Today I feel as though children are almost being forced to grow up, in certain ways, too fast. Or, unreasonable expectations of sitting still for an hour or so and being quiet are placed on them. Young children are not designed to do this as adults can. They are wired to play and be active. When they are around 12 or so, then more responsibility in this area is reasonable. To be honest, I almost stopped attending a congregation once because the lady behind me made a rude remark about how one of my children played during church “instead of pay attention”. Petty, one might think, to leave a church congregation and find another because of that! But, I did not and do not want my children to feel negative about being at church! I do not want it to become a bad taste in their mouth. And, if I had to switch congregations to accomplish that goal, then I would.
My children attend church every week just as I did as a child. God promises His word NEVER returns void! Just because they are, or I was, not looking at the pastor does not mean they are, or I was, not listening! Thank you, Lord Jesus, you do not judge a book by its cover but rather look into the heart! Infants and toddlers sometimes cry or talk loudly during service. Sometimes the parent has to go into the “nursery” or stand in the back to continue listening with their child. Sometimes they have to come up with creative ways to get their adolescent or young adult to continue attending church. The point, the bottom line, is they are there…getting nourishment for their souls! God calls us to be faithful and He takes care of the rest. He changes hearts.
There are, as I understand it, four main parenting styles. There is the authoritarian who says how it is going to be and there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. There is the authoritative parent who sets rules and guidelines and then allows the child(ren) to operate freely inside them. There is the permissive parent who gives the child free rein to largely find his/her own way and offers some suggestions, maybe. And, lastly there is the neglectful parent who does not care for his/her child in any way, shape, or form but rather “neglects” him/her. As it applies to the topic of children in church, I tend to take the authoritative route. I set age appropriate regulations and permit the child some wiggle room. If that offends some, I apologize and could certainly seat my family in a different section. But unkind remarks are never necessary. I feel that should be across the board. My children are older, now, and attend their own service lead by their youth pastor, each week...where God's word is applied to the challenges they face as adolescents.
I was reminded of a post by one of my fellow bloggers who wrote,
New Garden Friends Meeting was a very eclectic place, with people of all ages and many places along the theological spectrum. David always knew how to challenge us all. He taught us about the Bible, about social justice, about Quakerism and about what it means to truly follow Christ. When people criticized him for allowing his son Jeff to wear his baseball hat in worship, David taught us all by explaining how Jeff would take the hat off himself when he understood he was in the presence of God. And sure enough, Jeff did just that! (By Carl Jones. "I'd Laugh...But All This Happened To Me." "Influences- David Bills".)You see, there comes a point where there is a change of heart and of behavior. I believe we must be patient, encouraging, supportive, and guide with grace and a gentle touch not a harsh tongue.
1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1. ESV.)
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. (Matthew 18:1-6. ESV.)