Children in Meetings: Questions From Home Church Settings
Question: We, like most, come out of a background where “nursery school,” “bible classes,” “children’s church,” “youth groups,” and the like are all that anyone ever knew. So now what? We’re meeting now in a much less formal manner, in homes, but we are SO tempted to lean on institutional tricks rather than God’s Wisdom. It seems like “what to do with the children” is one of our continual challenges. Could you offer a few thoughts about how things work with your experiences over the years? Do the kids just kind of filter in and out? Does someone (or someones) rotate in and out with them? Do your teens sit and listen? and/or participate? The video tape, “Consuming Zeal for the Father’s House”, talks about working with the children ‘as you walk along the way’ etc...but it never specifically says what you do in the meetings.—Lawrence
Truthfully, this is a large problem for those who are used to nurseries and “children’s church” and “youth groups” to “keep the children out of the way”. However, this is, unbeknownst to most, not the “number one problem” as folks come out of institutional settings into something else! Those would probably be more related to “What is a Christian? What is a Church? What is a leader REALLY to be—who IS one, what do they look like, what do they do, how does that relate to Gifts? What is “leaven”? How does a “priesthood of Believers” express itself daily and during meetings?” Anyway, those are some of the biggest problems, but the children’s roles in it all is important, and can SEEM like the biggest imaginable problem while it’s happening—if it is not handled wisely!
When the entire church is together... we are actually in some larger place since we would not come close to fitting in any one home. We have several places we can rent on one or two days’ notice that are large enough for us. The majority of the time all the children are just with us, intermingled. Really, there aren’t any particular disturbances, although we may get some young snores if we are there more than three or four hours. The couple of children who would have the hardest time with that might have a brother or sister (who is especially close to the family the child is from) ask the parents if he or she could sit with that young one for the night. The child would then get a lot of one on one interaction, asking him in whispers if he understands the words to that last song, if he knew what that last brother meant when he said, “ __” and such. If they need to “take a step out of the room” for some more clear correction, they may do that too. And, there have been occasions where the youngest children have been in various homes, with ample responsible adults loving on them in each home.
At homes... when it might be just 20-50 people, there would be two different possible scenarios. If the evening or day is “loose” where there are just 15 different conversations happening (perhaps shifting from something someone just read in an Andrew Murray book, to the Colts last game and back : ) ), then the parents would do one of a couple of things. Either the parents would just stay especially sensitive to the whereabouts and situation of the child, or they would ask a brother or sister to help them do that if the child moves too quickly for the parent to be engaged in a Watchman Nee conversation or the reading a poem that a brother just had written, and also keep an eye on the child. They would ask specific ones to help with the tag-team child-care.
In another scenario in a home, where perhaps the reading of that poem and conversation that followed soon engaged the entire load of folks in the home, (and thus) “a meeting” emerges. At that point, perhaps all of children would “circle up” with us, intermingled, or perhaps they would all (the youngest ones) be pulled off into another room (or rooms) with some adults. If there are maybe 18 children there, just for purposes of description, we would probably have five or six adults with them. Maybe every 20 minutes or so we might rotate three or four of the adults into the main room and swap (invisibly, seamlessly) with three or four that had been in the main room. And you can keep swapping throughout the evening or day, with everyone then being able to be with everyone else for the vast majority of the time. If the children were at a nearby house, the same could be true. If they were at homes a bit of distance away, then probably the adults would just settle in with the children for the entire duration, providing things to do and reading together and doing projects, or having conversation that would point them towards their approaching Destiny/Destination with Jesus. But, as was mentioned already, MOST of the times it is preferable to just have the children with us, intermingled.
With the “safety-challenged” over-active child, maybe we’d just have an adult (perhaps rotating as mentioned earlier) with them one-on-one always, in the midst of whatever other things are going on.
Question: I am in a “house church” environment, although the problem seems to be the same in a religious facility also. It seems as if the children are pushed away as “objects” or hustled off to some stifling hot “cry room” or a “children’s church”... How should we view the “interruptions” that children make if we continue to have them with us when the saints are together? If the children are loud or distracting to others, isn’t the cost of pushing them aside even higher?
