by Shawn Boyd, staff writer
“At South Carolina’s NewSpring Church, children are not admitted to the main service and doors are locked after the sermon starts,” wrote Christianity Today. “In North Carolina, Elevation Church leaders removed a boy with cerebral palsy from church because he was disrupting the service.”
Actions such as these are creating important conversations across the country as churches attempt to deal with the growing problem of distractions in worship services.
Cary Monaco of the Liberty Baptist Church in Chandler, Okla., said, “In many churches today it’s hard to get much out of [the service] through the people coming and going, conversations going on, rattling wrappers, slurping drinks and smacking food. That’s not to mention the rowdy kids who aren’t made to sit up and shut up, the watch alarms, cell phone ring tones, and the invitation-killing sound of dozens of Bible covers being zipped up at the conclusion of sermons.”
The attempts to eliminate every distraction, such as those by NewSpring and Elevation, are drawing a lot of criticism.
Author Caryn Rivadeneira told Christianity Today, “It seems these churches we hear about that shuttle disrupters out of a service care more about the comfort of the people in the pews than they do about the glory of God.” Scottie May, associate professor at Wheaton College, said, “[It] depends on the nature of the disturbance, but to say there should be no disturbances in a worship service creates a very Western, cognitive-oriented worship service. Holy noise that is even sometimes distracting can be a great, beautiful sound to our God.”
Kevin Zuber, professor of theology and pastor of Grace Bible Church Northwest in Mount Prospect, Ill., commented on the polarizing message these actions send to children: “[It] tells children, ‘Church is boring and we will cater to whatever you want to make it interesting.’ I found that children can be taught to appreciate the church service as a time of worship; even if they can’t get everything, they can get something.” David Fetzer, professor of communications, said, “Perhaps the question behind this is, ‘Has the individual become more important than the community?’ I can’t imagine that the early church, meeting in houses without nurseries or children’s centers, did not have some distractions that the community had to deal with. As time went on, churches either accepted the family atmosphere or implemented gracious, caring, beneficial alternatives such as nurseries, age appropriate classes and children’s churches. My biblically informed imagination tells me that our Lord did some pretty serious work with individuals in minimized distraction settings, but He spoke to the multitudes with plenty of children present. Somehow I can’t picture Christ saying to thousands of people stretched out over the valley, ‘Before we start let’s get the kids and anybody who might disrupt things out of here so we can get the right atmosphere and mood to do business with God.’”