Mother, with Child

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“Whatever you do, don’t drop it!”

Such was my silent prayer two weeks ago when my husband and I braved a new world: keeping our son with us during an entire worship service. With the flip of a toddler wrist, a Walmart gift card – the only “toy” I could locate in my purse – held the potential to fly over the balcony and inspire a heart attack in an elderly member below. Would Jesus forgive us?

The fact is, we didn’t plan ahead. On Sundays, our goal is quite simple: make it to church with two children clothed and fed (Mom and Dad being such is a bonus!). For a few months, our son had joined us for 30 melodic minutes of praise before the inevitable wiggles ensued. But, as his behavior improved each week, we gained confidence and perhaps grew overly ambitious.

How difficult could it be to keep a toddler occupied AND quiet for just a little longer?

Truthfully, I didn’t always love church. In fact, I remember as a child feigning illness on several occasions to avoid the requirements of Sunday morning: suffocating pantyhose and stories I didn’t understand. But – until my middle school years, at least – my parents were committed to growing my faith. And it worked.

As we sat in the balcony pew with our overly active son, I became acutely aware of the humility and perseverance taking little ones to church commands.

First, there is the noise. Will my child talk? What will they say? Inside voice or shout?

Then, there is behavior. Will my child sit, and for how long? Will I have to offer discipline? Will others judge me for how I respond?

Finally, there is distraction. Will my child impede another believer’s worship? Will I be able to focus on the sermon? And, most importantly, will my child gain anything from the experience?

These are the questions that Christian parents ponder at length. And, quite frankly, these considerations prevent many families from attending church.

Two years ago, we proudly took our son – not yet a year old – to the megachurch that we used to attend in California. Because our visit would be brief, we opted to keep our little guy with us during the service. Unfortunately, his presence was most unwelcome to one believer seated in front of us.

“Excuse me, could you please remove your son? He’s preventing me from worshipping!”

My husband and I stared at one another…stunned. Did that really just happen? In truth, if we had not grown up in church, we may have abandoned the endeavor forever after such a hostile encounter.

Despite the challenges we have faced in prioritizing church for our children, the love that flows from our brothers and sisters in Christ inspires us to persevere. Nursery workers even know our little ones by name.

Just yesterday, when our son began his “I need to move” dance in the sanctuary, I took a moment to look beyond our seats. Several families with small children – harboring no judgment – smiled knowingly. It takes a village.

And perhaps the greatest miracle of all is the work that is being done in us – the parents who believe there is a greater purpose in our struggles. For we, too, are learning what it means to endure for just a little longer.

And one day, when the bright lights are extinguished, we pray that our children will sing the songs we shared all those years ago – when time and little hands wouldn’t stay still.

::today’s daily inspiration::

13 thoughts on “Mother, with Child

  1. Thank You for sharing! I know these struggles all too well….Being a busy mother, and Sunday school worker of 3 children. It is nice to hear I am not alone in my struggles….and that I’m not the only one who knows it’s about something bigger than myself, about bringing our little ones to Jesus. I appreciate your honesty!

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  2. I confess I haven’t attended church in nearly 2 years. I’d like to, but my kids don’t sit still. There is no kids area, and the kids Sunday school is held AFTER the service. I wish it were during the service. This post has me thinking I ought to try again though…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, I can tell you that it has taken us a few years now to find our groove with what works for us with children (and it appears to be a moving target). Our decision to join our current church was largely shaped by considerations for our little ones. I encourage you to keep trying – however that may look – and know that you are a great mother for fostering spiritual health!

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  3. Leigh Ann Williams

    As a mother whose youngest child is now 11, I confess that I have this thought when listening to noisy, young kids in a church service at my church, “Why don’t the parents take advantage of our nursery or kids’ service?” Our church, which I’d say is a medium-sized one, offers a fully staffed nursery AND also a “Kids ROCK” program for 1st-5th graders. This program allows kids to learn in an interactive way and includes music and a lesson. I realize that not all churches have these programs, but IF a church does offer this, I think parents should (after careful consideration) be open to allowing their kids to attend these programs (which usually do, after all, offer age-appropriate lessons). But I am shocked at the hostility of the woman in the CA church: isn’t a church supposed to be a welcoming place, especially to potential new members??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for these thoughts, Leigh Ann. I, too, have been on the other side of the pew. I think every family is welcome to have their own perspectives, and ours is that we would like to have both of our children with us for the entire worship service – eventually. Right now we are testing the waters, and our son LOVES the music time (so much so that he now complains when we leave him in childcare!). I do think it is good to consider programs as they are available – to see if they are a good fit for the family/children. I can say that, despite some of my childhood resistance, I am grateful for the ways that my life has been made better by the hymns and Biblical truths I learned when I was a wiggly little blonde in my Sunday pantyhose 🙂 Also, the CA church attendee was a male. If there is one thing I learned about churches in CA during our year there, it’s that if someone is in church, it’s because they REALLY want to be there!

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  4. I was seven when we went to a Bible believing church. The services were long and no children’s church to go to. I loved God and tried very hard to understand sermons. While I could not follow them, I did learn that God loved me very much and that the Bible was to be treasured. I do to this day. I disagree that children need to always be out of the service. So keep on, by the time they stop wiggling they will already know more than you can imagine.

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  5. The Daytime Renegade

    This is great! We face the same with our four-year-old, and it’s extra-tough because our services are mostly in a form of Greek closer to the ancient than the
    modern. But we keep taking him, and he gets more and more used to it.

    If you’re the kind of person who can’t stand children in church, I wonder about you. Shouldn’t children be welcome almost above all others there? I can think of several things Jesus said about the little ones…

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    1. Yes! I totally agree. I’m glad to hear that you all have a better experience each time. That’s the thing – why not expose children while they are still so malleable if the ultimate expectation is the same? I think parent modeling is most powerful of all. If my children are to go to Jesus, I would like to be the one who shows them the way 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The Daytime Renegade

        “If my children are to go to Jesus, I would like to be the one who shows them the way.”

        Amen to that Lauren! Kid-haters . . . I wonder about them.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I also take my little ones to church, I was amazed when my 27 months started singing some of the songs he learnt in church already:-) This morning I spent more than an hour dancing to one of his favorite with him. I think it is very rewarding to take kids to church. Great job

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I totally agree. Our three-year-old likely knows around 50 hymns and praise songs at this point due to his church exposure and our singing at home. We look forward to any opportunity that allows us to open our passions to the little ones – church included, even when it’s hard 🙂

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