Let the Little Children Come into Big Church

Let the little children come into big church.

People are always asking the question, “Should we have our children with us in public worship?”

I’ve labored in churches that had no other option, except for a small nursery room for infants. I’ve labored in churches that had both options: children’s church was provided, or you could bring your children into the main service with you. And I’ve labored in churches that had a dismissal in the middle of the service, and also during communion for the children.

This question is clearly an issue that divides a lot of churches, and is often a key reason why some American parents will attend one church over another, otherwise-sound church. To this, I have one thing to say...

Let the little children come into big church.

There’s a funny scene in the Gospels that involves small children and even infants. It goes like this:

“Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Lk 18:15-17; See also Mt 19:13-15 and Mk 10:13-16)

According to Jesus, children and infants serve as a perfect analogy of every Christian’s entrance into the kingdom of God. We come dependent. We come small. We come weak. We come insignificant. We come nursing. We come empty handed. We come receiving. We come all the same, and yet God welcomes us into his kingdom.

When we bring the little ones into church with us, we have a constant reminder held up before us that God gives grace to those with a faith that depends not on ourselves, but on God alone who supplies us with everything we have and all that we need.

Our performance, our status, our achievements, our work—none of that matters. Nothing in our hands we bring, simply to the cross we cling.

Let the little children come into big church.

When we have our children in the church service with us, we not only benefit from having them with us, but we also give them something each time we gather. When we stand, sit, sing, pray, recite, confess, read, listen, watch, eat, and drink—our children witness us glorifying God.

They notice everything. They see our hearts emboldened with praise. They see when we delight in the God who made us and redeemed us. And they also notice when we’re checked out—when we’re disinterested and bored.

Let the little children come into big church.

When they’re there in the service with us, they help us to better enjoy God. I remember the first time my oldest son started reciting the Creed out loud, and the first time he sang the words of the Gloria Patri (“Glory Be to the Father”) out loud. It was amazing, and it encouraged me to speak loudly and not softly because this is the faith that lasts.

It’s the faith that my grandmother believed, and her great-grandfather, and it’s the faith that even my children and their children can live on.

Let the little children come into big church.

Recently I had the wonderful blessing of baptizing an adult, a child, and my third son (an infant). During the service and after church, my oldest son was SO interested in talking to us about baptism. He even said he loves baptisms and one day wants to baptize others. (I’m not sure how that’s going to work, though, since he presently wants to become a police officer—we’ll see. Maybe he’ll be bi-vocational.)

Let the little children come into big church.

I know they’re loud. I’m a pastor and a father; I know their cries well. The struggle is real for any parent with young children in church. I know it’s hard. They’re distracting, they make it difficult to hear the sermon. Sometimes it’s awkward, and they make you feel awkward during the service. It’s not fun when a child is choking in the middle of the service. (That happened to us once, I kid you not.) It’s embarrassing when your child has a blowout during the sermon, and you have to get up in the middle of everyone there. Or people around you begin to smell something big coming from a little diaper.

But that’s also real life. And church should be the one place on this earth where God’s people can be real with one another. God wants us to be real with him in prayer, and we should be ourselves in the presence of him and his people. If we have to hide what it’s like to be human in church, then we’ve forgotten the reality of Jesus as being both truly God and truly human. Jesus came not as a bodiless soul, but with body and soul—he came to us with bones, muscle tissue, blood, sweat, body odor, spit-up, poo-poo and pee-pee.

This is one of those cases where the King James Version (KJV) makes the most sense. It reads, “Suffer little children.” Or the American Standard Version (ASV), “Suffer the little children.”

That about sums it up. Having children with us in church involves much suffering for the parents, and the congregation, and the pastors. But who among us would dare stand in the way of our children entering into the very presence of God? Who would dare hinder them, and keep them from entering into the kingdom of God with us?

Let the little children come into big church.

Photo of Nicholas Davis

Nicholas Davis

Nicholas Davis is lead pastor of Redemption Church (PCA) in San Diego, California. Nick has worked for White Horse Inn for several years, has contributed to Modern Reformation and other places, and is a writer for Core Christianity. Nick and his wife, Gina, have three sons. He blogs at nicholasmartindavis.com. Connect with Nicholas on Twitter @MundaneMinister.

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