(The Confessional Lutherans for Christ’s Commission are one of the many confessional groups that post regularly on the BJS site. Their posts are archived on the Regular Columns page.)
I visited recently with a man in my town that told me that he would not attend a church that had a sign in the back few pews saying that they were reserved for people with small children, because he believed that children should be sitting closer to the front of the church. I had never really thought about the signs suggesting that they sit there, just that if they wanted to, but he is right. Why have signs at all on the pews in the back? Everyone with small children should be encouraged to sit closer to the front. Children seem to behave much better nearer the front than in the back.
I’ve been learning these things lately about how important it is for children to be in church, where they receive the same gifts of worship that adults receive. When children are closer to the front, there are fewer distractions for them. It can’t be fun to look at all the people’s backs and not even be able to see the pastor. In the front they can see the pastor better, and what he is doing. He is acting in the stead and by the command of our Lord, Jesus Christ. When he makes the sign of the cross and gives the absolution of sins, it is for them, too. Children are sinners and need to hear their sins are forgiven just like the rest of us do. They will receive the comfort that knowing they are forgiven brings to them, just like it does for us. They are a part of the priesthood of all believers, because they are baptized. .
As things happen during the service, parents can explain to them what is happening in a quiet voice. They can point out things of interest. When a baptism occurs the children will actually be able to see how they were made a child of God, too.
Of course, children will become restless at times, because they are children. Parents can be told when they are encouraged to bring them closer to the front to take them out when they fuss, but to bring them right back in. Church is for them, too, and they shouldn’t start to look at their acting out as a way to get rewarded with time to play in the crying room. The crying room should be more for the quick disciplinary trip, or for an occasional small crying infant, not for toddlers that can and should be taught how they should behave in church. This is God’s house, and they need to be on their best behavior in the house of the Lord. It may be a way to teach respect. That is sadly lacking in our world today.
I’ve watched a few families in my church that sit near the front, and this is what they do. I’ve also listened to Todd Wilken and some of his guests on Issues Etc, and they have had programs about the importance of kids being at the worship service. Todd said his son was singing the liturgy from his crib before he could even speak. We know these children are small believers because they were given the Gift of faith at their baptism. God promises His Word does not return void. Children learn through repetition. They learn the Christian faith through the liturgy they hear in church. They will learn how they are being fed by God, to help them live their lives through the rest of the week, and hopefully realize they need to continue to be fed throughout their lives. I think it’s time to encourage big Lutherans and little ones to sit in the front of church.
Confessional Lutherans for Christ’s Commission (CLCC)
June 24, 2009