Christian comedian John Crist shared this photo on Instagram this weekend that’s gone viral. The photo is a card from a church, apparently meant to be distributed to parents of fussy children, instructing them that a “connection team member” would assist them in leaving the sanctuary during worship.
It’s a sad commentary on the American church that we shame parents for bringing their kids and their kids…acting like kids in a church service.
If the gospels were written today, and Jesus was teaching to great multitudes and a child was fussing, would he ask the parent and child to be escorted away from his presence? In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said: “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children” (Matthew 19:14).
A baby has just as much right to be there as you do.
It’s unfortunate that a parent who’s tired, who’s working, who’s doing their absolute best, and on top of all of the other hassles in life, knows it’s worth it to take their young child to church, and when they do that, has to worry about the eye rolls, the murmurs, the complaints for if their child gets fussy. That should be the last place where they’re going to be criticized. Those parents should be applauded, not judged.
Can it be annoying to hear a fussy child? Yes. Obviously. But it’s more annoying to hear a fussy adult whining about a baby. There isn’t a Biblical mandate: thou shalt wait until thine child will behave before thou shalt bring them into the Lord’s house.
Yes, if a young child is having an absolute meltdown, of course it’s reasonable to step outside of the room for a moment. A parent has enough sense to know that. But the fact that this church had a special card printed up and ready to hand out? Yes, I realize that card compliments the parent for bringing their kid but it’s underhanded when couched in “now please leave the corporate worship service.”
Jesus spoke to multitudes of thousands during his ministry. Those parents weren’t dropping their kids off with the babysitter. There would have been fussy children then. Other parts of the world have livestock nearby making sounds. Worship in other parts of the world is done in secret at the threat of persecution. But heaven forbid a little kid sometimes cry or speak up.
They’ll learn. Their behavior will improve. But what’s priceless is teaching them from a young age that church is important and something that should be part of life.
If we’re going to want to make parents feel ostracized or unwelcome because of their children, I think we need to check our own hearts in that. What do we value? Can we put up with a little bit of inconvenience so that a young child can be included in the service too?
The church isn’t a restaurant, it’s not a movie theater. If you want to complain about a fussy child in those establishments, go ahead. But we should not approach it like our satisfaction with every visit is the supreme end of the service.
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Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.