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When it comes to children being present in the congregational worship service, there are many thoughts and opinions out there. Some say children should be separate from adults, in their own space, learning at the their own level. Some say children should be fully integrated, learning and worshiping with the adults at every level. And then, in-between the two, is every possible combination of separation and integration one can think of.

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I fall squarely in the middle – I’m a big believer in the “both/and” approach.

I think it is vitally important for children to have the opportunity to worship and be in community with the larger congregation and it is also important to have space for children to learn and grow at their developmental level.

Both of these scenarios present unique opportunities and challenges; both require us to adjust, reflect, and serve each other and the children; both have a part to play in raising the next generation; and both require the entire community to embrace their role as disciplers – as legacy-leavers – as faith formers.

The following post was not written by me, but by a fellow mom and pastor’s wife who found herself in a situation that caused her to question and consider the importance of children being welcomed into worship. She shares, not to rant or vent, but rather to spur on conversation about the “whys” of having space in our congregational worship for disruption.

The Children Matter!

Julie Choi

I wasn’t going to say anything about this, but the more I think about it, the more I feel like I have to speak up. This is important. A few weeks ago, at church, my son and I were in service and he was walking around the back. He was excited to be there and excited to see his friends. A woman turned around and whispered to someone else, “She needs to control her child.” I’m not just saying this to defend my son, but I don’t think he was being too disruptive. I think he was being three.
Let me tell you something about my son…and my daughter…and all children. They are not a disruption! Did you hear me? Let me say it again. My child, no child is a disruption and if you think they are – oh my, you have another thing coming. My son, my daughter, and children out there in the world are world changers. They are the future. They are bright lights in our cynical and sometimes dark world. They are curious. They are eager to learn. They are gifts from God Himself.
church-595701_1920After this “incident” I took it upon myself to read a few articles and found out that there is a church in South Carolina that actually does not permit children into their main service. The doors get locked after the sermon starts.  Another church in Chicago put out a statement, “We make it a priority on creating an environment that helps people worship without distractions during the service. By providing a variety of venues where people may view services, no one has to miss the message, regardless of their circumstances. We rarely have issues with disruptions during the service, but if one arises, the Guest Ministry team assess the situation and takes appropriate next steps, which could mean respectfully suggestion one of the alternative viewing options.
Wait, what?! They’re going to “respectfully” suggest you get out? In church? Ok, so quick question? If a child is crying or being loud in service that’s disruptive, but what if an elderly person has a heart attack mid-service? Is that a disruption? If someone walks into service late are they disrupting the service? But wait…aren’t we supposed to bear each others burdens and understand one anther’s shortcomings as a church family?

Listen folks. I’m not writing this in anger. Honest! This isn’t some angry mom rant. If you know me, you know I am all about manners. My kids will say “thank you, please, sorry, yes ma’am, no ma’am” and if my daughter cries in service, I’ll quietly and quickly walk out to calm her down before coming back. But all that energy spent on “avoiding disruptions” seems like such a waste of time.

An article I read offered the following thoughts:

“I’m not sure God cares all that much about disruptions (he has a long history of disrupting things himself). But also because I think God’s more concerned with us welcoming folks into his house – and extending love and grace – than he is about making sure people mind their p’s and q’s perfectly while they’re here. It seems these churches we hear about that shuttle disrupters out of a service care more about the comfort of the people in the pews than they do about the glory of God….But I have found the Holy Spirit to be wonderfully disruptive, sometimes upsetting our plans and timing, and to be faithful,…”

Look I get it. Sometimes, people just want to pay full attention to the sermon, but life is not without “disruption”. But to say that a child is the disruption. That just rubs me the wrong way. Moms are so worried in church as it is. They don’t need someone to turn around and look at them with an angry glare or judgement.

For me, I can deal with that, but imagine that had happened to a new mom that was visiting the church? Imagine that happened to a mom who isn’t as secure. She might never return! Serious question: WHY is there even a debate about this? WHY is this a controversial topic? WHY is this a sensitive issue? Sure, I could send my kid to “children’s church”, but what if I want to worship as a family? I want my son and daughter in the service to hear their dad preach, to use the moment as a teachable moment, to pray with them, sing with them.
Another blogger wrote in her own personal blog,

“I see them learning. In the midst of the cries, whines, and giggles, in the midst of the crinkling of pretzel bags and the growing pile of crumbs I see a little girl who insists on going two pews up to share peace with someone she’s never met. I hear a little boy slurping (quite loudly) every last drop of his communion wine out of the cup determined not to miss a drop of Jesus. I watch a child excitedly color a cross and point to the one in the front of the sanctuary.  I hear the echoes of Amens just a few seconds after the rest of the community says it together. I watch a boy just learning to read try to sound out the words in the worship book or count his way to Hymn 672. Even on weeks when I can’t see my own children learning because, well, it’s one of those mornings, I can see your children learning.”

It matters. This matters! I wholeheartedly believe in family worship services. I can’t change the world. I can’t change someone else’s mind, especially once it’s made up, but this is my rather puny attempt to get people thinking. It matters. Children matter.

About the Author: Julie Han-Choi is a wife, mom, counselor, and teacher. She and her husband, Pastor Brian Choi are the parents of two beautiful children and one angel baby and are passionate about intergenerational/family worship. Julie’s dream and vision is to start a small, Christian, Montessori-style charter school that offers a “whole child” philosophy. 

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About this Blog


Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering 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 and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and

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