Have you ever wondered how the early church handled children during the “adult” worship service? Well, chances are good that you’ve read the text; “Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. 14But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15After laying His hands on them, He departed from there.” The early church included all members of the family and I can picture mom’s holding a crying baby and walking away from those gathered to attend to the young child.
During my years (1993-2000) as KIDS Church editor for CharismaLife / Strang (now Charisma Media) I was a big proponent of holding KIDS Church services with the adults in the main sanctuary. And I was able to accomplish this as I traveled for CharismaLife to conduct children’s ministry conferences, normally on a Saturday, and then holding a service at the host church. In May of 1997 to May of 1998, Strang allowed me to be “on loan” to the Toronto Christian Fellowship (now Catch The Fire ministries). You may have heard of the “Toronto Blessing” during these years. My purpose in being the temporary children’s pastor at TACF was to build the infrastructure to handle the explosive growth of the congregation.
The ministry at the heart of the Toronto Blessing were the lead pastors, John and Carol Arnott. What a privilege for me to serve with these wonderful, loving people. Our family was blessed with one incredible year in Canada and much was accomplished because the leadership at TACF was receptive to family style worship and wanted to establish a more welcoming building to express how they felt about children.
When I would speak on this subject I would often ask the question, “why is the church content to have a swing out back for the kids at a time when McDonald’s is featuring play places in front of their restaurants?” This struck a chord with the TACF leadership as they began remolding their sanctuary in 1998. They were committed to have a sanctuary that demonstrated their commitment to let the little ones come. The design team was told to get my input and they went way beyond my suggestions, designing one of the most kid welcoming church auditoriums ever. The remodeling was not completed until after my family was back in Florida but they did share photos with me and it was exciting to see this all come to pass.
Please do not be offended if your church has a swing out back because I really do like them–and enjoyed many as a kid. The point is being able to hold worship in a more family style gathering, at least from time to time. Something to think about in our current culture is that it is harder for a predator to pull a child away from a large family setting than an understaffed classroom. The verse at the beginning of this article continues: “If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”