As a preacher, I get asked a lot of interesting questions. Often, people are just seeking my opinion on a matter, while at other times, they are questions about how certain things affect (or don’t) my work.
One of the more common questions I get asked is along these lines: Do crying babies bother you when you are preaching?
My immediate answer is “No!” I can honestly say that, probably only once or twice, has a child’s “disruption” disrupted me while preaching. Thankfully, I have been told that it wasn’t noticed by those listening. Instead, it was all in just my train of thought and trying to keep my thinking straight.
So, if you are a parent with a baby who cries in worship, this post is not written to complain. You are bringing your baby or small child to worship. Those cries are music to my ears, because a parent has that child right where that little one needs to be!
That said, are there times when a child needs to be taken out of a worship service? Sure. A baby, toddler, or small child can get disruptive, especially to those who are sitting nearby and doing their best to worship the Lord. Let me say, they are doing their best to focus on the Lord, not your child. They may have “a look” on their face, but if that person has the heart of a Christian, it is not because they are angry with you. They might be frustrated, but if they have ever been a parent, they understand what you are going through.
So what can a parent do when a child gets disruptive? Here are 5 suggestions for dealing with a disruptive child in worship.
1. Have quiet things for the child to do. One way to help some children is to distract their minds. But, please, have these distractions be quiet things, like Bible books or puzzles. I have known of parents who let their baby play with a cell phone during worship, and we can all guess how that turned out!
2. Have “related” things for the child to do. This is similar, but I believe it is best to make sure what the child is doing is still related to the Bible and worship. Please do not think that letting a child play Temple Run or Minecraft on your iPad is going to help. The child will learn to act up to get to play a favorite game!
3. Do not be embarrassed in taking your child out. I know this is easier said than done (I’ve taken my children out when someone else was preaching), but you are doing your job as a parent. There is no shame in that.
4. Take them out, but do not reward them. Parents, please do not take your child out if you are going to give that child candy or just let them play around on the floor! When you must take a child out for disrupting worship, calm the child by singing or just letting the child rest. If the child has been intentionally disruptive…well…let’s just say it this way: do not make the trip out a pleasant experience. If you reward the negative behavior, guess what you will get more of next Sunday?
5. Make the trips out as brief as possible. Yes, sometimes the sermon is boring, but take the child out, get your point across, and come back in. A child needs to learn to be in the worship service by actually being in the worship service, not taking 30 minute trips to the cry room. Every child is different, but just a few minutes is usually sufficient, unless a child is physically ill.
As I said before, this post is not written to pick on parents who have children when their children cry. Mine have done it, and I’m sure they will probably have to be taken out again sometime for discipline.
Even if they cry, parents please bring those children to worship! They are learning about worship, and you are doing a great job in having them present.
[NOTE: Tomorrow, we will release the first of our "Training Your Children for Worship" posts with a free printable! To learn more about this series of posts, check out this podcast.]
Photo background credit: Tamaki Sono on Creative Commons