Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Kids in Church

We had a discussion the other day about the behaviour of our children at church. My friend who has children who are 6, 4, 2 and 10 months (and whose husband plays and sings regularly) confessed that she has started to hate coming to church. She worries what people at church are thinking about her children being noisy or misbehaving. She finds herself scanning faces for disapproving expressions. She felt like her son was ruining church for her.

I have thought or felt most of the things she was talking about. Sometimes I miss a whole song or announcement because I'm absorbed by what is happening with one of the children. Some of the time, this is unavoidable. Teaching children to behave in an appropriate way at church is a good thing to do. It takes time, attention and preparation (I'm discovering).

But children are not always well-behaved, even children I love and cherish. They have tired and grumpy days, they have loud and boisterous days, they have 'I'm excited to be alive' days. And if one child has a particular toy at church, it's likely that other children will want it at some time during the service (usually prayer time).

What became apparent during the discussion, was that we all worry about what other people are thinking of our parenting skills, our discipline and our children. It is parenting in public. Even more stressful than the supermarket line, because these are Christians who are weighing us up and judging us.

Wait a minute! this is all wrong. Why isn't church a place where we can experience grace and love and nurturing of our parenting? We are all just learning, bumbling along if the truth be told. It would be a great blessing to be at church and feel that our extended family were here to help us as we teach, train and raise our children.

I think we can start by doing a few things.
  1. Start believing that our brothers and sisters wish us well and are not judging us. That they pray for us and want to help us.
  2. Allow younger and older members of our congregation to share in our frustrations and struggles. Enlist and older member to help hold a baby or toddler. Encourage friendship between teenagers and our children, in the congregation. Allow people into our family for that hour or two on Sunday and then at other times in the week, too.
  3. Stop depending on what others think of us. Start pleasing God rather than people (or our perception of what people think).
  4. Enjoy children and their child-like behaviour - in all its forms.


Robyn said...

Love the photo!

I know that there are many parents who are not keen on bringing their children to the church service I attend, simply because we don't have a seperate room for creche! We just have a huge floor space up the back with boxes full of toys! But I like it (probably because I'm fortunate enough to have a child who is naturally well behaved). It means none of us is 'excluded' from church. The kids are free to move around, they play with toys, dance when we're singing and say hello to random church members... No one seems to mind the noise, but rather they all seem delighted to be able to see the little ones grow up and enjoy being in church... And during the holidays, the big kids are there too instead of Sunday School and Susie suddenly has half a dozen big 'sisters' who love to draw with her... It's a shame to think that some families might miss out on this because they are scared of people's criticism, yet I know that their fears are often justified! I guess we are just very lucky!

Kath said...

Sounds great Robyn. Thanks for sharing such an encouraging story about the family of God.