This morning at church, worship was awesome. I love serving with the team I'm a part of. Offering was encouraging- doubling the amount of giving from last year, we've paid a significant portion of our building off in order to further kingdom ministry in our community.
I gathered my things from the back and headed to a seat.
I sat with my mom, since Paco was home sick with Adalynn who also has a sniffle-bug.
I put my purse down, settled myself, and prepared to listen to a great first part of a 3-part series on the Kingdom coming to earth.
Except that I couldn't.
I couldn't hear a single thing.
Not because my heart was filled with stressors from the week prior.
Not because I was fiddling with my phone or bible or any of my many other things in my bottomless Mary-Poppins-style bag.
I couldn't pay attention because of the parenting happening all around me.
I say parenting, because the 2-4 year olds had no idea what was happening or how to correct it.
But the parents sat there, smiling, as their kids threw Gerber Puffs into the air, slammed books on the floor, kicked the chairs in front of them, tore out every tithe envelope and welcome card in the seat-back-pockets within a 60inch diameter of their little persons, and one of the kids kept blurting out words like "look", "dad", and "watch".
Now before you go and crucify me for being "religious" and "condemning children" let me set some background information into focus:
These were not visitors. Not first, second, third time people looking for acceptance or a place to call home. By all means, if someone is visiting, it's not for me to determine their alertness to the message, but simply to welcome them with open arms- noisy children and all.
The kids were not sick. I've had a child sit with me through service because they weren't suitable for kids church, for the sake of sparing every other family present from plague-like mucous and mushy poop.
These were not little tiny nursing babes. I can understand waiting to put your 2-minute old baby into kids church straight away. But I assure you, these children were all closer to 3 years than 3 weeks old.
I'm fine with exceptions. I'm fine with the occasional child who sits with a parent because they aren't feeling well. I'm fine with the visiting family who isn't familiar with the service or the ministries offered. I'm fine with the exception - not the rule- that kids can join the adults in the big service. Jesus Himself rebuked His disciples for not allowing the kids to come to Him. For goodness sake, we should be bringing the children to Jesus and all that He is.
But to be honest, the problem isn't with the kids. Kids are loud. And they have short attention spans. And they like to play and wiggle and talk and share. And that's exactly what kids church is for.
Now I know there are churches with terrible, horrible, no good and very boring kids church services. But I KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that our church isn't one of them. I spent an entire Saturday just 2 weeks ago, helping to further equip the teachers of our kids ministry, to serve kids. Not just big kids. But every aged kid. From birth to 6th grade. Teaching them to worship with, pray over, and disciple children. They've been given the tools. They have gifts and desires to serve. They volunteer their time and show up early and stay late to give kids the time of their lives while delivering the gospel. And they're not being used.
Allow those people to use their gift. God gave them the gift. And He wants to use them to bless you, your kid, and others- by serving the body with those gifts.
What if the worship team sang and played- and the whole time everyone decided to blast their iPods instead during worship. What a waste? Exactly. It's the same thing.
Use those volunteers. God wants to. But it requires you to put your kid in the class.
These teachers have not only been equipped with practical and spiritual tools- they've been background checked, carefully selected and prayed over to safely care for your kids.
The toys get disinfected after each service (or as needed!) to keep the regular germs at bay.
And....check this out....the nifty little sticker you get upon check-in, ensures that if something was wrong, if your kid gets hurt, or just can't handle being without you- they will put your special little number up on the screens in service for you to come rescue the little dude. Don't panic! People have figured this out! You can do it!
The problem isn't with the kids. I can't stress that enough. The problem lies in our current day parenting "style". It's one that allows a child to dictate the family.
How many times have you heard someone say "we just can't because little Susie is just not able to sit still that long."
Or "Johnny doesn't like it, so we don't make him do that".
That's nice. Your kid probably doesn't like bedtime either. But you make them do that.
They probably don't come out of the womb jumping up and down for broccoli. But you train them to like it. You teach them to have a pallet for healthy foods. Because it's the best for them.
Moms now, assume that every decision is based on the wants of the child.
No wonder our schools, our elections, and the whole gamete of things in life are such a mess. We've entitled kids from birth to do whatever they want. And if they don't get it- their "human rights" are being stepped on.
I believe kids have rights. Just like you or me. But they end where another person's rights begin.
We've allowed kids to choose their bedtimes. Their toys. Their friends. Their boyfriends and girlfriends. Their school. Their clothes. Their snacks and games and movies and schedules for so long that they panic if someone tries to change it.
How about we learn to parent like parents.
