Kids and Church Services

Am I going against my word? In the ABOUT page of this blog you will read that I do not want to weigh in on the (often heated) debate over the inclusion and involvement of kids in church services. There are many factors that influence this decision such as the size of the congregation, numbers and spread of ages of the kids, the availability of volunteer teachers and the venue (what facilities are there for a kids church service or Sunday School program, or even the ability to have all the adults and kids in the one room at the same time!). This often come before the varied biblical convictions and/or family preferences of those who have the power of decision over such matters. Given that any of the above factors could easily change, I think we should hold fast to a principle of kids/youth in church services and hold looser to the strategy. This allows the strategy to change in response to changing variables while still holding to the same principle.

I suggest the following as a principle for a church to adopt before deciding a strategy:

Principle:
Discipling and equipping kids for membership – into God’s heavenly kingdom and into a locally gathered body (church).

As (God willing) a church grows/changes, it can then adjust its strategy accordingly.

 


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Cutting out the SOFT reasons for missing church

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There will always be legitimate reasons for missing church, especially for families – sickness, travelling for weddings/funerals, family holidays, etc.

However, the selfish desires of the flesh and lies of Satan will convince us that SOFT reasons for missing church are legitimate reasons for missing church. If left unchecked, this process of giving in to temptation can have a generational effect on making the act of church (meeting together as God’s elect for instruction, worship, encouragement and service) less than #1. That’s sin in our lives and is opening sin into the lives of our children.

My temptation was to list off the SOFT excuses I have made over the years, but you know what they are. You know the times you would have trouble looking into God’s eyes and telling of the time you chose something else over meeting with your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Compare these two examples,

“My parents showed me the importance and privilege of meeting as a body of Christ because there had to be a good reason for us to miss it. Even on holidays we met with other Christians, sang with them and encouraged each other in living for Him and telling of His saving grace. “

“I went along to church with my parents, but if there was a better offer we’d go to that instead. They are Christian, but didn’t really get involved in church. I stopped going when I was old enough to stay home by myself and don’t really see the point in it now, it’s their thing, not mine.”

I would hate for my laziness and/or selfishness to result in any of my children spending an eternity separated from God.

#1 some of the time is not #1 at all.

 

What if a paedophile came to your church?

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Church families are a great place for kids to make friends and see a loving community in action. We want them to learn about Jesus in a place that is safe with people they can trust.

This same body of people, saved by grace, ought to want non-Christians to feel welcomed, to hear of the gospel of Jesus, repent of sins and trust Him to change them by his Spirit. This process of ongoing sanctification is not just for new Christians, but continues for all of us this side of Jesus’ return.

How would you respond if a non-Christian, or a Christian new to your church, has a history of child pornography or child sexual abuse and wants to attend your church?

As a parent, wrestling with this would have to be the hardest part of Jesus’ command to love our enemy.

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:27-28

Echoed again by Paul in Romans 12:16-21

This situation may not involve a personal enemy who has hated or cursed me directly, but those involved in paedophilia invoke a hatred from society at large (1). These verses run counter to this pattern of the world, a pattern Paul tells us NOT to conform to (Rom 12:2). After all, sin and evil is the enemy, not the person. They are not beyond salvation should God choose to show mercy, their sin is not unforgivable. Don’t we also struggle with our own temptations and sins – most of which we can hide from the rest of society (and even our church community)? We have been shown mercy for our sin and still need to take our sins to God daily for forgiveness and repentance. Is our sin any less offensive to God?

These two conflicting desires for our church meetings – the desire for a loving and trusting environment and the desire to lovingly welcome people whoever they are – means we cannot wholeheartedly embrace both. The latter opens the door (literally) to a person with such convictions being amongst us any given weekend. Since we might never know, might I suggest these four things we can do as parents so we can keep our kids safe AND welcome people all people like Jesus did:

  1. Welcome all visitors well, and not just the first time they come. A person with any criminal convictions is NOT going to bring it up in conversation. While this shouldn’t be our motivation for welcoming well, it is certainly a fringe benefit.
  2. Know where your kids are at all times, especially when they need to use the bathroom. If they are prepubescent, escort them into the toilet or have them use an accessible toilet you have checked first. Give clear boundaries of where they can play so that you have clear sight of them. Better still, include them in your encouraging conversations and model Christian community for them.
  3. Thank God for His mercy and pray many more would be given this greatest treasure in the whole wide world – Peace with God, made possible in Jesus.
  4. Get informed and trained in the safe ministry practises of your church, including background checks for volunteering with children. At our church, all such volunteers undertake Safe Ministry Training which does the (Australian) background checks and meets our church insurance requirements.

Protecting the Weak, Supporting the Church, Fulfilling the Law

 

Note of Clarification:
This post does not address the decision of whether to allow a person who has a history of child pornography or child sexual abuse to attend a church meeting where children are present. This is a decision for your church leadership. Any action on such a policy

  • can only occur after disclosure of this history,
  • does not absolve you of your reaction to this question, and
  • does not relieve you of your own responsibility towards the protection of your children.

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(1) Kelly Richards, “Misperceptions about child sex offenders”, Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice No.429, 2011, http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/current%20series/tandi/421-440/tandi429.html [accessed June 17th 2014].


Do you find these posts helpful in parenting to the Glory of God? If you do, then I’m sure others would too. 

Please SHARE these posts with a prayer for a generation of kids who have had this modelled for them by their parents.