I wish I could think of a shorter title for this post. In the comments below Winnie asked if I thought one’s view about corporate worship as it pertains to children (whether or not corporate worship should be fully-integrated – meaning the church does not provide any form of childcare during corporate worship) is a sin issue. In the passage quoted in the post “All the Assembly…Even Little Ones” from Joshua 8, we see that when Joshua gathered together the people of God for covenant renewal, he did not make distinctions about who was and wasn’t welcome. The assumption was that the curses and blessings of God’s Law applied to those who had aligned themselves with God’s chosen people either by choice (alien sojourners) or birth (children). From this perspective it would be sinful to deny children the opportunity to hear God’s Word when His people gather.

But that isn’t really the issue here. In many cases the options offered to parents through nursery, extended service or Kid’s Church, are intended to serve as age-appropriate extensions of what is taking place among the sons and daughters of God gathered in corporate worship. So, in most situations, churches are not  trying to violate the principles in Joshua 8. This isn’t a case where churches are deliberately denying children the opportunity to hear God’s Word. Most churches believe they are providing this opportunity for children, just in a more appropriate environment.

The real question is whether or not what takes place in the nursery, extended session or Kid’s Church is an appropriate substitute for what takes place in the larger corporate gathering. Where this applies to what takes place in most nurseries, the answer is probably no. While the nursery provides a wonderful opportunity for caring workers to pray for infants, read Scripture, speak basic biblical truths in their lives, pray blessings over them, sing spiritual songs and hymns, loving hold and nurture them, this isn’t likely what happens in most nurseries. In most cases we get the last part of this equation right. Infants are held, gently cared for, and adored by faithful workers. But because they are infants (after all), we often feel sheepish doing any of the other mentioned things. Why? Because they can’t understand most of these things. This is also the case for most toddlers. However, as children get older, most churches do a better job mirroring the components of corporate worship within their children’s ministry structure.

So when you evaluate what churches provide for infants, toddlers and children in this way, I think we can see that there could be a sin issue here. There may be many sinful reasons that we provide childcare in our children’s ministries. It could be the sin of neglecting to share with children God’s Word because we think it’s too deep for them. It could be the sin of failing to allow children to be exposed to God’s Word because it is easier to let them play and eat snacks. It could be the sin of abdicating one’s God-ordained responsibility to be the primary discipler in your child’s life. It could be the sin of selfishness that finds children too distracting to keep with us in worship. It could be the sin of laziness because, truthfully, it’s hard work to keep your child engaged when you are sitting in corporate worship.

I would say that if a church is able to offer opportunties for children that mirror the critical elements of corporate worship (God’s Word, singing spiritual songs and hymns, encouraging one another, prayer, etc), then it may be an appropriate ministry. However, even with this we can’t ignore the fact that even if we get all these elements right in children’s ministry, our children still rarely get the opportunity to observe the ordinances commanded by Jesus in the Lord’s Table and baptism. These are two things that children are never exposed to in a segregated, age-appropriate environment, and both provide wonderful opportunities to speak to our children about the gospel.

This issue aside (the ordinances), one still has to reconcile that it is primarily the parent’s responsibility to teach their children about our Triune God, what it means to worship Him, and how one is supposed to worship Him. This is, at best, difficult to do in churches where children – some as old as sixth grade, and in some churches even up to 18 years of age – are rarely incorporated into the large corporate gathering.