Stuff Christians Need to Stop Saying #4

February 12, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

Seriously, don’t go to a #4 in your franchise.  It’s just not worth the risk.  Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull???  I have to pretend like that never happened.  The Next Karate Kid???  Batman and Robin with George Clooney, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chris O’Donnell, Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone, Vivica Fox, Elle MacPherson and Coolio?  Pretty sure Coolio is the only who still has that on the old resume.  Superman IV: The Quest for Peace?? Does anyone else remember that?  Superman takes all the nukes and blows them up in the sun and Lex Luthor uses that and a lock of Superman’s hair to create a supervillain.  Then the plot, no lie, gets WORSE from there.  (Did Gene Hackman owe someone money?)

My hope is in Rocky IV which I saw in Jr. High with my friends and we cheered out loud, very loudly, and often.  My apologies to anyone else who was in the theater.

Set-up:  A kid is running around the worship center/sanctuary at your church having fun.

Response:  “Don’t run in God’s house.”  “There is no running in church.”  Or my personal favorite:  “Jesus doesn’t run in your house.  Don’t run in his.”

By the time this post is over, it will have my favorite three things to blog about in the same post: parenting, stupid things Christians say, and obscure pop culture references.  Jackpot (for me anyway).

Listen, I want you to parent your kid and keep him/her under control.  If they are headed to the sound booth with their fruit punch, please stop them.  If they are about to do a somersault off the couch onto concrete, by all means stop them.  Provide the discipline that you find appropriate.

However, can we please stop communicating to our kids that church is a place where you can’t have fun and enjoy yourself?  Chairs or pews lined up in rows are designed for running around and through and under.  We are genetically wired to do that.  You did it.  Your kids do it and their kids will as well.  It is time to end the tradition of overly anxious parents and stuffy, crotchety old men stifling kids for some dubious principle of “Church is where we act dignified.”  I don’t recall Jesus saying “Let the children come to me if they come in a quiet, orderly fashion that doesn’t disturb me, with no chocolate on their face and not wearing their favorite Spiderman t-shirt.”  However, I don’t read the Message, it may say that there.

How about instead we instill in our kids that Church is a place where they can be themselves, have fun, be expressive, and learn and experience the God that loves them?  He loves them not in spite of them being wild and crazy kids, but because they are wild and crazy kids.  He wants church to be a place that they remember as being fun, where they were loved and they got the answers to life’s most important questions.  Church doesn’t need to be a place of seemingly pointless rules.  Believe me, there is enough of that already.

Besides, my guess is that if Jesus were to come to your house, he would, in fact, run around your house with your kids.


13 Responses to “Stuff Christians Need to Stop Saying #4”
  1. zach says:

    It’s all fun and games until you shatter your nose playing pew&seek into >100 fragments while waiting for your parents to stop playing 42 after the weekly potluck. Or was that just me?

  2. Leah says:

    The best one ever, Charlie! Young ‘uns dancing in the aisle on the way to receive communion is one of my favorite sights at my church.

  3. Shane says:


    And secondly, you (we) didn’t offend anyone at Rocky IV because it was filled with Junior High kids….

  4. cloften says:

    Zach, you have violated the number one rule of Don’t be funnier than me. you made me laugh out loud.

    Thanks Leah! Kids and their genuine exuberance are a joy to be around.

    Shane, there had to have been some adults in there that asked for their money back.

  5. John David says:

    You have to admit, there is no better place for flying paper airplanes than from the balcony of the sanctuary!

  6. Niki B says:

    I have more fun with my preschoolers playing around and talking about God’s love for them! Why else would I be there every week with the kids…?!

  7. Paula says:

    Sort of along the same Grandmother was the only church-goer in the family when I was young. I loved music and while at her house she would let me listen to this album (that was way back before CD’s kids) that was country gospel (think Dolly Parton) and one day she caught me dancing up a storm to it…she scolded me so badly telling me how disrespectful I was being. It really hurt my feelings and made me fearful that I had made God angry.

    I can’t wait til someday when I can bring MY grandkids to Fellowship…We’re gonna DANCE, not only to Christian music but INSIDE the church!

