It’s Not Fair to Make Kids Go to Church

“It’s not fair!”

Recently, I had a conversation with someone that contained this theme throughout our discussion.  In short it was shared that,

Intergenerational worship is not fair.  It’s not fair to adults who want to listen and participate without distraction.  It’s not fair for parents to have to have their kids sit with them in worship. It’s not fair for the kids to have to sit through something boring and not geared for them.  It’s not fair to the pastor to have to hear kids talking, babies crying, and tween whispering.  It’s not fair to anyone.  Why are you advocating for something that is unfair to so many people?

I agree.  It’s not fair.

Never said it was.

Never said it was easy.  Never said it was comfortable. Never said it was simple.

Never said it wouldn’t take effort, intentionality, and hard work. Never said it wouldn’t mean that adults, parents, kids, pastors, and the church family at large wouldn’t have to sacrifice their own desires, wants, and expectations for Sunday morning, Wednesday nights or church in general.

I just don’t think the kingdom of God is about what’s “fair.”

I think God is more concerned about what is best; what is best for His will, His kingdom, and His church.

The author of Psalm 73 (a psalm that in my very scholarly opinion could have been titled, “It’s not fair!”) shared a very similar frustration.  He says, “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”  He goes on to share quite emphatically that it just wasn’t fair that these guys were doing so great while he saw the people of God suffering. He shares, “I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply, until I entered the sanctuary of God and I understood their destiny.”

He saw the end.  The finale.  The conclusion.  And seeing that changed everything. He saw with bigger vision; eyes that saw past the moment and into the future.  He saw and understood that standing in a moment, with all of its seeming unfair frustrations, was only a small part of the picture.

And with that God-sized vision, he says, “When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant, I was a brute beast before you. Yet, I am with you. You hold me by my right hand. You guide me in your counsel.

We, as in, we the Church, need a God-sized vision.

IMG_3631We have to look ahead, not even to the finale, but to 20 years from now when our children no longer have a place to go away from us and not be distractions, but to when they find their own place to go away from us and explore other distractions.  We have to understand there’s a bigger story than our uncomfortable Sunday morning, namely, the devastating decline in younger generations remaining in the Christian faith and instead declaring themselves as “Nones.”  It is imperative that we allow our church experience to be greater than what we can “get out of” a Sunday morning to what we can “put into” the larger kingdom of God.

And again, I share, I am not “against” times where kids and adults are separate and have activities that are specifically designed to help them grow in their faith, appropriate to their age and maturity, BUT I am opposed to a model that never or rarely allows generations to interact in corporate worship, communal celebration, and intentional discipleship on a regular basis.  Because it may not “be fair” in the moment, but moments are fleeting; consequences are lasting.

I think we all need to do a better job of extending grace to one another in the corporate context.  I think we could do a better job at welcoming kids into worship so they are engaged instead of bored.  And I think, based on everything I’ve read from people far wiser, more learned, and better experienced than me, that it is worth the effort to do so and not worth the risk to choose to remain unchanged.

If your child is being disruptive, then yes, take him/her to a place where you can love and discipline out of respect and love for those around you.  If you are easily distracted and unable to concentrate, then for that moment, concentrate on modeling God’s grace and mercy to that “distraction” by inviting them to worship with you. And we can all ask God to help us look past the momentary frustrations to the eternal rewards.  My hunch is, if we willingly do so with joy, if we are a cheerful givers of our right to worship when and how we like and graciously embrace the entire body of Christ, Christ will be found among us.

In fact, I’m sure of it.  Because Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes a child like this one, welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me, doesn’t welcome me but the One who sent me” (Mark 9:37).  It’s not about what’s fair or not fair.  It’s about what is God’s will.

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Jesus


Join the conversation on Facebook at ReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry.

For more information about practical discipleship in the home or transitioning to a more home-focused ministry at your church, go to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page.

About the author

familyChristina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partneringsmallbadge with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at ChildrensMinistryBlog.com, Seedbed, and D6 Family.

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14 thoughts on “It’s Not Fair to Make Kids Go to Church

    • Yes, that is one of my suggestions in the linked blog to welcoming kids to church. I fully agree! I don’t see it as an “or” but as one of the avenues we must explore if we are going to effectively reach this generation and their kids

