One reason people give for avoiding organized church is that churches are full of hypocrites. Another reason is the children’s ministry.
Or, the lack thereof.
It is not difficult to notice that many churches — despite their size or resources — develop a “children’s ministry” as soon as possible. Usually “children’s ministry” means that there are activities for kids of all ages — or baby-sitting services — so that the adults can separate from their progeny as soon as they hit church grounds. Out of sight, out of mind, as they say.
Parents have become unabashed and unashamed to confess that what they look for in a church family is the “children’s ministry.” This automatically eliminates from their consideration those churches that are too small to have a gymnasium, or too frugal to schedule weekly field trips, or too healthy to serve pizza at every church function.
This parental mindset — and the corresponding marketing blitz by churches with youth programs — is customarily seen in only those parents who themselves are from the larger churches that fielded youth programs. But it is increasingly true that even smaller churches, and even more home-grown parents, are feeling the pressure to “youth-enize” their ministry.
I recently spoke to a father who, as a youth, had grown up in a small country church. As an adult he had attended a different, but still small, community church. Because of dissatisfaction with them, he and his family were “doing church” at home (the smallest congregation, as it were). I suggested that he attend services at our church plant (only 9 months old at the time), and his only query was to ask what we “do for the children.”
I said that we provide parents a spanking spoon, and show them how to use it.
Yet here is the problem illustrated: rather than fellowship with other believers in worship and instruction without a “youth program,” he preferred to keep his family away from biblical fellowship.
This is neither a right view of the purpose of church or a right view of rearing children.
The church must do a better job of correcting this erroneous mentality. The man, as head of his family, is charged with leading in instruction and worship beginning in his home. He is then charged with ensuring that the family participate in corporate worship with other believers, making certain that the church they attend is doctrinally faithful, ethically responsible, and evangelistically healthy. The interest in entertaining children is usually at odds with all of these responsibilities.
What the church must teach, and what parents must realize, and what unbelievers must be shown, is that a church that properly trains adults to follow Christ generally produces children who receive the faith.