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At South Carolina's NewSpring Church, children are not admitted to the main service and doors are locked after the sermon starts. In North Carolina, Elevation Church leaders removed a boy with cerebral palsy from church because he was disrupting the service. The incidents raise the issue of how to respond to disruptions in worship. Should churches try to minimize disruptions in services?

"Willow Creek puts a priority on creating an environment that helps people engage in worship without distractions during the service. By providing a variety of venues (main auditorium, parents' viewing rooms, a video café area) where people may view the service, no one has to miss the message, regardless of their circumstances. We rarely have issues with disruptions during the service, but if one arises, the Guest Ministry team assesses the situation and takes appropriate next steps, which could mean respectfully suggesting one of the alternate viewing options."

"One thing I used to tell students in the course of a class is as a pastor, you're responsible for leading the assembly on Sunday morning, and the assembly depends on you not to allow disruptive people to take over the service and to allow things to be planned and well-timed. What I had in mind was more like somebody saying, 'I need to make an announcement,' standing up and talking 30 minutes and taking over the service. But also what I thought about was people having a heart attack or some kind of seizure in the service—that's more likely to happen with the age of our congregation—and I would advise them to think in the back of your mind, 'Now what will I do, if that kind of thing happens?' If someone keels over, it's very insensitive of the pastor to say 'All right, ...

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Should Churches Try to Minimize Disruptions?
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September 2011

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