What—no kids in the worship service? (Part two)
Picture this with me—I was preaching on a Sunday evening. Our church was less than a year old and there were about 75 people in the room. A young mother was there with her three year old child who was a handful. I am not being critical of the mom, after all, the dad was out of town a lot and the child was very strong willed. The young girl was extremely restless and actually got out of her chair and walked up on to the platform. This would not have been a problem…expect for the fact that I was in the middle of my message. I calmly looked at her and asked, “Can I help you darling?” She freaked out, I mean complete meltdown right there in front of everyone—then she ran to her mother who picked her up and they both left the service. (Don’t worry—I called the mom, we spoke and they are still at our church to this day!)
I completed the message and was talking with people after the service when a guy in the church told me, “I thought what you did tonight to that little girl was very rude!” It was then I realized that when it comes to kids in the service that the pastor is in a no win situation. If they cause a disruption and we address it then some will consider us mean. If we let it go unnoticed then others will consider us to be passive.
So our team met, prayed, brainstormed, and thought through every possible scenario until we finally decided that our church was going to strive to provide a distraction free worship environment for adults and a creative, relevant environment for kids—that way everyone wins.
As I stated yesterday this has caused a bit of displeasure from time to time. We have parents who love to quote what Jesus said about the little kids coming to Him. I once had a father yell at me over the telephone, “Jesus said bring the little children unto me.” I completed the verse for him and said, “and do not hinder them.” It is my belief that by taking a child and placing them in an environment where they are not engaged in a way that they can understand that they are being hindered. That is why we refuse to hinder kids spiritual development by asking them to surrender an hour of their life to boredom.
Once again, I know this is tough for some to swallow. But I always ask parents, “If you two needed time with one another, time for heart to heart conversation, then what do you do? You hire a babysitter, go to a nice restaurant, have a nice meal…and talk AND listen to each other. If you want intimacy with your spouse you don’t involve your children.” And let’s take that step further—if you do go to a nice restaurant and there is a disruptive child there what is your reaction? Don’t even try to lie—you get offended and angry because the time with your spouse has been disrupted.
I had a parent object to this once and say, “But Perry—that is a restaurant, this is church, they are not the same.” I replied, “You are correct—church is WAY more important that a restaurant…and if you will take measures to provide yourself with a distraction free environment where you can talk and listen to your spouse then why wouldn’t you do the same so you can hear from the Lord?”
As I said yesterday—we at New Spring have chosen to take this stand…and it is working. Our children’s ministry has grown from 3 kids the first Sunday to over 500-600 each week. We actually have three and four year old children who get their parents out of bed on Sunday mornings to come to church. (Be honest—did you ever do that—or did you play sick???)
If your church is going to adopt this policy then you need to be prepared to make some serious changes. We knew when we decided this that we were going to have to heavily invest in the children’s area…and so when it comes to kids we spend the money.
We didn’t go to the local junkyard to find toys for them to play with—we bought the good stuff. We didn’t try to support the children’s area with a volunteer or hire a minister of youth, children, senior adults, special events, and anything else that the pastor assigns. We went out and hired the best, most qualified children’s staff we could find. We currently have four full time and two part time staff members in our children’s area…and we know that we are going to have to hire more in the future.
We have invested money in a state of the art check in system that allows no one except for the parents who dropped the kids off to be the one to pick them up. We have a means of paging parents in the service if their child become ill or injured. We have security officers in the children’s area to make sure that no one just roams in the building and begins interacting with the children.
Our children’s area is clean and neat. We are currently meeting in rented facilities…and if the room is dirty when we get there—we clean it. We put down our own carpet. We disinfect everything in sight. For too long the church has taken some dirty room in the basement and stuck the kids down there just to keep them quiet. I always tell people that if you want to attract the lost and unchurched to your church you had better place their kids in a clean and safe environment.
And speaking of safe—we don’t let just anyone volunteer to work with our kids. They have to go through an interview process AND be willing to submit to let us do a federal background check on them. (The church pays for this.) People have asked, “What if I won’t do the background check.” Then it is very simple—you can’t work with our kids! (Yes, even the security personal go through this process.)
We love kids at New Spring…and it is so refreshing as a pastor to serve at a church where I can watch the kids dragging their parents to the children’s area because they can’t wait to get checked in. We have had some people say that there is no way that they can ever support this aspect of our vision. This is sad; however, the only way to handle this is to encourage them to find another church because we are not changing our mind. We believe in children—and we believe in them enough to make sure that they get our best every single Sunday.