Children and Church
We love our church. It's been part of our lives for a decade. I have been privileged to get to know and work with the children's ministry folks there for several years now.
Love them dearly. Believe they have been called by God to serve. Know they have the kids' best interest at heart.
But honestly, sometimes I think they hate me or else just get a kick out of the weekly circus in our pew.
You see, at our church (which is fantastic, don't get me wrong), children 'age out' of the kids' program after kindergarten. They still have Sunday School, but at the ripe old age of 6 or 7, they are supposed to sit in 'big church' with their parents.
I have no problem with this, theoretically. I mean, what parent wouldn't want to share the experience of worship and edification through the Word with their children? What more important task do we have when it comes down to it?
So theoretically, we are good. It's the practicality part I sometimes have issues with.
Worshiping Jesus in my heart is slightly hindered when my daughters are punching each other out in the pew next to me. I'm fairly convinced mothers first practiced their 'evil eye' look (you know the one, the one that means, "if you do not stop that IMMEDIATELY, I will pick you up, carry you out in front of all these good, Christian people and we will not even be in the bathroom before your hindquarters start feeling a little warm" look).
So there's the fighting issues children seem to suffer from during church, which can be a common problem among young parents.
But then, on the other spectrum of problems, is the inexplicable sudden onset of the giggles children seem to come down with while sitting in the pew.
For no reason whatsoever while your pastor is making a particularly convicting or challenging point, your child will suddenly let a big 'ol chuckle and snort escape. This invariably happens only when the auditorium is completely silent and the Spirit is doing His mysterious work in the hearts of those around you. What is going on in your heart could conceivably be from another source since it's far from godly in that moment.
You give the evil eye to the guilty sitting next to you and they settle down. For 3 whole seconds before the next round of snickers escapes.
Once this happened because my middle child was drawing funny caricatures and making her big sister laugh. After that we had to ban not golden images, but drawn images of any kind in church.
Then there was the time my daughters were going through my purse and found this incredibly stinky, obnoxious Bath and Body Works miniature lotion (I don't know why I had it. I pretty much hate that store.). They opened it and put it all over their hands, sending an overwhelming flowery, fruity aroma to all the poor folks sitting in our vicinity. I wouldn't be surprised if somebody smelled it and thought they'd be seeing heaven sooner than expected after they suffocated to death.
This, of course, returned us to the contagious giggling once again.
Just today I realized there is an important rule we have been remiss in not discussing. But to be fair, we've not mentioned it only because I kind of (erroneously) was under the impression my kids had a basic understanding of acceptable vs. not acceptable activities during church. This is where they get you, you see, when they can look at you with big eyes of surprise and say, "but Mom, you TOLD me I wasn't allowed to do that!"
And in all fairness, I hadn't. Kind of like the time my oldest was furious with me after she slipped and fell in the shower.
"You never TOLD me not to climb in the shower! It's your fault!"
I realized this morning during church that I hadn't needed to remind my daughter to sit up straight and not slouch for several minutes. I looked over to give her a smile and realized what she had been doing to occupy herself.
It involved gum.
Sure enough, she had taken the gum from her mouth and had apparently been playing with it for several minutes, because it was covering all her fingers and threaded around her hand in sticky, web-like layers.
Of course I brought out the evil eye, but I've learned to be careful about this because once I looked up at the preacher without removing my glare and I think I may have startled him.
For some reason he just seems at unease around me now when we meet in the hallway or over by the coffee station.
I handed her the only piece of paper I had, our church's program, to put the gum on, which resulted in this:
I found a kleenex in my purse and handed it over, but that resulted in little pieces of white tissue torn and sticking to her hands.
And finally, because I couldn't exactly make her sit there for 20 more minutes holding her hands up in front of her covered with gum, she was granted escape.
I don't know what it is about the bathroom at church which is so exciting to children, but they will do practically anything to get to go there by themselves or with a sibling during church. I've sometimes suspected that kids have a water cooler in there filled with kool-aid which they all gather around to discuss the week's events. They must talk about everything from bad dreams they had that week to their latest antics to reminiscing about the EPIC stories that are nearly legend now about kids who pulled off bigger stunts than they could ever muster the courage to do. Whatever they do in there, it's a pretty popular place.
I instructed my child to make her way to the bathroom and clean herself up. I was grateful the folks sitting behind us who had a clear view of what had been going on were parents themselves. Clearly my child won that round.
I am sure we are somewhat annoying to the pastor who's worked hard all week to prepare his message, but I'm fairly certain he'd forgive us if he knew how valiantly parents all throughout the sanctuary are working to keep our little darlings quiet. We've pretty much got him trapped into being nice to all us struggling parents, though, because after all, isn't it all about grace?
Amen and Amen.