This past Sunday, we were attending a christening service. At the sound of a child crying, the Deacon officiating the service pointed it out. He said, "Do you hear that? That is the sound of family and it is okay." He went on to explain that you expect those noises where families are present, and that the church (in this case the Catholic church) wants families as apart of their service, noise and all. I mentioned to my husband that the Deacon's statement was a nice change. He said, "Yeah, that sure does beat -'Umm, Did you know we have children's ministry ma'am.' "
My husband grew up in the Catholic church, and he remembers going to church as a family. He remembers babies crying and the adults just learned to block it out. I think Protestants could learn something from our Catholic brothers and sisters on this issue.
We are fortunate that our Pastor is fine with children in the service because not all pastors are okay with that. Once when our 5 year old went through a period when he wanted to stay with us in church instead of going to his class, our pastor came up at the end and congratulated him for sitting through the service. However, there are people at our church that have mention to me that they do NOT like children in the service. In fact, a number of home groups do not let children to be present, the children must be in a separate room. When our home group had low attendance, one of the elders of our church explained it might be because we had children present. I understand how any noise can be distracting, but I think a little noise briefly should be tolerated, especially during a training process. There should be no screaming and running down the isles. As long as the noise level or behavior is not over the top, let the little ones come. It does not mean families rule and adult single are left ignored, but that the whole community worships together. We need all parts of the body.
People will say to me, "But it is different with you, your children are well behaved." Let me tell you, my children are VERY Normal. If they do behave, it is from training and God changing their hearts toward Him. Parenting is hard and heart work! If I can do it, I am sure any Believer can too. The 5 year old I mentioned above happens to be very bouncy by the way - he is ALL boy. Self control is a very good trait to learn, but not an easy one to teach. These things are true for single parents too. As the church body, we should help them any way we can offer as not only Christian behavior, but as a Pro-Life statement as well.
After all, is not one of the ways we are building God's Kingdom through having and raising children in His Church? We want to encourage family - right? We are Pro Life - right? Do we want families to go to church together? Why do we always have to be separated by age? Do not my children need to see their parents worship in church and listening to the sermon?
My children do enjoy kid's church, but sometimes I long for a family church service with children's classes at a different time. I also felt very encouraged by the Deacon's words, and wanted to share they with you.
Postscript by my husband~
I wonder if the ubiquitous images of the Holy family prevalent in Roman Catholic art have influenced the RCC to maintain the family centerness though the years. Of course, I cannot speak for all Protestant churches, but it seems to me that the culture in many modern Protestant churches have adopted segregation policy concerning children.
The Holy Family with Saints Anne and Catherine of Alexandria
Jusepe de Ribera (Spanish, 1591-1652)