Last week the question was posed, “Do young children have an appropriate place within the corporate worship gathering?” Opinions on this issue surely vary. Infants, toddlers and even preschoolers struggle to engage in and understand corporate worship. The length of most corporate worshipers services is difficult for young children to manage. The ability of parents to focus during worship can be hindered by wiggling children full of questions and complaints. Furthermore, why should we bring children into worship when we have the opportunity to disciple and instruct them in their level? If we have willing, loving, Jesus-fearing adults who want to care for children in the nursery and in children’s church so mom and dad can worship with undivided attention and affections, why shouldn’t we provide this service to our families (of course, the assumption presupposes that every parent enters the corporate worship gathering anticipating hearing from the Lord and desiring to worship Jesus in his greatness and majesty)?

There are many complexities to consider regarding this issue. Here are just a few:

  • Not every parent is equipped to know how to parent their children in the corporate worship gathering;
  • Not every parent wants to attend to their children in the corporate worship gathering;
  • Not every parent has a good understanding of when to remove disruptive, unruly children from corporate worship for the sake of serving others;
  • Children are intuitive and intelligent and quickly learn that bad behavior often gets them want they want. So children learn to behave badly so that they don’t have to endure corporate worship;
  • Many people come to corporate worship with the mind-set to be feed and served individually and personally at the exclusion of service to the entire body of Christ. This means that any intrusion on this expectation (noisy children, boring sermon, hot room, etc) is unwelcome;
  • Distractions in and around worshipers make it difficult to concentrate and focus during worship;
  • Some people hold the strong conviction that corporate worship is not an appropriate place for children to learn effectively about Jesus and the Gospel;

All of these are real issues and none of them should be ignored. But neither should God’s Word. Let’s consider just one passage from the Old Testament (Joshua 8:30-35). In this passage Joshua is leading in the renewal of Israel’s covenant with their God. This is what is says happens in this assembly (it is important to note who is considered a part of the assembly):

And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them (8:34-35).

Allow me to make just a couple of observations:

  • This was a long worship gathering because Joshua read all of Moses words to the people as a part of the covenant renewal process;
  • No one was excluded from this worship gathering for any reason – both indigenous and naturalized Jews, women, and all children;
  • There was no concern expressed by the leadership about what the children would and would not understand;
  • Not only were none excluded, all were expected to be in attendance;

Does this mean we should do away with age-appropriate, age-targeted ministries, especially to children? No. But it does mean that we should consider whether or not every gathering of the believers should be structured in such a way that children – all of them – are sequestered off to a different part of campus for biblical study and worship. How are children supposed to learn how to behave among and interact with worshiping adults if they are rarely given the opportunity to do this on a regular basis?

Feedback would be great. This is an issue I’m thinking through myself. I’m not trying to lay forth a persuasive treatise of what is right and wrong biblically regarding this issue because I don’t yet know myself.