To all parents of young children, I ask you this question:
What is of greater importance to you? That you teach your children to be in church every Sunday, or that you teach your children to love God?
I'm not saying that those two priorities can't coexist. Certainly both are important. But, it is very easy to give church attendance the greater priority and end up with a grown child who neither attends church nor loves God.
Too often at Nags Head Church, I observe parents who refuse to allow their young children to either be cared for by our brilliant nursery staff or be taught by our awesome Kids Zone staff...instead, these parents bring their kids into the worship center with the adults, and, nine times out of ten, neither the children nor the parents (nor any of the others around them) get much of anything out of the worship gathering.
Let's be real...how many kids under the age of 12 do you know who are engaged by 30+ minutes of adult teaching on a Sunday morning? How many parents of those same kids do you know who can sit with their kids in an adult worship setting and stay focused on the message? How many people do you know who enjoy sitting in a worship gathering with a crying child nearby?
I don't know about you, but when I was ten, I couldn't behave myself in an adult worship gathering for more than about fifteen minutes. As a parent of a highly energetic 2.5 year old, there's no way I'd be focused on anything but keeping her entertained and quiet. As an adult, I simply cannot focus on worship when another person's child is unable to contain his/her energy.
Please, understand that I'm not bashing on kids...kids are kids, and even the most well behaved, well trained children simply cannot engage in a meaningful way with much of what takes place in a Sunday morning, adult worship gathering. And, that's OK. What's not OK is parents who don't seem to understand how selfish it is to force their children into that situation.
From what I've observed, the vast majority of parents would do better for themselves and their kids (and the others attending church) if they would just stay at home and lead their family in their own little worship time than to bring their kids to church and not take advantage of the nursery and kids church that has been provided to them. Seriously...it just doesn't make any sense to me.
My point is this...if your going to take the time to get up on a Sunday morning, get everyone fed and dressed and into the car and onto church, why not actually make it mean something more than a religious ritual? If you're going to make it a priority to teach your children the importance of attending church, why not allow them to attend a worship gathering that is geared for their age group?
If you can't trust other adults to care for and teach your kids for a short period of time, please, stay home this Sunday.
If you can't bear the thought of leaving your child in a nursery or class room for an hour on Sunday morning, please, stay at home this Sunday.
If you think that your young kids are better behaved than that and won't cause a distraction, please, stay at home this Sunday.
If you've convinced yourself that others in church really won't mind if your kids run around the back of the worship center during the sermon, please, stay at home this Sunday.
I love attending my church, and I want my child to love attending my church with me...even more, I want her participation in my church to be something that motivates her to love God. That isn't going to happen if I try and force her to "sit still and be quiet" in "big church" with me.
I want my daughter to be cared for and have fun in the nursery, learning to play with other kids her age. When she's a few years older, I want her to be engaged in authentic worship and taught by adults who have been given the tools and training to help her understand and love God more. And, when she's ready, I want her to join me in an adult setting so that we can worship God together on Sunday morning.
Because, if, at the end of Sunday morning all you can say is, "We attended church", you've truly accomplished nothing more than that.