There are churches you can go to that will entertain your kids; there are churches that will give you a break from parenting during the hour or so worship service; there are churches that will assertively ask you to take your child into special designated areas if they are too loud/noisy/unruly.
But we don’t see our children as a problem to solve, but as persons who need formation.
Many of us grew up in churches where you had to “sit still, be quiet, don’t talk, pay attention”. We had a rigid church experience. It’s “form without freedom” and it can stifle a child, teaching them external behavioral conformity but leaving their hearts untouched.
We want freedom and formation. In that spirit, we have our kids with us for a time of silence, prayer, and song at the beginning of our time together…and then they rejoin us for Passing of Peace, Eucharist, and singing and prayer at the end. We want our kids to experience freedom from rigidity AND the formation of participating in our liturgy. This looks different for every child, but we are committed to not falling into either ditch: not becoming overly rigid, nor cultivating an “anything goes” culture.
This is challenging for me as a parent. My children want to leave, walk around, get food, grab a drink, chase squirrels (not really, but almost!) all the time. It’s hard work for me to encourage them to enter in, participate, learn, listen, sing, pray, follow along. Many Sundays I don’t feel I have the energy or vision for this work; but God meets me in that.
So we press on. We will have kids in our worship. They will leave for a period of time to receive good news. They will learn to worship as they watch and catch how we worship. We will set boundaries (no small kids on the altar, or running around lobby during worship, etc), but we will still have freedom (dancing during worship, sitting with other kids, etc). As we grow into this, you may have a Kairos about it. Feel free to come talk to me, Sharon, Fr. Ben, or Deb. Chances are we are having many of the same Kairoses too. 🙂
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