Kids in church. What to do?!
We visited a church when we lived in another county a few years back when our kids were small. Repeatedly, we were encouraged by the usher to take our children to the nursery. It felt to me that children were more of a bother than an asset during their services.
Neither our kids nor we knew anyone in the nursery, so I wasn’t about to put them someplace where I had no guarantee that they would be or feel safe. Plus, they were used to being with us during church and, for the most part, knew how to behave. (Okay, I recognize that knowing how to behave doesn’t mean they always behaved!)
I recognize that many churches are equipped for child care and that adults can get more out of a service if their children are not with them. The question that begs me to answer is “When then do children learn how to behave and to worship in church? How do they learn to worship unless they can be with their parents and learn as they observe?”
A few years later, we attended that same church for a period of a few months. We had more kids then than we had previously, but nobody suggested we dispose of them in the nursery because they were renovating and had no space available for a few weeks.
I remember the morning I spent most of the worship service outside the sanctuary. I was nursing an infant, so the nursery provided a place. Our toddler was being potty-trained, so you-know-who just had to go during the service. Our four-year-old decided this was his morning to act up, and I ended up being the one closest to the aisle so I got to do the apply-a-little-wisdom-to-the-seat-of your-understanding in the bathroom.
At the end of the service, I wondered why I had even bothered to come to church. I was wearier than when I entered those doors. Certainly, I felt, everybody in the sanctuary had a not-so-good opinion of our seeming lack of discipline where our kids were concerned.
Then she came.
She was an older woman, and she had raised her children. Dressed demurely yet elegantly, she modeled professionalism and regal-ness as she moved slowly toward me. I dropped my eyes hoping to avoid contact.
She kept coming. Soon she stood in front of me.Her thin, somewhat frail hands reached out to touch mine. Stroking my hands gently, she spoke kindly.
“I know you must wonder why you even came to church this morning,” she said.
“I remember how it used to be, for us, but I just want you to know you are doing the right thing. Keep coming to church and keep bringing your children with you. They are learning, just by being here. They are learning to worship by being with you. It will get easier, I promise. You are a good mother.”
I lifted my eyes to look into the face of motherly tenderness, and the heaviness in my heart gave way to relief and purpose. And joy – because I was affirmed.
In my bungling attempts at motherhood, I felt understood. In my tiredness and weariness, I felt lifted and supported. Even in my failures, I felt hope.
She could have told me all the ways I could do better. She could have urged me to try harder. She could perhaps have scolded me for lack of planning. She could have jabbed insults at me.
Instead, she gave me hope, and she gave me life.
You know what else? She was right.
It did get easier. Being in church was the right place to be, even when it seemed I got so little out of it that day. Even though I missed a lot of the sermon, the songs we sang ministered to me. Worshiping with other believers nourished my soul. I was “remembering the Sabbath day and keeping it holy.”
Moms, it’s never too much trouble to take your kids to church. I’m not saying it’s wrong to put them in the nursery. But take them. Go to the bother and take them with you. What better teaching than to have them watch you worship and find nourishment for your soul!
I give you hope. Go ahead, breathe life!