Thursday, August 16, 2012

Q4U ~ When the Pastor’s Message is Explicit and Your Children Are in the Service?

You, your husband, and your two children, ages five and ten, are sitting in morning worship together. The late morning light filters through the stained glass window as you realize how grateful you are for the freedom to worship. You take your husband’s hand and look at your children, thankful for the decision to worship together and be the influencers on your children. Even though a nursery and children’s church are available, you make eye contact and smile at a family across the aisle who regularly keeps their children with them as well.

After the final hymn, the pastor invites everyone to sit again and introduces a brother from the church to come up front. The new speaker launches into an introduction of a new ministry program to assist those battling addictions. You think it sounds like a worthy ministry, but then, without warning, the brother begins detailing what those addictions might be, using words that your children have not heard before. You look over at your husband and find him looking at you, a concerned look in his eyes. He glances at the children and stays seated. A few moments later, the speaker uses even more questionable words. You grab your children and leave the sanctuary, sure that you have your husband’s approval since you have had to do this before.

You –

  1. Chastise yourself for over-reacting. After all, your children are going to hear about these things sooner or later so it might as well be in church.
  2. Talk with your husband about speaking with the other families who keep their children in the service and then approaching the pastor to suggest that a warning be announced or even printed in the church bulletin.
  3. Pray earnestly for direction as you continue removing your children when the Sunday morning topic becomes inappropriate for children.
  4. Run as fast as you can to another church, even if it doesn’t seem to be the right fit for your family.

What would you do? Is there another option?

You can find the follow-up post at What Is Our Obligation to Submit to Our Pastor?

(Friends, although I’ve taken some literary liberty, this is the essence of a true-to-life situation of an anonymous reader. Let's come together, sisters in Christ, and offer help in handling a problem. Thank you!)

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  1. Another Q4U series! I love it! My hubby and I have actually encountered this, Meghan. A prison chaplain comes once a month to share what's going on with his prison ministry. And one Sunday, he started talking about how the prisoners love to look at porn magazines. Then he proceeded to list the names of the magazines! We didn't take our children out during all this. I guess we were too shocked at what we were hearing. You just don't expect to hear things like that in the meetings of the church! The elders of the church reprimanded him - after the service, which in my opinion was too late; the children had already heard everything. So looking back, I wish we would have walked out with our children. And I did pray earnestly for the children to NOT remember any of it. Afterwards, I expected a plethora of questions from them, but they never acknowledged that they had heard anything inappropriate. The Lord is good. :)
    Looking forward to what other ladies have to say about this.
    Blessings in Christ,

  2. My pastor usually does give a warning for such things, but I definitely don't think it's unreasonable for him to do so. I would probably wait and pray about it for a few days, until I might not be upset about it and then come to the pastor and explain my reasons for keeping the children with me in the service (so that he understands and doesn't just make a comment like, "Well children should have been in the nursery/children's church anyway," and then suggest that he warn the congregation either through the bulletin, or at the very least verbally once he realizes there are children in the service.

  3. I wish I didn't know this situation. We choose to keep our child in the service with us as well and I've had to take him out before. We brought it up with the children's director of the church and she talked to the pastors. They now mention something small during the announcements if they feel there is going to be anything we have to decide between. It's a breath of fresh air and a lot of parents are thankful they do this now. It's worth talking to someone over as the change is so minute!

    Stopping by via Denise in Bloom. So glad I did!

  4. We have been in a revival singing it was one for youth. The preacher started his Scripture about David and Bathsheba. When my Husband heard the text he whispered Take the kids out. I know most pastor's think your kids should be in kids church, but one place we went I had to send my kids there because they didn't allow them in the service.(there was even a sign on the door). When we got home my daughter told me what they talked about and it was not appropiate. I don't think kids are safe anywhere anymore. I then had to explain a few things too her. She is 12 but we had been sheltering her. That is why my children are with us all the time no matter what at least if the pastor preaches something I can get up and leave. We sing out alot and this is one thing we have a hard time with. We have had a talk with our pastor and ask him to tell us if he is going to say or preach about this kind of thing/stuff. He was very nice about it and saw our view. We do have a wonderful pastor. And he also tells us when there will be someone else speaking.

  5. My personal opinion is that if something can't be said in front of children it shouldn't be said from the pulpit. This isn't to say that pastor's shouldn't preach on touchy subjects, but that even the most difficult of things can be said with tact. That said, there are of course some subjects like adultery that might not be ready to have young ones exposed to, in which case if the pastor is being tactful I should be able to realize the situation and make a quiet exit before my kids here anything undesirable.

    If this situation happened at my church I would ask my husband to speak to the deacons or pastor about the appropriateness of certain language in the congregational setting. Maybe it would be more appropriate for this particular speaker to attend the adult sunday school class or have a special meeting that is advertised as being for adults only, not the morning worship service. If this is a repeat offense, I would probably prayerfully consider attending a more family friendly church.

  6. I agree with Katherine--if a topic wouldn't be discussed in front of children at the dinner table, for example, it shouldn't be talked about explicitly in church. If a situation like this happened to me (although I don't have children yet), I would talk to a deacon/elder or even the pastor, as soon as possible, and let them know about my concerns. I think the pastor is ultimately responsible for who speaks in church and what they say, so it's his responsibility to keep things appropriate and PG (because if our children can't escape things they shouldn't hear about, in church, where else are those things going to be avoided?!?).

