In Matthew 19:14 Jesus says: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” I understand that it is common for people of that society to bring their children to respected rabbis to receive a blessing. People who see Jesus as a worthy teacher want him to bless their children but for some reason the disciples don’t want them to interrupt the “important” work Jesus is doing to stop and deal with children.
Jesus famously welcomes the children and uses them to reenforce his teaching on how to live in the Kingdom of God.
One way the Church tries to follow this “let the little children come” directive of our Lord is by practicing child baptism, or baby dedication. Churches often make a serious effort to minister to children by staffing a children’s department in the church program.
While I appreciate the need for children’s programming in the church, I think we need to be careful to involve them in the larger life of the church. It is worth the effort to find ways to connect our boys and girls to the worship services. While I don’t think we need to turn Sunday morning worship into a big “children’s church” I do think we can make an effort to include children in our regular worship services, if not every Sunday, at least on a regular basis. Children should be familiar with what we do in church even when the service isn’t all about them (in a Christmas program, for instance).
Pastors should be able to craft sermons that are easy for elementary children to follow. If needed, most children’s workers can suggest handouts, crafts, visual aids to help children connect to a well-planned sermon meant to minister to both children and adults. Also, it is likely a good thing for the pastor to practice a bit of self-discipline in regard to sermon length and material. Granted, I’m not thinking so much of an every-Sunday approach here (although some carry it off nicely) as I am of maybe a monthly “family Sunday” or something similar.
Really, Jesus didn’t tell the disciples to take the children off to another room and teach them a children’s lesson. Rather, he included them in what he was doing right then and there.