I think sitting in an edifice and having to deal with the ten thousand side issues that arise from building terribly wrong in the first place—has everyone scratching their heads worldwide. There is NO doubt that the children are often the MOST precious part of any time saints are together. It would be TERRIBLY wrong to embrace an attitude or practice that the children should be “seen but not heard”. It is ALSO true that everyone (young and old) must be CARING about something from Heaven more than they do themselves—so wandering around catering to undisciplined children should not be the norm either! Like the thousands that “forgot to eat” after the days of following Jesus into places where there was no known food...Like those that “forgot” that the next day was a “work day” and would not leave to “get a good night’s sleep” so they could do all of their everyday stuff the next day. Those people were there because NOTHING was more important than whatever God was doing in a situation like that, and if they died of hunger or of sleep deprivation, that would be fine. They were CONNECTED with what was Happening more than their own small lives and loves just as we should be connected any time saints are all together.
That should be said, though NOT to say that a whisper of direction or correction or explanation to a young one would be wrong in any way! For the most part, the standard for child rearing in most people’s daily lives worldwide is so low that it can’t help but manifest itself in chaos when staying quiet and focused is the call of the day. Poor daily child rearing has certainly caused many other sorts of problems. Add to that the neglect of God’s Plan of “a hundred fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters, and children” as a defining observable quality of any true church, and it is very unlikely that “meetings” could ever be “right”.
Over the last two weeks or so here, there have been dozens of children in a large living room (along with a couple of dozen of the adults in the church here). It was a walk through the last 2000 years of church history. The sit-down times were (I think) three hours, three hours and five hours—and the scores of children were totally attentive, never loud or rude or unaware that there was something Happening that was quite special. A couple dozed as we hit the 2am hour, naturally! But, it was incredible to see four-year-olds, and nine-year-olds, and twelve-year-olds, and teens sit for hour upon hour, totally entrenched and caring deeply. THAT was the point—not “seen but not heard”—but people caring deeply, to a man, woman and child. If they are all “from the least to the greatest” (the prophecy of what the NEW Covenant would be) totally plugged in and caring to the point of risking their lives—then if someone “falls asleep” that is a little different.
In most cases in today’s religious world, it is just everyone doing what is right in their own eyes, with very little reverence for God’s Voice in the midst of conversations and gatherings of God’s Elect. It is something to “attend” and “try to get something out of” rather than something and SOMEONE to get as lost into as Zacchaeus or Bartimaeus did. The religious world has just ruined so many people worldwide it is unbelievable. But, SOMEDAY...!!
Anyway, dragging the children away as if they are some kind of interruption, or keeping them hidden away so they don’t interfere with anything is a long way from Father’s Heart—as is rustling, chaos, or continual distractions because of untrained children or a lack of hunger for hearing God’s Voice in His Priesthood!
Question: What if it seems as if the parents are totally oblivious to the noise or disrespect or disobedience of the children? Is that something that someone should speak with the parents about?
Most definitely it would have come up for loving discussion VERY early on in our acquaintance with them, if they were visiting with us here for any length of time. And after 15 years, we’ve never regretted having any kind of discussion that would help folks towards Jesus, and help protect their children from harm.
The Thought is something like this: the children belong to GOD, not people. Parents are not owners, but simply servants of Jesus. SO, our primary role as parents is to Represent. We MUST be “Ambassadors, as if God were making His Appeal through us.” A Priesthood, for real! Now, in Representing, GOD doesn’t let us run wild and be irresponsible around others with our tongues or hands or feet. God doesn’t allow us to be disconnected and so busy that we can’t hear His gentle whispered Voice. If God doesn’t allow that in us, then we, as parents, don’t have the RIGHT to misrepresent God by allowing our children to be out of control so that they would not hear and quickly obey our gentle whisper in a crowded noisy room. If we are not reflecting to the children the Father’s Ways in dealing with us, then we are mis-representing their TRUE Father to them. And that is CRIMINAL, not personal preference.
