Kids in Church: Thoughts for the Team
In our church we want to make space for children to be in church with their parents, almost regardless of age. The purpose is not to fawn over children, or to make our worship kid-centric instead of God-centered. It is instead to raise up young adults who are authentic worshipers of God. Reflecting on this endeavor, and without repeating what was shared in last week’s seminar, I want to speak to the three kinds of people involved: a) those who have set these lofty ideals, b) the parents who are striving to live up to the ideal, and c) the rest who worship around them in church:
A) “Raising up” implies progress, over time, which implies that every Sunday there will be some lack of attaining the ideal. We create space for that progress through Children’s Church, and the Nursery. Children’s Church is not a concession to the ideal, or a place for the less-spiritual. It’s just another space meant to contribute progress toward the same ideal. But the goal is kids in church, and this is not an easy endeavor, for anyone - we’re calling everyone to high ideals. Thus we need to be patient and optimistic about the steps our church is taking toward the goal.
B) While lackadaisical parenting can happen, I don’t know anyone who is content with that. We feel bad that you were distracted by our kid’s not attaining the ideal today. Maybe shame. But it’s made harder by a dynamic illustrated in marriage or group assignments at school: when one spouse/student is working hard, and the other(s) are not, but are simply standing by, either in indifference, disdain or judgment, it can be discouraging, and even cause bad feelings. It goes better when the other spouse/student enters in and helps with the dishes/assignment, too. Thus this group needs to not resent, but humbly welcome, the help of others - which can sometimes look like discipline by others.1 Am I ready for that?
C) To endure still-learning-to-sit-and-be-quiet kids in church is hard, and it puts you in a hard spot. Do I intervene? Will I be judged for intervening? These questions are natural. And please understand, dear reader, that none of the above means we require unconditional acceptance of all forms of behavior in church. Not at all. Therefore, one option is always this: you can sit somewhere else in church. Really. But expressions of appreciation, for the parents’ efforts to accomplish the difficult task - this goes a long way too.
1 It’s possible that someone might address a child’s behavior not because they themselves are bothered, but because they are concerned about nearby visitors, who are probably even less accustomed to kids in church. Assuming the best and not the worst is always a good (and biblical!) policy.