Choose your kids bedtime: why? To give yourself some time alone with your spouse before you fall asleep.
Choose your kids snacks: why? Because they will choose junk.
Choose your kids toys: why? Because their 2 and 3 and 5 year old minds can't determine what's really of value or not yet. And you GET the opportunity to INTENTIONALLY influence those choices. So do it. And take advantage of them.
Choose your kids friends: why? Because they turn out like them. They associate like behaviors and interests as their friends. Choose wisely. So you're not looking like a fool later when your kid is involved in something stupid.
Choose their boyfriend or girlfriend. If they don't have the same values and beliefs- it's a waste of time. And eventually wasting your kids heart to pieces. They're worth more. It's time we acted like it.
Choose your kids movies and books and music and screen time: why? Because it will flood their eye and ear gates. And it will shape who they are and who they become.
We were given the responsibility- but rather the privilege of CHOOSING - so choose WISELY.
This includes the choice of whether or not they go to their appropriately aged class on a Sunday morning: why? Because of a few reasons.
First- because in the Bible, we are told to prefer others over ourselves. And having a kid who is obnoxiously loud in a service where people are trying to listen and actively engage, is rude and selfish. You yourself cannot pay attention to what's happening as you tend to your rudely expressive child. (In fact, 3 parents walked out of service midway, because their kids were distracting).
Secondly, because they need church as much as you. Make it a big deal. Make it part of their routine. Make it a priority. Don't let them choose. They won't. They aren't wise. They're children. Get them to the environment where Jesus is made available in the way they can most easily understand it.
If I took an average 8th grader, and put him into an advanced engineering course at a top level college and asked him to participate- he would be much less able to absorb and fully understand the material as opposed to an average 8th grade math course.
The same applies here. Put your kid in their appropriate service so they get the most out of their church experience.
And lastly, to a 3 year old, big church is boring. Points to all the parents who bore their kids right out of church before their 10th birthdays. And then wonder why their kids strayed from the church.
The prodigal son returned to his fathers house because he remembered how GOOD it was there. Not because it was the most boring and dreadful place he'd ever experienced as a child. Set your kids up to love God's house by putting them in the correct and age appropriate environments.
Trust me. I am a parent myself. I've had the days of trying to quiet a child in service. But there's a point where you parent, instead of the child, and escort them to their class.
My favorite- on a soap box here- are the parents who say "oh he doesn't like class,
He has separation anxiety, and he cries. So we are going to wait until he's 3 and he will probably do better then."
Wrong. Let me tell you what's going to happen. He will be a 3 year old who cried to get his way then too.
First, the kids church workers are not going to tolerate your kid screaming his or her head off for an entire hour. They're going to call you after 5 minutes to remove your ridiculously unconsolable child. If you're worried about your child not being able to handle his or her self for 5 minutes,
You need parenting lessons. And not the kind where they teach you to be a better parent. You need to go back to being a child, and allow a parent to help you understand that life isn't always about what you want.
Second, your kid won't ever become adjusted or "get to know" the workers back there, if you never take him or her back there.
Third, separation anxiety isn't a child issue. It's a parent issue. Because when your kid is having a good time, they will forget you for a moment- you'll become chopped liver.
Do yourself the favor: put your kid in class. You'll get to actually hear the message and hopefully become more like Jesus in the process.
You'll get a one hour break to sip hot coffee and listen to an awesome Word - and at our church particularly- the worship will be baller. You'll get to be moved to tears, or jump for joy- or both- because you'll be open and listening for what God has for you- instead of the demands of little Johnny.
Do your kid a favor: put them in a fun environment. A place where other kids can interact and teach them sharing and caring and maybe some motor skills. A place where loud is encouraged and fun isn't optional. A place where people are gifted to serve, longing to help, and desire to relieve parents like you and I from one hour of chaos and stress and maybe a poopy diaper.
Do the rest of us a favor: and allow us to hear the message. I put my kids in their classes to be able to listen and enjoy the service. And today- I couldn't. Because there were 5 other kids stressing me out the same.
Honestly- there's a wiggle room (a small space with chairs and a few toys for moms and babies to go and hear the service and see it) while kids transition from being with mom to being in a class.
And for heaven's sake, the giant lobby with tables and couches and coffee and restrooms projects the service and audio for anyone to watch and listen. Take your kids out there at the very least- that is if you still insist on keeping them from fun and yourself from the life changing Word. But the rest of us will thank you. The rest of us, can enjoy the service with minimal distraction.
And hopefully, become more like Jesus in turn, so we can love our kids better at home, after church.