Children in Church: A Moral Dilemma

Jesus is famous for having said:

Suffer the little ones to come unto me.

Of course, He had the advantage of preaching in the open air, as well as being abundantly charismatic.  And the Son of God, a fact which helped enormously.

At my church in Düsseldorf, Germany, we have been blessed by the presence of a large number of families with youngsters from days old to late teenage years.  We also have very good provision for younger members of the congregation.  This is something of which many of the other local churches in the city are quite envious – albeit in a nice way.

Following on from my last article about children (yes, yes, I admit it – other people’s children) in pubs, cafes and restaurants, I wonder about some parents with children in church.  Here are some incidents:

  • Three or four youngsters aged 8-9, having playfights at the back of church in an area set aside for nursing mothers and their babies, all while the rest of the congregation are saying prayers
  • Another occasion, when a nursing mother was sitting in that nursing mother area, yet baby son was crying with all the strength in his lungs because he was teething.
    • Baby son was suffering from teething.
    • The rest of the congregation was suffering from his screaming and bawling.
    • This was all during a sermon that the chaplain was attempting to preach.
    • In the end, the clergyman had to ask the mother with baby to step outside into the church hall for everyone else to be able to hear the sermon.
    • Point to note: this mother had been a few Sundays before this service, but I myself, as someone with a 90% attendance rate, have never seen her since then, back in January 2014.  Our church does have a transient ex-pat community, yet it is quite disappointing when some people just stop attending once their child has been baptised.

Now, some members of the congregation considered the chaplain’s request to go elsewhere somewhat harsh.  One comment being:

When I brought my boys into church back in the UK, when they were two and three, we we asked to sit in the church hall and have the service piped in.

Clearly there are some churches which have a reputation for being unwelcoming, staid and only wanting the Great and the Good there.  Our church is not one of them.  We have Germans who come to our church and stay with us because we are so much more welcoming than their previous German churches.  And let’s be honest.  You ain’t gonna please all of the people all of the time.  Let me stick my business analyst head on.

Assumptions

  1. Mum with teething baby (MWTB) wanted to attend the whole of the service and spend time in fellowship with other Christians.
  2. MWTB wanted to hear the sermon.
  3. The rest of the congregation wanted to do the same as MWTB.

Conclusion

  1. With MWTB’s baby screaming and crying, nobody could hear the sermon.
  2. Given that MWTB was having to give baby so much close attention to her son, it would be unlikely that she would be able to take part in any fellowship.
  3. MWTB, if she really wanted to hear the sermon, could listen to it any time after service online as a podcast.
  4. In the balance of inconvenience, we need to consider the majority’s need compared to those of the minority.
  5. Given that MWTB knew her son would be teething, would it have been more courteous and considerate of her to sit in the church hall and nurse her little one?

The Sword of Damocles does hang over any church in these circumstances.

  • We want to welcome youngsters and make it a welcoming, fun place.
  • But is it fair on others (the Body of Christ) when their need to worship and be spiritually recharged after a week’s sinning that this gets disrupted because of your sense of entitlement to use the church as a creche?

Am I being too harsh?  Feel free to comment and flail me to shred.

Have a welcoming day, won’t you?

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4 thoughts on “Children in Church: A Moral Dilemma

  1. Follks, if you like my article, I’d genuinely appreciate your comments and thoughts.

  2. This is a tough one. Churches are seeing less and less people each year and they have to really reach the children from a young age and make the church a normal part of their lives.

    My church as a vestry to the side that can be used by anyone with screaming babies. This also reduces the stress of the mother, who is aware her baby sounds ten times louder in a church. The church also has children’s bags. Ages 1-5 and 5-10. It contains book, colouring books, quiet toys. My girls loved them. At each service the children are invited to join in by playing some musical instrument (tambourine, triangle, etc), then after that they all leave for a Sunday school. This includes mothers with going babies.

    One Sunday a month the church does a Family Service. It’s shorter, lively, the children are all included and invited to come up and join in.

    For me this worked. Churches need to be family friendly these days, but they do need to work out how best to deal with this and the mixture of ages that will be in there. The use of a place for screaming babies and stressed out mothers was a massive help for everyone. They even had an area for mothers to feed and change their babies.

    Maybe this could be something your church looks into to help everyone involved.

  3. Mhairi, some very good points again. We too have a family service and in every service the first ten minutes are quite lively and family-orientated. I guess ultimately mothers with noisy kids need to compromise with the needs of a congregation to worship and perhaps need to go to a quieter area, such as a church hall while their offspring are teething etc. Our techie people are looking at piping the service into the church hall as another option.

  4. The next issue is how to write diplomatically in the November church newsletter words to the effect of, “We have a 2-minute silence at the Remembrance Day service. Please make sure your little ones do not ruin the silence with screeching, screaming, poking, prodding, growling, etc.”

    Any tips on the wording, please?

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