One of the more controversial things I did when I first came to Calvary Community Church over four years ago was remove "play bags" for children that were previously handed out for use during Sunday morning. I felt it communicated to our kids that the worship in song and sermon weren't important enough for your attention, so we should provide a way to keep you quiet and entertained. In addition to that was restricting our churchtime activities to the pre-school level. (The controversy was from parents, NOT from our children's minister.)
I believe that the best place for children to be on Sunday morning is with their parents and the rest of their church family learning how to worship our God. As the pastor and preacher, I've never once complained about a noisy child or crying baby in the congregation. (And if it gets too bad so that everyone around you is distracted, you can take them to our restless child area in the lobby to continue training them.)
Jason Helopoulos has recently done us a great service, writing a two-part article on children in worship. The first article argues for why they should be there by way of six points:
- Our children are members of the covenant community (the church).
- Our children will be present in the midst of the means of grace.
- Our children will be present in the midst of the entire congregation.
- Our children will be present with their parents.
- Our children will witness their parents worshipping.
- Our children will learn the rhythms of church life.
His second article offers mom-tested tips on how to train your children to get the most from the morning worship.
As the father of four children, I can testify that it is possible to have your children with you in the service from the very beginning of their little lives. Actually, my wife Susan would be the one you'd really want to talk to, because, being the preacher, I'm out of the pew for most of the service. And I think the number one thing she'd tell you is that parenting = sacrifice. In other words, in order for your children to benefit from the worship service, and in order for them to learn how to benefit from the worship service, you will probably have to sacrifice a few years of distraction-free services for their good. (thank goodness for podcasts and vodcasts!)
May God bless you as you raise the next generation in the way of worship.