Friday, June 11, 2010

Children in Church

I've been meaning to post this newsletter article I wrote about children in church, because I think it something with which many parents, families, and congregations struggle.  I was reminded of it by hikerrev's post over here.  I appreciated his words.


Children and Worship
Worshipping as a parent of young children is always an adventure, and as a single parent when it comes to Sunday church service (go figure, Daddy's kind of busy, being the pastor and all) it's even more so.  I often feel like I should dress like I'm going to be running a marathon rather than in my 'Sunday best', and there is very little quiet contemplation involved.  Instead, I spend every single second trying to keep my children engaged, quiet, and taken care of.  With a three year old and a one year old, I am torn between feeding Elijah cheerios as fast as I can and/or pacing the aisle in order to keep him content while trying to help Benjamin follow along with the service, pray at the appropriate terms, and  learn the rhythm of the service and the work of the community present.  Phew... I get tired just thinking about it.

I've often been asked by well-meaning friends in other churches, why?  Why work so hard to keep my children in church?  It's a good question.  It really is.  There are a number of reasons why my children worship with the rest of the community.  First and foremost, they are a part of the body of Christ, and the best way for them to learn to worship is to be present in the worship community.  How they worship may be different than how you or I may worship, but they are learning to worship and, possibly even more important, they are learning that worship is important, it is the work of the community of believers.  Jesus said, "Let the children come to me", and I believe he meant it. 

My husband and I, along with my children's sponsors, and the congregation gathered at their baptism publicly commit ourselves to the spiritual nurture of the newly baptized and that includes teaching them to worship.  We have since transitioned from the congregation where my children were baptized, but I rejoice daily in the warm welcome my family has received here at Holy Counselor.  We have been so blessed by a community that has taken up those baptismal promises to raise our children up in faith, individuals that have gone out of their way to create personal trusted relationships (which is not always easy with a preschooler) with Ben and Elijah, families that have welcomed us into their homes and lives, and worshipers who have gone out of their way to support our worship experience.

It's the little things that really count during worship... like when Mark Rossi scooped Elijah up near the sanctuary doors and engaged him with peek-a-boo and bouncing to the choir anthem during Easter service...or when Kathy Baumann snuck to the back of the church where I was pacing with the boys after the choir anthem to take Benjamin to communion for me while I nursed Elijah.  I can't begin to name every single instance or person who has done these things... like Morgan Tarantino sitting with us during the outdoor service at the end of the summer and reading books with Ben while I quieted Elijah... or the Duryea family sharing their pew with us and joining us as we teach Ben and Clayton how to pray and what worship is all about.  So this is to say THANK YOU.  Thank you to the Holy Counselor family for welcoming my family into the community, for taking on the baptismal commitment that the Body of Christ made for my boys, and for understanding that it's not always easy.

It's not without rewards.  I can't tell you how many times people have come up to me after church to tell me how wonderful it is to hear Benjamin say the Lord's Prayer, and it's true, he says it louder and with more gusto than almost anyone I know.  Elijah will be there in just a few years, but for now, it's amazing to watch Ben worship.  He comes to church, he prays and sings, he passes the peace, joyfully gives our offering, and excitedly and gratefully receives Jesus at the communion rail.  It's a lot of work for me, and well, for all of you, but it is the work of the Body of Christ, raising children up in the faith and growing the church.  So the next time you see a family with small children, whether myself or one of the other families that join us for worship, struggling with the juggling act that is worshiping with young children... play a game of peek-a-boo, choose to sit with them the next Sunday to see if you can help, or just look forward to seeing how these children grow up to be faith-filled, worshiping youth and young adults.  And you, yes you, played an important part in that!

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for putting this up. I very much appreciate the theological reflection on your personal experiences with young people in worship, as well as the support you receive from your community.

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  2. Thank you for sharing this post. I've recently been struggling with bring my two boys to church, (4 and 3) and sometimes I feel like it's more work than worship. So, it's nice to know there are others out there in the same boat as I.

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  3. For those who might be interested, I found a great book a few years back called, "Parenting in the Pew" by Robbie Castleman. It has changed how I parent my kids in church, emphasizing teaching them what is happening, and what all the fancy words mean, rather than simply keeping them still and quiet. This has gotten much easier as they have gotten older, of course! There is a time and a place for church nurseries, but I support any parent who's willing to put in the time and energy to keeping their kids in church with them. Blessings to you all!

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  4. Thank you for this. My boys are 2 and 3 months, and my wife and I are committed to keeping them in church with us. We're the only parents in our church who feel this way, and your posts on this subject are really encouraging and just what I needed to hear.

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  5. Our book agrees with everything you're saying with biblical support and practical encouragement. We'd enjoy your review, Children in Church: Nurturing Hearts of Worship. http://childreninchurch.com/

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  6. Thank you for this article. It has always been my desire for my children to love church and for it to be a good experience. My children are now older and we use Church Fun for Kids sermon sheets to help them engage in the sermon. Visit churchfunforkids.com to down load a free sample. Great stuff!

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