Over the last few years, I’ve seen a new trend when it comes to families that attend church. It used to be that families that had a new baby would be reluctant to put their baby in the church nursery for the first few weeks. Then it was the first few months, and now I am seeing a trend of parents that do not put their kids in the Children’s ministry at all. There have been different movements that have encouraged “family church.” This is the idea that we shouldn’t be dividing the family up when they come to church. Others believe that it is important to teach their child to sit still in church when they are 1 1/2.
I’m not sure this philosophy is working out for anyone. Here are a couple of things to consider when you bring your bundle of joy to church:
The skill of sitting still in a learning environment is generally not attained until close to Kindergarten age. You are wasting your time, frustrating yourself, and frustrating others if you are trying to get a two-year-old to sit still in church.
Your church has provided a learning environment for your child, where they can learn while still being active and loud. That’s how kids learn. By keeping them in the service you are denying them the best learning environment they could have. And you are probably discouraging some great members of the body of Christ who have prepared all week to teach your child. Your child could be learning some amazing truths instead of merely learning to color quietly.
If your young child is in the service, you could be keeping other people from learning. Our church is serious about communicating the life-changing truth of God’s Word to people at all levels in their spiritual journey. We work really hard to ensure that everything that happens in the service keeps people’s attention (Right on down to making sure the fan on the AC unit is set to on so that it doesn’t cut off and on and become a distraction). When a young child is in the service he or she is almost always a distraction. If they are quiet and cute, people are watching them. If they are loud and upset, people are watching them. If a parent has to get up to take them out, it’s a distraction. We get 30 minutes a week to drill the truth into people’s hearts and compete with all the distractions the world throws at them all week. We really can’t afford to miss any opportunities. We have people in our church who have worked for years to invest in the life of a friend who needs to be in church. All of that can go up in smoke if a child is crying right next to them on their first Sunday.
If you wait too long to start checking your child into a class, your child will not want to go. Out of a fear of germs, some parents will keep their kids out of the church nursery for the first few months, or even a year. When they feel like the germ threat has subsided, they want to check their child into the preschool but their child throws a fit every week. If your child is dropped off in the church nursery regularly within a month or two of being born, they will likely suffer less from separation anxiety as they get older. Let me say a word about separation anxiety. Most of our preschool teachers tell me that if you drop them off and quickly walk away, they can calm a child down and get them engaged. The problem is often that the parents hang around, indecisive about whether or not they should leave, or they remain in the child’s line of sight. Or even worse, they come back a few minutes later and check to see how it’s going and the child sees them again! You left your contact information when you checked in. If they cannot calm your child down and engage them in the activities of the morning, they will notify you. At some age, throwing a fit while being dropped off is just unacceptable behavior and may have to be dealt with as a behavior issue.
Now I can hear the objections to this blog. Jesus said, “Let the little children come.” I’m not anti-kids. In fact, we have worked hard to have the best children’s ministry we can have. But I’ll tell you what I’ve seen in my own family. We dropped both of our kids off in the church nursery within two weeks of being born. They never contracted the plague. In fact, through the years they learned amazing truths and had great relationships with some amazing teachers that they still love and talk about to this day. They also learned their share of lessons about getting along with others. We went through a couple of months of separation anxiety with one of our children. We were loving but firm that she was not allowed to throw a fit when we dropped her off. That phase passed quickly. Both my kids made relationships in their classes with friends who have stood with them for Christ right on up through High School. You can’t put a price tag on that. We kept up with the take-home papers from our kids’ classes and had detailed conversations throughout the week about what they had learned. My wife and I learned as much as we could learn through the years because we did not have to wrangle children while we listened in church. And we were free to invite friends without the fear that our kids would distract them.