Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:13-14 ESV)
Jesus rebuked the disciples for trying to keep children away from Him. We probably shake our heads and imagine that we could never do such a thing. We would never keep our children away from Jesus, right? Or just maybe we share some of the same well-intentioned, but wrong-headed impulses that the disciples did.
Here are a few lessons that we should learn from the words of the Lord Jesus to His disciples in Matthew 19:
1. Pastors – you (we) are not too important to teach the kids. The disciples clearly thought that spending time with the kids was beneath the dignity & importance of the Master. They were wrong. Do you ever teach the kids? Can young children understand anything in your preaching? If not, why not?
2. Children should be encouraged to attend corporate worship with their families whenever possible. If your church does “children’s church” (or something like that), does it prepare them to one day join in the corporate worship of the church, or is it merely a sanctified babysitting service?
Are we more concerned with the possible noise or minor distraction that they may cause during the service than we are in their learning to participate in the means of grace that are to be found primarily in the public worship of the church?
3. Do the youth of your church participate in corporate worship with the rest of the church, or do they have their own separate program? If they are not able to be a part of the corporate worship of the church, they are missing out on the outward and ordinary means of grace (the preaching of the Word, Sacraments, and prayer – Westminster Shorter Catechism Q.88). If that is the case, they will not grow in grace the way that they should. And if that is the case, we are clearly failing our children.
So in a way, we might think that we are keeping our kids out of worship because we have a very high view of public worship, but the truth might be just the opposite – we might actually be keeping them out of worship because we really have too low a view of the public worship of the church!
If we had a proper, biblical view of worship as the outward and ordinary means of grace (and so the way to grow in grace), we would do all that we could to make sure that both we ourselves and our children joined in the public worship of the church.