Monday, August 10, 2009

Children in Church

Some of my earliest memories are of church. Now, they are not always of being in worship, as Messiah became my home away from home, but the memories are of church nonetheless. I have always been a strong believer in children being in church, hearing the liturgy and hymns, but I never realized how strong I felt until I had my own child.

I was extremely lucky that Hans was given a wonderful vicarage at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Terre Haute, IN. The congregation simply loved children. I tribute this to their pastor, Rev. Phil Meyer, for not only loving children himself, but also for his love of hearing children in the service. John wasn't even one year old when we left Emmanuel, but he sure knew how to make noises! While I still had to take him out every so often, his little squeaks or the loud sucking of his pacifier didn't bother the people around me because they knew having children in church was a blessing.

Both Hans and I grew up attending church every Sunday. Both of our mothers struggled singly, as both of our fathers are pastors, to teach us how to sit, listen and be quiet. Hans was a very laid back kid, and while I haven't talked to Solveig about this, I would bet he was pretty good in church from the beginning. I, on the otherhand, was terrible. It was a constant struggle to keep me quiet and I have heard there were many times I had to be taken out and spanked for my behavior. My mom told me once that just when she was at the end of her rope and asking herself why she did this to herself every Sunday she heard me sing in a grocery store "...and to the Holy Ghost." And, there it is, right there is the reason she struggled. Right there is the reason she herself didn't get to hear a full sermon for months, if not years.

We now live in the age of nurseries and children's church. I have been to some lutheran churches that have tons of kids, yet they are really not seen or heard from during the service. What is that teaching your children? When we moved back to Fort Wayne for Hans' final year of seminary John was not old enough to make it through the entire service, so he always started out in church and then ended up in the nursery. However, it didn't take long before John put two and two together and figured out that if he made noise in church he could go play with the toys. I find it really important to point out that while I feel children should be in church, I also understand that it is a process that won't happen overnight. That being said, I was very excited to find that Mt. Calvary didn't really have a nursery so John would not be enticed by toys and maybe sit a little longer in church. Just like me, John is very active, and it took a couple of months, a few tears (for both of us) and several spankings, but my bright eyed, strong-willed, loud, active kid sits through church. He not only sits through church, he knows when we are suppose to sit and stand, when to say amen and even sings some of the liturgy; although he much prefers singing the pastor's part. I can tell you with out a doubt it was all worth it, and I would do it again, which is good because in a few months I'll be starting the process again with Gus.

So, to all the moms out there struggling with this right now, keep it up, you're doing the best thing for your kid. And, to all the people who don't currently have little ones running around, remember to be patient; these children will grow to be faithful and active members of their congregations.

Here is a video of John singing a hymn he learned at VBS.

"Father We Praise You, Now the Night is Over."


The Simpsons said...

Great post, Katie!! We are struggling with Makayla sitting still right now and you helped me remember the reason for the struggle.

The video of John was too cute!!

ABCKegg said...

I couldn't agree more. I doubt I ever spent a Sunday in the nursery. I wish all members of congregations without children felt this way. I think it's the looks from others that "force" moms out of the sanctuary. :)

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Schel said...

I remember that time so well. Especially when they were infants and cried... I felt like I spent all my time in the nursery. Keep at it, my friend. VERY eloquently written. And you're right, it is a joy to hear them participate when they get older. Love your blog (and you!). :)