SO, we DEFINITELY would have some conversations with the families where things mis-Represented God to His little ones. And, if the family “loves the Light”—then you can “have fellowship with one another.” If they resent the Light, or “hate it” as Jesus said, then we CANNOT have “fellowship one with another” and our joy will be incomplete. Things may not CHANGE totally overnight, but a TRUE disciple, according to Jesus, will at LEAST love the Light and be glad you spoke to them about it, and ask for help, and ask for more input as things come up. ANY problem is resolvable in the arena of Father’s Kingdom of LIGHT, in time. If someone doesn’t “lean into it” and care deeply about what folks are discussing with them, then welcome them back when they are willing to “walk in the Light” so you can “have fellowship one with another”. A follower of Jesus is not one that is totally perfect in their execution of Truths, or even knowledgeable of what IS True in every area—BUT, NO case can be made for a person that does not “LOVE the Truth, and so is Saved”. Automatically agreeing or understanding everything is not required. LOVING THE TRUTH, LOVING THE LIGHT IS TOTALLY REQUIRED IN ORDER TO HAVE ANY CONFIDENCE THAT THEY ARE SAVED, ACCORDING TO JESUS AND PAUL. And, we aren’t permitted to offer “fellowship” with those who won’t “walk in the Light”. SO, the little things of life that Father brings to the foreground to talk about (whether children or work-related, or personal habit or hobbies or time usage or treatment of others, or tongue, or ____) are just “windows” to deepen Relationship with Jesus and the inseparable Body of Jesus, or to reveal darkness as Jesus taught in John 3, and John in 1 John 1, and Paul in 2Thes. 2, etc…
All of that to say, we’re not doing the Work if we won’t dive in, gracefully but thoroughly, with follow-up and consistency, to the “windows” Father presents to us. OUR activity in sharing Truth actually drives more deeply into US “every good thing we have in Christ”. It’s good for all of us when we’re all Priests and Ambassadors on the Highway of Holiness towards His Kingdom of Light in the Beloved Son, and His “ever-increasing Government”. It works out so practically that it can be scary! But, oh, so Good!
Question: Hi, we need some advice about dealing with the children when we gather. Being a small group of believers and having an equal share of children to grown-ups puts us in a difficult situation when we need to train the children. We have been practicing the advice given to us by keeping up the practice of training and disciplining when we all come together. When we do this, we gently take the child out of the room and bring him to another room and help him there. I have a two—and four—year-old and Todd has a two—and one-year-old. At times we are in and out of the room so frequently that this gets disruptive to others and makes it hard to completely focus on what is being said. And if we decide to just take the child out and stay with him, there will be, basically, no one left in the room. : ) We have been diligent at home in our training. In one way if we keep on taking them out to deal with them, the gathering seems un-orderly and that is against the Lord. But on the other hand, if we stay and try to train the child later, we are not obeying Jesus either. What can we do? Help! Do you have any advice?—Brent
Hi Brent...For SURE don’t “wait” until some other time. I’d say, just keep being VERY consistent at home, and even train them to sit in a lap quietly for blocks of time during every day. Have them sit against a wall and read, totally quiet without moving, for blocks of time every day. Train them in the process of quiet sitting, on a daily basis. You’ll need that for times to pray also, where you can depend on them to be quiet and trouble-free. John Wesley’s mother, with 12 or 15 children, trained the children in a way that when she was sitting at the table with a napkin over her head, there would be no noise and no problems, even if she was praying for two hours. They learned to respect and enjoy this. SO, this is the MAIN issue—DAILY TRAINING in how to be quiet and productive by themselves, requiring no attention whatsoever.
The second issue is what to do when things DO come up when folks are together. For one, having one adult for every three or so children off in a side room or side house, and rotating adults through to care for them every 30 minutes or so, can be quite effective. That would be for times when they are not all with you, and having the children with you is preferable, but not essential at all times. But, whatever you do, don’t train them by neglect or delay by putting them in situations where they can rebel against your word and the consequences are not readily apparent. ......Well, need to go! Love,