Published in the Rains County Leader on August 10, 2021:
There was a time when children were to be “seen and not heard,” especially in church. The only thing I was allowed to do in church other than sit quietly and listen was lean against one of my parents and take a nap. Since I have always been able to drop off to sleep any time I get still, that was never a problem for me.
When Christian was born, we attended a large church in Dallas that had Sunday School for children only. The classes were during the worship service, so I didn’t have to worry about his behavior for the first few years of his life. By the time he was around four, we were living in Garland and began attending a smaller church. A Children’s Church might have been available, but I was a bit over-protective, so I kept him with me.
He was no trouble. First, he knew what was expected of him and second, he was easily entertained. I carried a plastic bag of cereal – non-crunchy if possible – and a special notebook that was saved for Sunday only. Christian was an early reader, and he enjoyed the children’s puzzle section from the Sunday comics. I cut them out, pasted them into the notebook, and gave it to him when he got wiggly.
It has been many years since I’ve dealt with a child in church – my oldest grandchild is a senior in high school this year and my youngest is entering 7th grade. But our church membership here in Emory includes many young families with lots of youngsters. We have a beautiful nursery and a large group of loving volunteers for the itty-bitties, and there’s Kidz Church for those from 4 years old through 2nd grade.
For students from 3rd through 5th grades who are too old for Kidz Church, we provide fun note taking guides. Notebooks are provided for children who attend regularly, and printouts are provided for visitors. Boxes of pens are available for use during the service.
Of course, some parents, even those whose children are younger, prefer to have their children with them, so there are always children from every age group in the sanctuary. I have to admit that I am sometimes distracted by the kid-related activity that goes on around me. Some of it is very familiar, involving small snacks or pens and paper. Some of the little ones who thought they wanted to stay in “big church” with the rest of the family decide it would be much more fun in the nursery where there are toys and friends. Some of the Kidz Church students are excited when the time comes to meet their teacher – until they find themselves standing alone in the aisle. A short-lived panic sets in until an older sibling or parent slips out of their seat and escorts them to the back of the Sanctuary. The most exciting thing for me is to see some of the Kidz Church graduates singing enthusiastically or listening intently to the sermon and filling in the blanks in their notebooks. There are always some who whisper too loudly, gaze into space, or stare at a screen of some sort, but there are some adults who do the same things.
On occasion, we’ve had students who wanted to take a more active part in the service. One young man who is taking piano lessons has played the offertory a few times, and several young ladies have presented a message in song. This past Sunday, one young lady was vocally active in a different way. She was somewhere behind me, so I don’t know her age, but I’m guessing she is fairly young. After the second song, as the congregation sat down in preparation for the offering, she let out an enthusiastic “Yay!” That elicited a few giggles and a light round of encouraging applause.
Later, during the sermon, Pastor Jerod made a point that God loves us and always keeps the promises found in His Word. Again, our little lady spoke up. “Yes, I know!” There was a moment of silence before he smiled and said, “Amen!”
“I know some of you parents are uncomfortable or up-tight about these things – but don’t be. We like knowing that our children are paying attention to what is going on. It’s okay.”
In case you wonder about Pastor Jerod’s comment, he speaks from good authority. In Matthew 11:25 Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;”