My husband and I were discussing our children the other day and how they behave or not during church. Our 18-month-old prefers to wander the pews rather than sit quietly on my lap, and when the nursery is closed, it can be quite difficult to “make her behave.” First of all, let me comment on a closed nursery: That is insane! How can a church hope to accommodate visiting families if this ministry is not available! There is a larger problem to solve regarding this issue.
I have gone through many transitions in my own view of whether or not infants and children should be present during a church service. When our oldest daughter was young, I was adamant about her remaining with me to experience church and learn. Yet, she was a unique child; she was able to sit quietly and color while the adults did their thing. I do not truly believe she was learning, but I felt she was better able to experience church rather than go with a babysitter and yell and run with other children.
When our son was born, I began to see two things. First, more than one child requires an amount of attention that I am not able to provide and experience “worship” as I should or could if I was not distracted by the demands of my children. Second, our son is his own person. He is not interested in sitting quietly.
Now we have THREE children, it is impossible for me to attend church with them and get any spiritual nourisment. I also feel pressure to make them behave and not speak for the hour or so that the church service lasts. Most people have said, “We love seeing your kids in church. They are such a blessing.” But I have also read anonymous notes on the tabs, “Doesn’t this church have a nursery?” (See above; it’s closed!)
What is a parent to do in this situation? I realize that church is a formal occasion, and children do not normally belong at such events. But I also know Jesus said to let the little children come to him. Do you think he meant during church? Only during the children’s sermon or the entire service? How can we make our church services more child-friendly and still create an experience of worship for all? Is that even possible?
For me, I want my children to grow into healthy, responsible adults who are not afraid to be insurrectionists. I don’t think I want them to grow up to be “good” people. My husband and I were talking about Gandhi, and how he changed his world and India. Was he a good person? Does it even matter if he was? He made life better because he knew injustice was wrong, and he was not afraid to suffer for what he believed.
Maybe my children are not always well behaved , but they make the other people (mostly) smile with their childish antics. They run up to others with open arms and loving embraces. They seek out the ones they know for special time on their laps. My children can change the world by being themselves, and I do not think they are overstepping their boundaries.