My daughter wore fairy wings, and my fellow members just gave her an indulgent smile and told her how cute she was. I didn’t get any snarky side-eye glanced like I’d feared, and people weren’t constantly shushing me or giving me those “can you please quiet your children down or take them to the kids’ room where they belong” looks.
As time passed, it got easier. One of my kids did start going to the kids’ room and loved it there, and the other always stayed with me during worship. They paid attention, and sometimes they got the wiggles and moved around, well, a lot. But life went on. Today our family still attends church together. And today when I see other young moms and dads looking anxious and concerned when their kids squall or jump around, I always give the kids a big grin and a welcoming wave — and the parents a knowing wink. I wish I could tell those parents what I didn’t know myself at the time: the noises my kids make bother me much, much, much more than they do anybody else.
In fact, I’ve learned even the wildest kids in church make worship better. Here are four reasons even the most rambunctious children belong in church.
1. Church Is Good for Them
We know the most important thing we can do as a follower of Jesus is share the Gospel with others. Both individually and corporately, as the body of Christ known as the church, we need to be open, inclusive, and welcoming to anyone who comes in the doors. There is nobody too sinful, too wiggly, too far gone, or too noisy for Jesus. And likewise, the same applies to our worship services. When we foster a welcoming place for kids, not to mention any human being, that’s one way we can do our part to make God and His word and message accessible to people.
Kids, all kids but particularly little kids, should be in church. They need to learn God’s messages from a young age. Yes, they get it at home (we hope), and often in daycare and preschools they get that message, too. But the more places we can expose them to that are welcoming and centered in the Lord, the better. Even if all they understand at the end of the day is “God loves you,” that’s a good thing.
As it says in Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
2. It Helps Foster a Habit
It takes practice getting used to waking up on Sundays (or whatever day you go to church), putting clothes on, and gathering with other people devoted to the Lord. If we start kids with that habit right from the start, it’ll take hold of their hearts, and hopefully for a lifetime. Even if the church setting doesn’t look or feel like any of the other environments in which they spend time — perhaps no tables for scribbling or brightly colored blocks and toys for them to bang and smash — kids learn quickly. They figure it out. And when they get used to going to church regularly when they’re young, they usually keep going. It creates a cycle.
As Proverbs 22:6 says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
3. It Helps the Whole Family
Sometimes it’s really easy to skip church. There — I said it. And it’s true. We’re so busy, we’re exhausted, and we’re burning the proverbial candle at both ends. Having young kids at home can be another excuse to just take the easy path and stay home. But attending church as a family helps keep the whole team pointed in the same direction: towards God. As kids get older, there are often children’s or young adult ministries they can get involved with, and for the parents, there might be Bible studies, prayer groups, and volunteer opportunities. Bringing your kids to church makes it all the more likely that you as a family will become an active participant in the community of believers all around you.
In the words of Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
4. It Helps the People in the Pews around You
Even for the grumpiest people, it brings a fresh perspective when you have a chance to stand next to a wiggle worm and worship, or see in the pew in front of you somebody’s little hands or ponytail swinging joyfully. It also reminds us of what we’re supposed to do: raise up our young ones in the Lord. The point isn’t a comfortable, silent, pristine worship experience. The point is being together as a family of the Lord in worship, even if that’s messy and sometimes noisy. It’s about all bringing separate, individual ways together as one.
We can learn much from children. As Jesus said in Mark 10:14b-15, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
If you’re a parent and grandparent worried about disturbing the people around you by bringing a potentially noisy child into worship, relax. It’s good for them, it’s good for you, and it’s good for the people around you.
And if you’re someone who gets a slight sense of, shall we say, irritation about kids in worship, just remember Jesus — the very One we worship — hung around with sinners, lepers, and sometimes-rambunctious children. And He commanded us to do the same.
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Photo credit: Unsplash/Ashton Bingham
Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at jessicabrodie.com. She has a weekly YouTube devotional, too. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and more. She’s also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed.