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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

20 September 2005

Disorderly Children in Church

Q: Please help me with why it is wrong for children to run up the aisles during worship and for grown adults to talk during services. We have these problems in our church and I was wanting an article for the bulletin or newsletter to get various people’s attention.

A: In short, such misbehavior goes against God’s desire that worship be done “decently and in order. (1 Corinthians 14:40)” Paul said that the style and substance of the service should be “done for building up. (14:26)” Allowing children to run aimlessly or adults carrying on conversations during the service is rude not only to the congregation but also to the Savior who speaks to them through His called pastors.

Shame on those who get between Christ and His hungry sheep with their babbling mouths or their disorderly children! Notice that I do not say that children should be muzzled or removed from the service. However, they should be under parental control and the adults should be self-controlled.

The Lord intends our gatherings to contribute to our Christian growth and edification. He wants us to come empty and leave full. He desires us to enter with lives in disarray and to depart in peace with purpose — “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. (14:33)” Satan already tries in every way possible to distract, disturb, and disrupt our special times with the Lord. Our children should not ever be allowed to become the devil’s allies.

We should also consider who is hurt most by such behavior. It’s not the adults; most of us can learn to tune out the distractions. As a pastor, I can always talk louder. The grownups can focus more intently.

The children — whether running amok or sitting as “innocent bystanders” — are most affected. Those causing the disruptions are not being taught how to receive God’s gifts in Word and Sacrament, nor how to respond to them in prayer and song. Furthermore, since other children are distracted and enticed by the bad behavior of a few, they, too, are not allowed the fullness of what God offers in the service.

It’s not always easy — even for two parents — to ride herd on one energetic youngster. Yet our little children are also part of the household of faith and they belong with the rest of us in church. They learn “church manners” just as they do table manners — by observing their elders and participating with them.

Sometimes we remove our kids from the dining table for a time because of bad behavior. However, we always allow them back. So it is with worship. We may have to take them out in order to restore peace and quiet to the assembly. But we should always bring them back in. They don’t learn worship and they’ll never feel a part of it if they aren’t regularly involved in it.

Thanks be to God, dedicated parents see their children’s worship behavior improve over time. As they’re regularly involved, especially in congregations which follow regular orders of worship, their young minds start grasping the words and the rituals. They begin standing and sitting at the proper times, start saying “amen” with their elders, and are soon repeating prayers and creeds and singing with the rest of the congregation. This is truly worship done “decently and in order” and plainly confesses that we indeed have a God “of peace.”

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.


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