I heard a complaint the other day, that we have too many little kids in church. Some folks say; “They are a distraction, noisy, too busy, and they leave the pews a mess. They should be in Sunday school so the adults can focus in worship. Let them stay until the children’s sermon and then send them out”.
In the short term not having little people in worship would increase attendance. In the long term we would have one more generation feeling that worship isn’t for them and in part they would be right. Recently a study asked the question about American’s religious preference. For the first time in 40 years those answering that they had no religious affiliation outnumber Roman Catholics and evangelicals. I wonder why?
Jesus said; “Let the children come to me for theirs is the kingdom of God.” I believe that this was a command to his disciples, not a suggestion. I believe that for many of us it was a much easier option not to have our children with us in worship, but to have them in the nursery or Sunday school.
To me the saddest part about the growing numbers of non-religious people in our nation is that this is a self-inflicted wound. The church and those who say they are religious have marginalize children and young folk so that when they become adults, they say they don’t have a place for me or why would I want to go here when they didn’t want me in church when I was younger.
I write this blog knowing that one of the highest attended Sunday worship services of the year was yesterday, “Easter”! Many millennials attended because their parents or grandparents ask them to come. Many of them agreed grudgingly to do so, out of love for their family or guilt. This might continue to be the cycle in their lives even after they have children, because membership in church or religion is predicated on two very important themes; “Community and Love”.
Maybe better said, a community that loves those who come into that community. Change the word community with church and now you see what might be lacking in many of our religious organizations. Many churches are like those people on a first date, you put your best foot forward, and you are welcoming and charming and excited to see the other. But after a while we divide and conquer with Sunday school during worship, children’s programming that nearly ignores the key roles that parents and grandparents play in the faith life of their children.
Children, who attend worship and do other faith and service activities with parents and other adults who they know will be more likely to see religion as an important part of their faith and spirituality. We think these little busy bodies are not paying attention, but they know that if their parents are here in church it is important for them as well. They don’t always show their appreciation for this fact but it is true!
I realize that there are other important factors in the loss of one or two generations from the membership rolls of churches. However I believe that this is a key factor to letting everyone in our communities of Faith get closer God. “Let the children come to me, says Jesus. Because when they grow up they will bring their children to see the love of Jesus as well, says Pastor Paul!