  8. Larry says:

    I’m going to show my age on this one, but I partially disagree with you. While I think church should be a welcoming place for everyone of all ages, I do believe that our modern approach to God has gone WAY too far. He isn’t “the big man upstairs” or “our big buddy” – He is Almighty God, the Alpha and the Omega, the God who spoke the universe into existence and breathed life into man. He is also Holy and Righteous and deserving of our respectful fear – a fact the Bible is replete with. I’m not saying we should run around cowering in fear, but like most things in the Christian life, there has to be balance. God is both the Almighty creator of the universe and the lover of my soul who stands ready to weep and rejoice when a lost sheep comes home. Emphasizing one of those aspects of his nature over another is neither healthy or Biblical.

    One other comment – church is not about “having fun”, even for children. We live in an entertainment saturated society in which we all expect to be entertained from the time we wake up to the time we go to bed. This can easily be seen in most churches now where our Sunday morning services have become more and more like variety television shows than worship services. If church isn’t a free rock concert (and a good one at that) and the pastor isn’t funny and entertaining, then people either pack up and move to another church, or demand changes in their church until it becomes the mall/multiplex/restaurant/concert venue they dream of. In the last 20 years this can be seen nowhere more clearly than in children’s ministries. It has become a world where sunday school teachers burn out at an alarming rate while trying to come up with new and better entertainment for the children week after week, typically at the expense of actually teaching the foundations of our faith and the whole reason for church in the first place. These children become the teenagers that take mission trips that involve surfing trips to the beach and ski trips to the mountains but very little real ministry or spiritual growth. And all of this has led to our young people falling away from church at the highest rates in history. At some point, the Church needs to quit competing with our culture and the media and let God’s Word and instruction stand on its own – God doesn’t need our programs and our marketing.

    I do believe that church should be a comfortable and welcoming place for everyone, children especially. But, I also believe that the sanctuary should be sacred and approached with a measure of reverence. This is, after all, the place where the body of Christ comes to join together in the presence of Almighty God, to sing HIs praises and learn from HIs Word – the place where generations of he faithful have worshiped God and held on to their faith through good times and bad. It is a special place. Yes, we can sing and dance and worship, and worship can indeed by joyous and happy – but there are other places in the building to just have “fun” and to run and play – the sanctuary is not one of them. It should be special. This helps children learn that there is a time and a place for everything, and that the God who loves them so much and sent His Son to die for them is also the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and He is worthy of our lives and our best. Without the entire story and nature of God, we are just peddling another feel-good, man-made religion.

    Just my $0.02.

  9. cloften says:

    Thanks Larry. There are few things that I like to read more than a full blown rant that comes from a deep passion for God and to see His people do well. It is what I do on here all the time. It is in fact, what you are responding to.

    There is much to agree with in your post. The best one is your statement about balance. We can all agree that there comes a point where “personal relationship with God” becomes an overly casual approach to God. Has the pendulum swung too far in the direction of casual in some churches? Sure it has. Are there churches that worship their church building, rules, policies and governing model as much or more than they worship God? Sure there are. The issue is balance. Where and how do we find it?

    One thing I would question though is a desire to go back to where the pendulum was when I grew up. I grew up being taught a reverence and fear for God and extending that to making the church building a sacred place where you don’t run. I grew up with an information, teaching driven approach to Sunday School, as did everyone in my generation. If that were the answer, then my generation would be one of the most committed to church ever. It is not. We have left in large numbers. There is something that is driving people away from church. There is something that the church needs to do, but going back to an approach that was unsuccessful isn’t it, I do not believe.

    I worship God in my car listening to worship music. I worship God in my home. Is a church building more sacred than those places? What about the church that meets in a school or movie theater? Are those places less sacred? What is sacred is the relationship that we have with God and God himself.

    If your comment was $0.02, my response at best is $0.005.

  10. elizabeth says:

    Sorry Charlie, I’m with Larry on most of this one… The church building is not, in my humble opinion which will never rise to the level of a cloften opinion, less sacred than my car or the movie theater. It is however a place where I and many others go specifically to worship corporately. With that in mind I do stop my children (and most others) from running in the sanctuary during or immediately surrounding a worship service. I think it is particularly important that they learn respect of others in worship that our experience may be broadened by that respect and part of that is not running in the sanctuary where elderly/fragile people are trying to worship. Yes we dance in the pew and raise our hands during the worship time if so led and this all in a Baptist Church. I seldom find running in the sanctuary to be a spirit filled movement however. That is not to say I haven’t led a good Easter Egg hunt or tag game in the sanctuary away from the dedicated worship time… The point of your post was not to make comments that lead children to find the church a place of no fun. I wholeheartedly agree. I just think that running in the sanctuary and stopping that running is not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe if that’s all you ever say to a child in the church building it is a disservice. Otherwise, it’s ok to stop the running and teach the kids all while having fun. And that is my worthless opinion that includes way to many run-on sentences and other poor grammer.

