Re-Thinking ‘Children’s Church’
In my own Baptist denomination, there is what is commonly referred to as ‘Children’s Church’. This is not a practice only in Baptist circles, of course, but one which crosses denominations, isn’t it?
Is ‘Children’s Church’ biblical? Does it fall under that enormously broad category of ‘neither approved nor condemned in Scripture’?
Here is my conclusion on the matter. Nine out of ten times, I find churches who have incorporated ‘children’s church’ base their reason’s for having it on Matthew 19:13-15:
Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” After laying His hands on them, He departed from there. (Matthew 19:13-15, NASB)
Now the great majority of churches that practice children’s church say something along these lines:
First Baptist children’s ministry operates from the belief that when Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me,” He meant it! Scripture indicates that Jesus loves children and wants children to come to Him and know His love. Our goal in First Baptist children’s ministry is to provide an environment that is inviting, safe, and in all ways nurturing to children in each step they take toward Jesus.
Well of course Jesus meant it. But what exactly did he mean?
In the context of the passage, it’s very clear that the children who had come to Him were being used by our Lord as a teaching example to the disciples who had just rebuked those who had brought them. This is key to understanding the overall context of the passage.
Specifically, Jesus is teaching the disciples what manner truly converted people will be. Seeing the children, He says “…for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” See it? “To such.”, people who are as little children, of simple, but true faith, given of the father, to them belong the kingdom of heaven.
The Greek word used for ‘to such’ is toioutos, “such as this, of this kind”.
So this passage in Scripture, at the very least, should not be seen as a valid basis for the existence of ‘children’s church’ or even a children’s ‘sermon’. If it is, what seems to be set aside is the lesson our Lord would have us learn from this incident recorded in Scripture!
To be clear, I in no way condemn the practice of ‘children’s church’.
What I recommend is no longer using this passage as a ‘proof text’ for validating said practice. Jesus meant for us to learn that we must be as children, in faith, and in trusting Him for all things, and if we set aside or ignore that comforting truth for the sake of proving the rightness of our tradition, then it seems we have exalted our traditions over the truth of the Word of God.
Isn’t that what the Pharisees did?
Now, if you were to ask me outright, “Should we get rid of children’s church?” I would say, “Yes, get rid of it.” There’s no Scriptural foundation for it, and it is more often than not, abused as a baby-sitting service or a host of other selfish parental reasons. Worse, I’ve even seen it used as a platform for preachers to exercise some dangerous pride, namely, performance. The Church is already suffering from performance-minded celebrity preachers, why add to the mess?