Smile - even if you’re nervous and don’t know how to deal with children, even if you’re annoyed that kids kick the pews, even if you worry the baby may scream and interrupt the sermon, even if you wonder why they didn’t take those kids to the nursery, especially if you are happy they came to church. Because you’ve been blessed with the chance to be like Jesus - to teach and listen and care for the littlest among us.
Children in a sacred space can be distracting, but worship is not about our experience – be it beautiful or broken. Worship is about God.
It is not always easy to welcome these wiggly wanderers into our sanctuaries, but when we do, kids transform our worship of the Living God with their unique gifts:
So the next time kids ruin your worship, will you sigh and start crafting an email to their parents or the pastor in your head, or will you chuckle and start looking for the Spirit in the midst of the mess?
Choose freedom over frustration. Choose grace. Allow the little ones to transform you into something bigger, more beautiful and more powerful than you ever imagined - the Church.
“Potty” is not a word you typically hear in a sanctuary. Potties are for preschoolers and mommies, for sticky fingers and training pants, for lisped emergencies and unseemly accidents. A “potty” does not belong among the pews and polished shoes of our most sacred spaces.
But there it was - like nails on the chalkboard of our nice, smooth church service. “Mommy, can I go to the potty?” Every head in the congregation whipped toward my three year old, shifting their focus from the proclamation of the Word to the proclamation of the potty.
I wanted to sink into the crimson carpeted floor - or rush her out the side door - but I couldn’t. Because I was in the middle of preaching my first sermon in a new church! With my husband serving another congregation and room full of strangers giggling nervously or rolling their eyes, I continued, determined to preach the gospel - regardless of preschoolers and their bathroom needs.
As my daughter skipped down the center aisle, carrying her sparkly little purse and our orderly worship with her, an unfamiliar older woman slipped out of her pew in hot pursuit. And we all breathed a sigh of relief.
Because we are the Body of Christ and sometimes part of the body has to pee, but that does not make her worthless. Sometimes part of the body can no longer climb the stairs to the sanctuary, but that does not make him obsolete. Sometimes parts of the body might need an oxygen mask, or a hearing aid, or crayons, or an extra explanation, but that does not make them a nuisance and it certainly shouldn’t keep them out of worship.
Children are a loud and messy part of the body. Their shrieks pierce our holy silence. Their pencils skitter across the floor. Their whispered questions sound more like shouts. Their cracker crumbs infest every crevice within 10 feet of their squirmy little bodies.
Kids crunch and cry and crawl up into our holiest of spaces, and God meets them there. God meets us there,”Let the children come to me.”Jesus gathers the little ones into his arms and implores us all to join them in their wonder, their joy, their hopefulness - even their messiness - "for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs" (Mark 10:14).
On my first Sunday at this wonderful little church, my daughter distracted us from our order of worship, but she could never distract us from God. When she and her new 80 year old friend marched back up the aisle hand in hand, beaming with holy delight, we all felt the embrace of the Holy Spirit drawing us into community, nestling us into the very heart of God.
Our littlest members can make the biggest impact in transforming our church into what God calls us to be - a messy and miraculous body of believers. So the next time a child pulls your focus from the liturgy or the sermon or the prayer, look for God. In the grandfather’s smile, in the mother’s coos, in the sister’s laugh or the friend’s helping hand, God is there, welcoming the little ones - and the big ones too!
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