By Tom M. Roberts
And then they grow up to be parents!
Photographers make a lot of money recording on film the cuteness of children. Without being facetious, children can be beautiful, even to others than their mothers. Boys and girls can be nearly angelic, wearing cherubic smiles, eyes twinkling, with expressions of laughter and happiness that could nearly melt a heart of stone. Little babies, especially, can be so sweet that they brighten up their little corner of the world and bring joy to all who see them.
How is it possible that these little angels can be so disruptive when they are brought into worship services and nearly tear up everything within reach, howling like monkeys and keeping everyone within the auditorium wincing from noise that sounds like a “rusty nail across a blackboard”?
Children are cute, but they have no business taking charge of public occasions, including the worship services.
Which of us has not been in a doctor’s office only to be forced to endure a little terror whose mother is oblivious to the child’s wild activity?
Who has not been out to eat in a good restaurant on a special occasion only to have the evening spoiled by some brat who is out of control and who jars the tranquility with ear-splitting screams, ignored by his boorish parents as though nothing is wrong?
Have you had guests in your home who have brought a child or children intent on breaking everything in sight? It is positively amazing that children are allowed to jump on furniture, smear food on carpets, tear up toys, break windows and leave scars on walls even while dear old mother or dad blithely chats about current events, unaware that the horrified host is counting the moments until the guests go home.
Or who has not gone to the grocery store to shop only to have a dodge out-of-control carts that are propelled by little heathens intent on wrecking everything in sight.
Have you ever wanted to watch a particularly good movie only to be subjected to the screams, wails, tantrums, etc. of a nearby child who is old enough to know how to behave but is ignorant of what it means?
All of this is bad enough in the area of the general public, but it is so much worse when we come to the church of the Lord and find that the parents that let his children romp, tear and disrupt in the doctor’s office, restaurant, grocery store and movie house is a brother or sister in Christ who let the little tyke act in the worship service just like he does everywhere else.
First, a disclaimer is in order.
It is not fair to accuse parents who are training their children to obey, to sit quietly during worship, to observe polite behavior, and who are faithful to bring their children to worship, as being as guilty as the insensitive clods who foist their brats upon the public. Any child can have a bad day, be ill or hungry and tired and act out of sorts. When a bad temperament is displayed, the parents take the child out of the auditorium, make the necessary corrections and return. We can all sympathize with these problems, overlook the confusion and know that this is not normal behavior from those particular children. Such parents are to be commended for their patience, longsuffering and dedication to the Lord for bringing up their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
But it is altogether another situation entirely when we recognize that the bratty children are the result of permissive parents who are really the ones who ought to be spanked.
A few questions are in order.
Should sermons dedicated to reaching the lost be ruined because some parents fail to recognize that the noise their children make distracts and keeps the message from being heard? What is wrong with parents who let children cry ceaselessly without remedying the situation? Do these people think children should be allowed to dominate their surroundings? Even laughter and loud talking are out of place in an assembly while the Bible is being discussed in the presence of lost people who need the gospel.
Should children be allowed to sing? Of course, they should. And they should be encouraged to do so. But should they scream at the top of their lungs to such an extent that no one within five pews can hear the pitch? Some parents think it is cute for them to impose their first attempts at singing on everyone in the entire auditorium. Parents, don’t you realize that your “little angel” is being a pest and keeping others from worshipping God?
Should children be taught to appreciate and recognize quiet times? Absolutely!
When the Lord’s supper is being observed and during prayer, no one wants to hear demands for “crackers” and “juice.” The prayer is often hard to hear at best. But when crying, laughing, screaming, singing or playing sounds drown out the one leading the prayer, it is time for children to be taken out or shut up.
Should children have a happy childhood? Should they have play times? Why, of course. But not in the aisles or lobby before, during or after worship services. Parents seem oblivious to the danger that youngsters create when they turn the aisles into the Indianapolis 500 Speedway, or the lobby into a maze of legs that require hide and seek games that endanger the older folks with broken limbs. They should not be in the pews with their feet. They should not swing from the microphones like a monkey at the zoo. They should not go into the pulpit and “play church” over the loudspeakers. They should not be allowed to eat the left-over bread and grape juice like “happy hour” at home. They should not act like a bulldozer in the flower beds or play “dodge the car” in the parking lot. They should not play “tag, you’re it” in the class rooms. They should not be allowed to tear up all the visual aids that teachers have labored so long to produce.
Have I made my point?
“Boy,” some member will grump, “the preacher just doesn’t like kids.”
No, the preacher loves children. The preacher just doesn’t appreciate permissive parents who are not pleasing the Lord and obeying his Bible by training their children as they should. In fact, the problem is not so much with the children as with the parents. Children can be trained to do right if we start early enough. But how do we train parents who are ignorant of things they should know?
Not only is God’s word not being obeyed in this matter, but common rules of social behavior are being ignored. It is not polite to take your children into homes and allow them to tear up things and be destructive. Do you wonder why you receive few invitations to brethren’s homes? Can it be that they dread the thought of your children running amok?
It is not polite to let your children careen out of control while you chat with your friends, unaware that destruction is following in their wake. Do you ever notice what your children are doing? The noise level? The pandemonium? The torn song books? The disturbed assemblies? Sermons unheard. Unheard prayers? Song services disrupted?
Do I exaggerate? Perhaps a little, but only a little. And lest anyone think that this describes the local church where I preach, it does not. At least not in every detail. What I have included are mostly factual incidences noticed over a period of years in several local churches and in many places where I have held gospel meetings. The situation that I describe is a composite picture that could exist anywhere and does exist in many places. But the problem seems to be getting worse instead of better.
Two things can help solve the problem. First, parents should take to heart the teaching of the Bible on how to raise respectful and polite children. Much of this is summed up in Ephesians 6:1-4: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
Second, practice the Golden rule (Matt. 7:12): “There-fore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”
“… when crying, laughing, screaming, singing or playing sounds drown out the one leading the prayer, it is time for children to be taken out or shut up.”
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 2, p. 20-21
January 20, 1994