    That said, I think sometimes it is necessary for a pastor to preach on difficult subject like adultery--in which case, ABSOLUTELY there should be a warning in the announcements or at least at the very beginning of the service. If a pastor isn't a father, he might not realize how important this is, but in that case parents from the congregation need to clue him in.

  7. One time, we had a guest speaker. He, unfortunately, began his talk with a really bad joke: some bikers stopped by a bridge and meet a woman trying to commit suicide. One of the bikers approaches the "woman" and begin saying how beautiful she is and they kiss. He then asks her why she is trying to commit suicide. "Her" response: "because my father doesn't like when I dress like a woman."

    So we are in church with our 4 kids, and as I hear him telling this I am horrified. So he ends the story with "not everything appears as it seems." or something like that. I had enough! I got up and left with the kids. (this was not the first time and my DH and I agreed that this would be the correct attitude to take in cases like this.)

    Later my DH told me that his message was actually a good one but I told him the "guy" was very unfortunate to start his preaching at church with a homos**xual joke. Seriously?? was that necessary???

    I thought I was the only person who encountered this type of situation in church. So sad that not even church is a safe place anymore.

  8. Thank you so much, ladies, for your comments! Please forgive me for not responding to each comment personally. I've having trouble with my internet connection today and am trying to get this comment posted before I'm kicked off again. This issue has been on my mind for a while, and I'll be synthesizing all of your brilliance into a post (with some of my own thought) for next week. I'm hoping more might comment over the weekend. Thanks again, friends!

  9. I think I would choose option two, but amend it to include an honest discussion at home of what the 10yo heard. I'd also try to provide an opportunity for the 5yo to ask questions about it, if he had any.

  10. As long as the person speaking wasn't explicitly describing what each addiction was, I'd keep my kids in the service. As you said, it's better they learn "hard" things in church and from family than from friends or others. If they asked questions later at home, that would be the perfect opportunity to carefully explain the situation as you see fit as the parent. Of course, my baby is still only 10 months old and when she's bigger (and I'm wiser) my opinion might change, but for now, that's my 2 cents on the issue.

  11. I don't have kids but I just wanted to say a few words on the subject. I believe that Christianity is explicit and not always child friendly, the Bible is explicit at some points (have you read Song of Songs). After the Ark landed, Noah became an alcoholic. Lot's daughters got him drunk and slept with him. There are so many stories in the Bible that wouldn't be dubbed "child friendly" by today's standards. But it's truth, it's what happened and I totally understand the desire to keep our children innocent, but I also don't think that there is anything wrong with churches OPENLY discussing these issues, they're real life and Christianity needs to be a part of that. My pastor has made some really awkward jokes from stage (intentionally and unintentionally) that may be borderline inappropriate, but the kids in the audience really just don't understand because they are innocent.

    I have had pastors make announcements about a potentially PG-13 service, and I do think that is important. I would just ask that the pastor respect the innocence of the children and make a simple announcement that the kids should probably be in kids church that day.

  12. This comment is coming from a former home schooled child who grew up in a church that had no children's program during the service and is now a homeschooling mother, children's church coordinator, and the wife of the Deacon of Children's Ministries of our church.

    I think a combination of the first 2 options is in order. The Bible is full of stories and rules about how to live our lives in a Godly manner and the shows the consequences of people who decided to not follow God's law. Depending on the age of the child, and in my opinion the younger you talk about things in a safe way the better, in church and at home are the safe places to learn about such things. Sadly, especially if your kids are in school, they hear about these things much sooner than you realize. If they have friends they play with outside your supervision, they'll hear things. Even in your own home and playing and watching approved things, stuff slips in (our kids were watching approved by us videos online, and somehow fan made videos came up and we were too late in catching "crap" and OMG being used!).

    That being said, the church also needs to be reminded that there are kids in the service. There are many reasons for this: maybe the kids are contagious for something and you don't want it to spread, maybe they are being disciplined and missing out from children's church, maybe the parents want their kids in the service, etc). I know that when we visit churches, we rarely send our kids to the children's program, especially if it's an entire service program as we want to worship as a family and have the kids learn that not everything is child focused and that they can learn about God and worship in an adult setting. Also, you don't know what type of thing is being taught in children's church. Let me tell you, as a coordinator selecting materials and my husband who approves and looks over materials, there is a lot of theologically unsound stuff out there! I would rather my kids hear something about their maturity level with me present to talk about it later than have no idea or them hearing something not true or not right and me having no idea or having to sift out what they heard and try to correct it.

    The pastor is responsible for what is said out of the pulpit...and they're human. They won't be able to catch everything and sometimes they forget. Gentle reminders, maybe through an elder or deacon that you talk to instead of directly at the pastor, is a good thing. Warnings of upcoming material is good. Our church's children's program goes up to 9 years old, but there are occasional Sundays when the pastor will be preaching on explicit material and we have a special program that goes older and all the parent's know beforehand so that if they choose to send their older children or regularly do not send their kids they are forewarned. Also, any material not appropriate for kids is saved for the end of the service so that the kids can participate but then leave before that topic is broached.

    If you love your church, share your concerns and help it grow. Volunteer, support, help! Leaving doesn't help anything and leaves you upset and searching!


I so much appreciate your time and effort in leaving a comment, and I try to respond to as many as time permits. :-)