I love people who speak their minds with tact and grace. In a world full of double speak and hidden meanings, bluntness tempered with tact is a gift. If ever I need a blunt word of truth, my friend Dawn is one of the people I turn to. We look enough a like to be sisters, and because neither of us have a sister, we’ve adopted each other.
Dawn works in children’s ministry at Cornerstore Church in Saskatoon, and she wrote the following article for the church’s newsletter. For those of us with young children, I know you’ll be silently (or maybe vocally) adding a “hip, hip, horray” as you read; for those of you without children, please hear Dawn’s heart which beats for children to come to a saving relationship with Jesus.
Why I Will NOT Apologize
You know what? I get it. I do realize that it can be frustrating to sit around my children during church. I know that they don’t always remember to whisper, they might sit when we stand or stand when we sit, and they will probably be eating during the service. I promise they will be distracting sometimes and I guarantee they are not going to sit quietly the whole service (although I do promise to take them out when they are melting down… we all have those days, don’t we?). But here’s the thing…. that’s not my biggest concern right now. My husband and I are not trying to teach our children to sit and be quiet so the adults can worship God through singing, teaching and responding. We’re not trying to make sure that our children are “seen but not heard” and frankly their noise level is the least of our concern on a Sunday morning.
So what am I trying to teach my children when I get the opportunity to have them with me during the service?
I want my children to know that church is FUN!! When we come to Cornerstone, my youngest, Norah, who is now 2 years old, runs to the sanctuary doors and starts dancing and clapping. Even in her young mind, she knows it is a place where we sing with joy, we clap, and we celebrate! As she gets older she will come to understand that we are singing songs of joy to our Savior, we are clapping in adoration to our Father, and we are celebrating the works of our God! Our oldest daughter, Libby, has started to understand that more and more each Sunday. She knows that we go to church to learn about God, to thank Him for all of the incredible things God has done for us and to discover how to live in obedience to God’s will.
Secondly, I want my children to know that our church is a place where all people are valued. I want my girls to know that they are a part of something bigger RIGHT NOW. They are not a nuisance, they are a part of something bigger than themselves that God specially designed to carry out His purpose to the world. They are not a part of the Body to come, but they are an integral part of the Body right now. Are we perfect? Absolutely not!! But that’s the beauty of God using His Church to work through us…. He takes us in our weaknesses so that we can see His Spirit working through us. My children can grow the kingdom of God! I know many children have come to our mid-week program through the invitation of our Cornerstone kids and I know many children, Libby included, who are excited to be able to talk about Jesus with their classmates.
Lastly, I want my children to learn what God wants to teach them. There are so many times that Libby has learned the things of God from simply spending time in the service. She has asked me questions regarding the songs (“What does Hallelujah mean?”), regarding the sermon (“What does obedience mean?”), and she is learning so much from watching what we ALL do (“Why do we stand?”, “Why do some people put up their hands?”, “What’s the bread for?”, “What’s that picture on the screen mean?”, etc, etc).
So what am I asking of you, the Church? Please understand that my husband and I aren’t perfect but we’re trying to teach our children about something that is bigger than any of us. It can be exhausting to look for teachable moments, or to keep a toddler engaged (hence the snacks) but a smile from across the room, or a knowing nod can be such an encouragement to a parent’s heart.
To the Body of Christ, please encourage our young families who are trying to teach their children the ways of our God. Please don’t treat our children like an annoyance, and please don’t judge our parents purely on their children’s behavior. Kids will be kids and we all have bad days. Sundays have that special way of getting children completely off routine, causing more meltdowns… maybe it is God’s way of teaching families to rely on Him and His Church! I am asking that you extend grace to us, as parents, and come alongside us to support and encourage us. It is hard to raise a family in this age, and families are being attacked at every level, so please pray for us and lift us up to God.
If you take nothing else from this article, please hear me when I say that children watch EVERYTHING that happens on a Sunday. They are not just looking at the stage, they are looking everywhere. They are not just watching the leaders, they are watching YOU. They are not just hearing the words that are being spoken or sung, they are watching your actions and how you are responding to what’s being said. And they are not only watching you in the pews… they are watching you in the foyer, in the gym, while you drink your coffee and in the parking lot. I beg of you, as a mother who wholeheartedly wants my children to fall completely in love with Jesus, show my kids what it’s like to be 100% in love with God. Please extend the love and grace that God has given to you to my children. How great it would be if by the time the children in our church can first say “Jesus”, they have already experienced His grace and love through the people of the Church thousands of times! And I’m not just talking about in the nurseries, in the classroom or in the CE wing, but in our pews, foyer and, dare I say, outside of the church… can I hear a “Hallelujah!”
I certainly replied with a “Hallelujah”, and I admit that our church is a noisy, child-filled church. I remember one of the things I noticed when we started at RPC was how much the older people loved the little ones, and how they would smile at the noise they made because it meant they were there and that their parents thought church was important. I’m sure Dawn would love to hear any comments or thoughts that you have. I’ll be sure to pass everything on to her.