When you are here…

From Jamie Bruesehoff:

You are doing something really, really important. I know it’s not easy. I see you with your arms overflowing, and I know you came to church already tired. Parenting is tiring. Really tiring.

I watch you bounce and sway trying to keep the baby quiet, juggling the infant car seat and the diaper bag as you find a seat. I see you wince as your child cries. I see you anxiously pull things out of your bag of tricks to try to quiet them.

And I see you with your toddler and your preschooler. I watch you cringe when your little girl asks an innocent question in a voice that might not be an inside voice let alone a church whisper. I hear the exasperation in your voice as you beg your child to just sit, to be quiet as you feel everyone’s eyes on you. Not everyone is looking, but I know it feels that way.

I know you’re wondering, is this worth it? Why do I bother? I know you often leave church more exhausted than fulfilled. But what you are doing is so important.

When you 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 10 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.

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  • One of the (many) things I appreciate about the Episcopal tradition is that kids are treated as full participants in worship. They are welcomed at the table. We don’t ask kids to believe in order that they might belong (and participate). We invite them to belong so that they might believe. Even when they announce loudly during the quietest part of the comnmunion liturgy (as mine did once) that they broke wind.

  • Don Bryant

    I have serious disagreement with this position in its more extreme forms. One of the things that has always impressed me is the great numbers of Roman Catholics who visit the church I serve and thank us for how much we care for the children by age grading some of our ministry and partnering with parents in a way that allows them and others to focus. Surely there is a way to do both inclusion and yet seriously deal with souls that need some protection from distraction from their authentic needs. In many churches children are too quickly shunted off to a program and in other churches children are shunted off at too late of an age who by that time should have been trained in a skill set that allows them to gain the most from public worship. In my experience (a disqualifier for sure) churches known for positive ministry and growing breadth do not include large numbers of young children (preschool) in their worship. There is a reason for this and it is not that they are unimpressed with the need for family worship.

  • Steve Johnson

    Amen! Children are a part of the family of God. They should be welcomed into the family of God as full participants. They’re learning way more than you know just by being in the community.

  • Andrew Dowling

    As a cradle Catholic I very much disagree. Young toddlers/very young children are not programmed to sit through a church service. They are not reflecting upon God . .they are trying to stay entertained. Why cause commotion for the rest of congregation and force a child to sit through an hour or more in silence if they can go to some sort of youth program where they can make noise and maybe even learn something? I think by the time a child is around 8 or so they should join the regular congregation, but before that it really serves no purpose but to disrupt the service and ruin the experience for the parents who are stressed the whole time about their kid acting up.

  • Tara Beth Leach

    Yes, yes, yes. I saw this post a few months back and it really moved me. As a mom of two toddlers, I have gone back and forth on this topic. It is definitely a lot of work to keep two toddlers “quiet” during the service, however, it is worth it….SO worth the reward. About a year ago I was holding my one year old little boy and I am often quite expressive during worship. I usually can’t hold back from raising my hands and singing rather passionately. I remember looking over at my 1 year old and seeing him raising both of his hands in the air and babbling as though he were singing. This is now something that both of my boys will do from time to time (raise there hands). Although they may not realize what they are doing, I realize that they get to see their mom and dad worship Jesus…I always pray that these will be part of their memories of us. As a Pastor, it sometimes becomes challenging when my children try to talk back to me during the sermon or don’t understand why they can’t come to me, but I have come to believe that children must be a part of the worship service…even if it’s hard.