STOP THE DEBATE “Should Kids Be in Big Church or Kids Church” Already!

Recently, a children’s ministry leader I respect (so I shall not name them) posted this on Facebook:

Should children be a part of the corporate worship service, or will children benefit most from a discipleship environment designed specifically for them during the same time their parents are in church?

From the New Testament church, and for nineteen hundred years of Christianity this question was never asked, because there was a universal answer and universal practice.

The comments go with people stating their “position” on whether kids should be in “Big Church” (which is always the more spiritual position, of course) or in children’s church, and those folks seem to have to defend it.

I’M TIRED OF THIS DEBATE. No one should even be arguing about this. It seems to me that it is a friendly fire attack on the Church – arrows launched at brothers and sisters in Christ, as though if you lead a children’s church (which MOST churches do) you are somehow less spiritual or even (gasp) harming children because you offer a FUN, engaging, and might I mention highly effective learning environment for children.

BUT, I’m not even going to argue for kids being in children’s church! Why? Because kids being in “Big Church” with their parents is valid too. I’m OK with that. We have families in my church who opt out of my super awesome service and attend the adult service as a family. I miss their kids being in my service, but I’m OK with it. It’s a valid choice.

I won’t attack those leaders who make the choice not to even offer a kids service. I’m sad for their kids, especially those with special needs, hyperactivity, learning disabilities, the wiggle worms, the ones that can’t sit still and all the rest that like to laugh and move and play as they learn. But I get the value of being with their parents.

I also understand that many churches who don’t have a children’s church, it is simply because they are small and can’t have a kids church – so they they may do a kids moment, use a kids bulletin, or do what they can to include or acknowledge the children in the service. At least, I hope they do. But, if when they grow, and are able to provide more for the kids, and they choose not to, even though that makes me sad for the kids, I respect that if it is an intentional decision they arrive at as a strategy to train parents to lead their families. I don’t judge, and certainly would appreciate those churches not judging those of us who do choose to provide an age-appropriate learning environment for our kids so they can learn in service designed to attract, engage, educate and lead kids to Jesus so effectively that they beg to come to church and invite their friends.

The question whether kids should be in Big Church, or Kids Church, has NOT been settled for nineteen hundreds years. That is absurd. Otherwise, whether to drink Milk or Soda has been too.

For thousands years, people walked to church as well. I don’t see any theological issue with people driving a car to church. An argument from history is an empty argument. Technology, knowledge, methods and skills improve over time and doing things better does not contradict how things were done in the past.

It’s not an “either or” question – there can be a “both and” answer. Rather than compare our current age to hundreds of years of tradition when they didn’t have the educational tools and methods available to us today, the better question is what is most effective in teaching children to know, love and follow Jesus? It’s both an unfair and unrealistic comparison to compare church today to nineteen hundred years ago.

There is GREAT VALUE in a child attending a corporate service, absolutely! But that does not negate the incredible value of a child attending an age-appropriate learning experience where they can be engaged, involved, interact, have all their learning styles appreciated and end up learning and retaining so much more than sitting in a a service designed primarily for adults.

It’s not an issue of theology – it’s an issue of education. You’ve be hard pressed to find scripture that says you CAN’T teach kids in an age-focused learning environment. The reality is, kids can learn in either place, and likely will learn better when taught in a way that is focused on them and how they learn. Hundreds of years ago, kids weren’t considered capable of learning much, not even reading unless they had wealthy parents. The focus was more on survival, which wasn’t even a sure thing.

We are so blessed that we can now focus on teaching kids and ought to do it as effectively as we can, whether that is intentionally as families together corporately or with age-specific learning environments. We really shouldn’t be picking sides on that. The issue is how will kids learn best and how can we best make disciples, not what room are they in.

The next question then, is how can we best challenge, empower and equip parents to be the spiritual champions of their kids, whether they sit next to them in “Big Church” or go to a “Kids Church,” because THAT is what will make the difference for their children in the long run – not which room they were in. This argument is missing the far more important issue and it makes me sad to see children’s leaders arguing over whether kids should be with their parents in the adult service or in a children’s service. It’s a straw man debate. Both can be wonderful and either can be terrible. I’ve seen both extremes of kids sleeping in the pews or coloring or playing on phones/tablet or children church services that resembled a chaotic circus or were little more than coloring, crafts and snacks to occupy kids to keep them out of site from bothering the adults. Quality learning and disciple-making is what is needed.

Where that happens is secondary and ultimately irrelevant. Let’s stop attacking ministry methods of others. Let’s stop asking questions that DIVIDE children’s ministry leaders who are on the SAME TEAM and instead ask questions that UNIFY and help us ALL do a better job.

So please stop arguing about where kids should be, and work toward making church the best experience possible for kids as well as their parents.



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One Comment:

  1. Right on target Karl. I was once willing to argue the validity of the Children’s Church side of the debate, but as I prayed and sought God for His guidance on the matter; I was shown that, as you said, it is a parent’s primary role to disciple their children. Our purpose is to assist them in that, whatever that looks like. I do feel that assistance should be a available, if it is needed in whatever form is most effective in keeping with parental choices, but I so love to see the wonder in a child’s eyes when they “get it.” Thank you for your treatment of what should not be a sensitive subject, but so many times is. Ultimately, God doesn’t need us anyway, He allows us to teach His children, and teaches us how to be available to support their parents in discipling them, but it is still The Holy Spirit that informs and instructs us all. Seek first, His will, and He will provide for the rest in His time.

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