December 18, 2007

An Unlikely Childfree Zone

by Shelley
Regular Contributor

Just when you thought there was nowhere left to escape the kindergarten crowd, there’s one place that’s drawing the line between where children do and do not belong. And believe it or not, it’s a church.

That’s right – NewSpring Church in Anderson, South Carolina does not allow children under the age of 11 to attend its worship services. How did the church come to enact this policy? In a post, titled What – No Kids in the Worship Service? – Part Two, (June 14, 2005) on his widely read blog (Perry Pastor Noble explains:

“I realized that when it comes to kids in the service that the pastor is in a no win situation. If they cause a disruption and we address it then some will consider us mean. If we let it go unnoticed then others will consider us to be passive.

So our team…finally decided that our church was going to strive to provide a distraction free worship environment for adults and a creative, relevant environment for kids–that way everyone wins.”
“But wait a minute,” you might say. “Didn’t Jesus say to let the children come to him?” Noble writes:

“I once had a father yell at me over the telephone, ‘Jesus said bring the little children unto me.’ I completed the verse for him and said, ‘and do not hinder them. It is my belief that by taking a child and placing them in an environment where they are not engaged in a way that they can understand that they are being hindered. That is why we refuse to hinder kid’s spiritual development by asking them to surrender an hour of their life to boredom.”

Additionally, Noble has no tolerance for parents who assert that it’s important for children to see how Mommy and Daddy behave in church:

“It is my conviction that you have Monday through Saturday to worship God as a family. If you are not being a true worshipper on Monday through Saturday and then you try to come to church and fake it on Sunday then I promise that your child does not view you as a spiritual giant–but rather a hypocrite who is leading by example that it is ok to live one way inside the walls of the church and another way outside the walls.”

So, in today’s parent-dominated society, how has NewSpring been rewarded for bucking convention? Approximately 4000 people attend services each Sunday, and it was recently named the 21st Most Influential Church in America. I think it just goes to show what
Purple WomenTM already know – where children are concerned, some traditions deserve a second look.

Flickr photo by criana (cc)
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Dana said...

Wow. I used to live in South Carolina, I never would have imagined this! Impressive, the line about worshipping Monday through Saturday. Good for them!

Anita said...

I'm all for this. I think it's perfectly acceptable for children to meet in a different room to play games, draw, paint or whatever while still learning about their faith. Kids hate sitting through a whole church service and parents have a difficult time focusing while their babies are fussing.

michelle said...

"They say Jesus loved the little children, all the little children of the world, but he never had to dine with one. He chose the lepers."
"No one likes it when other people's kids are in their house. Not even God."
- Both from I Hate Other People's Kids

WordWench said...

I'm a
Catholic who recently started attending a local Presbyterian church occasionally because 1) it has a wonderful relevant female pastor and 2) my father is Presbyterian by birth and I wanted to see what his ancestral church was like. Imagine how delighted I was to find that in this church it is traditional during the first five minutes of church to bless and pray over the children under 10 ... and then they go with a youth pastor to "Children's Church" in another part of the building!
After years of putting up with screaming babies and inconsiderate parents in Catholic church, including kids screaming and throwing tantrums during Masses said by everybody from bishops to a Cardinal from Nigeria, this was so refreshing. My dad said this has been a regular practice in the Presbyterian church for years because, like this pastor in South Carolina, they believe children should worship and learn about God in an environment conducive to them, while the adults do the same.
needless to say, "Children's Church" along with the more inclusive and woman-friendly atmosphere at this church, is making this cradle Catholic likely to join a Presbyterian church in the near future.