  11. cloften says:

    First of all, I love more traditional, High Church if you will, congregations. I am glad they are there ministering to people that are church does not. That is why there are multiple churches, so that by many different means many different people may be reached.

    For me, there are competing values and the question is, which one will superceded the other? I imagine a scenario (I actually do not have to imagine) where a child comes running up to me calling my name (gasp, my first name even), and wants to tell me something. What do I do? Is this a moment to teach reverence for God or accessibility to God? That dude loves me or a sense of proper church decorum? How I, and anyone else, handles that situation on the whole range of responses communicates something to the kids. What do we want that to be? For me, if I am going to err, it will be on the side of teaching kids that church is a welcoming place. You may both be right, that I am over-correcting.

    What do you all think?

  12. Naomi Bratton says:

    Reading the previous posts, I agree with all of you. I was horrified one Sunday morning to see this little tow-headed boy jumping off the furniture in our lobby after services, only to realize a stalled heartbeat later that it was indeed my son! I couldn’t call him down fast enough. I wouldn’t dream of letting him jump off the tables or the outside of the play-place at Mc Donald’s, where their rules are posted, so for him to act at church like all his brains fell out while he slept was unacceptable behavior. While we shouldn’t curb a child’s enthusiasm, there is indeed a time, a place, and a season for everything. And in my opinion, teaching a child a healthy respect for other people and other people’s things, i.e. lobby furniture, classroom tables, Children’s Church teachers, is a Life Lesson in respect they need to learn. That’s just good parenting.

  13. Larry says:

    A lot to chew on here….. to me there is a very fine line between respectful reverence and respect for tradition, versus rigid legalism. There is also the issue of motive – the child who runs joyfully to you in the sanctuary is responding to your presence in joy and (I think) totally appropriately . On the other hand, the kid who is just running around the sanctuary, playing hide-and-seek is totally another. It is a fine line, and we won’t always get it right, but it is important to have places that are special, especially where God is concerned. Jesus felt so – he never turned the children away from him who came to Him in joy, but He also drove the money changers out of the temple who were doing inappropriate things in God’s house.

    Have you noticed that society has little respect for anything anymore? I have been to weddings and funerals where people were dressed like they were going to the beach…or like they were about to go cut the grass. Spending more hours that I can count in band and orchestra concerts over the years, I cannot tell you the number of times that I’ve seen people running in and out, talking to each other, talking on their cell phones, etc. etc. There is absolutely no respect for anyone around them or for what is going on up on the stage. I could go on-there are hundreds of examples. As a people, we have gotten to the point that we have no respect for anyone or anything – for most people it is all about them. All of this has spilled over into the Church in big measure. You see kids come and go, back and forth, usually while texting on their phones, etc. Nothing wrong with the actions, except the time and place they are being performed. My kids always read books, played Game Boy, whatever on the way to church and on the way home. At church, all of that stuff stayed in the car – we used to tell them “that is not why we are here.” Did they like it? Nope. But, they understood that church was something different and we were there to learn and worship. For most people today, church is 1 hour per week – tops. And, for that one hour we still demand to be entertained. I believe that for children, teaching them how to behave in church is appropriate. Always with love, always gently, and always age appropriately. Life is not all fun and games and that is a lesson that kids need to learn too, and not just about church. And while it is OK for kids to have fun at church, and to play games at church, it should not be the ultimate goal nor the church’s mission. IMHO anyway….

    Your other question – why people are leaving church – is a huge one. Too big for here. I will cite one situation – both of my children have quit attending church full-time. Why? My son says it very clearly – he has been looking for people who are truly living their faith and he is not finding them in church. Frankly, for the most part, neither am I. My children were heavily scarred by the “youth groups” of churches growing up, where the cliques are even stronger and the barbs more intense than what they experienced at school. That is what they told me. And now, as they have grown up, they are hanging onto their faith while looking for others who are actually trying to live it. Those people are getting hard to find.

    The word “Christian” was originally coined by the world who, when looking at the followers of the day, gave them the name meaning “Christ-like” while remarking, “see how they love one another.” I doubt the world would use that term on us today.

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