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  1. I wholeheartedly agree with all your desires for Godly growing children who stay and flourish in the house of God and I love the verses and heart of what you are saying…. but I just want to share my experience: issue is not if it is fair or not (life is not fair) the issue is: what is God calling your church and community to to – and is your Lead pastor in agreement? If so then go for it, but I have experienced both and believe a balance of the extremes is possible.- I have seen much greater reward in the long run from those families who have participated in churches who promote kids as the church of today and leaders of tomorrow… not a subculture but a needed, loved and valued part of the church – with different attention spans. Its like expecting a child and family to sit through a college course and be still and quiet as well- children have very different attention spans and understanding levels… after about 13 or so we all seem to start evening out in our ability to catch information in a same way. So Depending on how you do the service I say, both ways can be very effective if the whole church leadership is in agreement and the pastor can then cater his message to reach a large and broad age group that includes kids. -I grew up in a “no kids church programing” on Sundays church… and found church impersonal until I finally got to the wednesday night kids classes- I LOVED our action nights (kids programing and classes on a different night)… but didn’t really understand or love BIG church…..and I had about as healthy a christian upbringing as you can get – at home we had no TV, regular bible study and I loved all of that… my parents taught me to love worship and love church… but until about 13 all I remember from “Big Church” is sitting on the floor eating gum from under the seats and playing with friends during church until I got in troubel…. in my memories of being a kid in the big church service – I could not wait for the “talking time to be over” (mind you I was a very good kid and loved God a lot),My church eventually changed seeing so many families struggle to receive anything from the word during the service and so many kids end up hating church by their teen years… The truth is we just could not yet comprehend it and it seemed very boring. Maybe the approach just needs to be reworked not thrown out entirely? -Now as a leader from the other side I have seen such growth and servanthood from a healthy kids church programing that happens in our church from young age as our kids are NOT babysat but taught the word of God with their friends in a class that has great momentum, is fun and a hunger to come back and learn about God takes place. I think if there is no kids programing… more parents will depend on electronic, I-pad games and coloring books to keep their kids quiet while being nominally present in the service themselves as they try to manage their kids and listen to a sermon…. Eventually, most parents will find another church where they can have a chance to grow personally. To make it work for all parents, our church has kids in service for the first 2 songs and then dismisses to class and also provides a “family room” where those who do want their kids present due to separation anxiety ect can do so without the hassle of keeping kids perfectly quiet in a church pew. I am a mother of 4. and had to go to several “no kids classes” sundays and can understand having a baby in one hand, two toddlers in service and one more elementary aged child and trying to corral them all into singing the song ect and be quiet for a long sermon. I can tell you I left the church exhausted – spent most of my time in the lobby and wondered why I even came that day. AND I WAS A PASTORS WIFE- lol. I loved my church, the people, the kids, the ministry…. but I was exhausted and worked to change that situation. . I would emplore you now after having been a youth pastor for 15 years, now a children’s pastor for 3 and lead pastor now as well, to make sure this is a mandate from God and if so to go forward with confidence, but being understanding, compassionate and mindful of the exhausted moms who feel trapped and tired. Doing church with programs alone is a losing strategy- but doing Sunday programs as a way of raising up future leaders, loving on kids and having church services where kids get saved and love Jesus and then transitioning into youth ministry and then into church ministry is a huge pipeline that can be successfully if done with future leaders in mind. Teach them in the classes to serve, once they hit youth mininstry, encourage them into go sit in Big Church – and to sit together and build momentum as a group…. but to get involved in ministries – don’t keep the youth in a separate class on sundays but get them working in kids ministry and serving on teams – 20 years later we actually have seen the fruit – kids who grew up, are still in church, who never left, got married have kids of their own and the pipeline is continuing. Ok- that is my experience so far- 20 years into ministry with kids, youth and poeple and 20 years being the one as the child and youth. Be blessed and excited to follow and see what you end up doing.

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    • Thanks for your thoughts and experience! As I share, I am definitely not “against” children’s ministry – in fact, I am super excited for our re-launch tomorrow with our Kids Church and small group. However, I still feel that it is extremely important that churches make space for both and ensure that there are times of intergenerational worship and relationships. And I also agree that churches should make sure that their services are welcoming to children and allow their involvement as vital members of the body of Christ. Here’s an article I wrote about practical ways to invite kids into worship and I’d love to hear any ideas you have from your experience! https://refocusministry.org/resources-for-ministers/family-ministry/practical-ways-to-welcome-kids-to-church/

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      • . I agree with and LOVE that article about all the ways a church can welcome kids into church. When I was growing up, we always had a sunday where the kids took over… and same with youth, We LOVE our kids and have created as many comfortable places for parents as possible – we also allow jr higher and up to serve in almost every ministry, We use a private FB group to stay in touch and post encouragement for parents as they navigate. Because we allowed our kids to be a part of the worship time for so long, they have an easy transition out of Kids church and into service. We greet all the families at the door and we are fairly small still so names are not a problem. So fun to listen to those around us in Kidmin to learn as we grow. Thanks for your thoughts.

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  2. This is a wonderful! You’ve done an excellent job representing both sides of the conversation, while at the same time issuing a gospel centred challenge to “dream of more!”

    I’m blessed to be a founding pastor of a church re-plant that has made this our unapologetic focus! To those who are skeptical… God moves and blesses in this concept! In 1 year since we implemented this direction and philosophy to our worship, a previously near dead church of 15 regular attendees has blossomed into a church of nearly 80 on a Sunday (1/3 are kids!) – and this is not the result of people simply migrating to a new church – God is growing his kingdom!

    Young families today (where I live in Canada at least) crave family time! Their weeks are busy with one of both parents working long hours, which produces an intense protection of their weekends and family time. What we are hearing from the families that are joining our church family is that this model of church allows them to spend more time together as a family, and grow as a family! Families that are more than willing to sit down and watch a kids movie together as family time love that church has become that as well! They love their kids being a part of corporate worship that includes them. They love praying together in a way their kids can grasp, singing in a way that enlivens their kids hearts, being present for bible teaching together – it’s amazing!

    Dream on friends – God desires it and is ready to bless!

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  3. We have both. Children’s Church the first 3 Sunday’s and then all are together for the fourth Sunday in the month. It gives children’s workers a break, too. It can vary during holidays.

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  4. Pingback: Top Five: Year in Review | r e F o c u s

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