In June of 2009, we implemented a new “rule” related to our adult services. We posted signs at the main entrance to our auditorium communicating that children under five years of age are not permitted to attend our adult services. And, we actually enforce the rule! I always say, “Never make a rule you’re not prepared to enforce.”
Pretty crazy huh? Or, is it?
Of course, we understand the downside of asking a parent to leave if they didn’t see (or ignored) the signs at the entrance and brought their baby into the service. Especially if they are a new person, they may get mad and leave, never to return. Yes, this is pretty much the worst-case scenario.
But, does the worst-case scenario outweigh the downside of a crying baby in the middle of the message? So, one parent’s unwillingness to take their child to a children’s classroom ruins the message for hundreds of adults. Or even worse, the crying baby ruins a “moment” in a service that just might move a non-believer along spiritually.
I know this is a very controversial issue in many churches. And, I’m clearly encouraging church leaders to seriously consider implementing a policy similar to the one I’m outlining here in the best interest of their mission to reach the lost. If you’re considering implementing a rule like this, there are a couple of things to remember:
- A Good Alternative – There has to be a good alternative. Aside from the obvious alternative of taking the child to the children’s area, there has to be an alternative way to be part of the service, like our Parent Room. The room has one-way glass and flat-screen monitors to allow parents to participate in the service with their child.
- Clear Communication – Make sure the age limit for a child attending the adult service is clearly posted and otherwise communicated. Put it on your website and in your program (or bulletin). Be sure to explain why there’s such a rule.
- Children’s Ministry Staff – Post a couple of children’s ministry volunteers near the entrance to your auditorium. These volunteers watch for people heading into the auditorium and offer to escort them to the children’s area for a tour and to help with getting their children checked in and settled.
- Catch Them At The Door – Lastly, make sure you catch the parents at the door. If you’re diligent about catching people at the door to the auditorium, you can avoid the awkwardness of having to ask a couple that is already seated to leave the auditorium.
Believe me, this works!