This article came by way of Joyce, via Facebook: “Dear Parents With Young Children In Church.”
The children of BLC when I first encountered them in what seems like a lifetime ago (minus the adult Sunday School volunteers, obviously)
This really struck a chord with me. When my wife and I had just returned from our time overseas and were looking for a church, one of the key reasons that “clinched” the decision for us to stay at BLC was when I saw how children were a real part of our worship services. And because they were a real part of our church services, it was easier for them to become a real part of our lives.
Before we had children of our own, we helped other parents take care of their children, seeing them crawl between our feet and chairs, prevented them from falling, and even played with them with funny faces or distracting toys to help their parents keep them entertained. In fact, it was the interaction with these parents and their then-young children that my wife and I learned how to deal with ours.
So, this really encapsulates for me the original vision for the worship life of our church, especially when it comes to parents, children and families. I encourage you to read the blog in its entirety here.
When you [parents with young children] are here, the church is filled with a joyful noise. When you are here, the Body of Christ is more fully present. When you are here, we are reminded that this worship thing we do isn’t about Bible Study or personal, quiet contemplation but coming together to worship as a community where all are welcome, where we share in the Word and Sacrament together.When you are here, I have hope that these pews won’t be empty in ten years when your kids are old enough to sit quietly and behave in worship. I know that they are learning how and why we worship now, before it’s too late. They are learning that worship is important.
I see them learning. In the midst of the cries, whines, and giggles, in the midst of the crinkling of pretzel bags and the growing pile of crumbs I see a little girl who insists on going two pews up to share peace with someone she’s never met. I hear a little boy slurping (quite loudly) every last drop of his communion wine out of the cup determined not to miss a drop of Jesus. I watch a child excitedly color a cross and point to the one in the front of the sanctuary. I hear the echos of Amens just a few seconds after the rest of the community says it together. I watch a boy just learning to read try to sound out the words in the worship book or count his way to Hymn 672. Even on weeks when I can’t see my own children learning because, well, it’s one of those mornings, I can see your children learning.
I know how hard it is to do what you’re doing, but I want you to know, it matters. It matters to me. It matters to my children to not be alone in the pew. It matters to the congregation to know that families care about faith, to see young people… and even on those weeks when you can’t see the little moments, it matters to your children.
It matters that they learn that worship is what we do as a community of faith, that everyone is welcome, that their worship matters. When we teach children that their worship matters, we teach them that they are enough right here and right now as members of the church community. They don’t need to wait until they can believe, pray or worship a certain way to be welcome here, and I know adults who are still looking to be shown that. It matters that children learn that they are an integral part of this church, that their prayers, their songs, and even their badly (or perfectly timed depending on who you ask) cries and whines are a joyful noise because it means they are present.
I know it’s hard, but thank you for what you do when you bring your children to church. Please know that your family – with all of its noise, struggle, commotion, and joy – are not simply tolerated, you are a vital part of the community gathered in worship.