Kids in Church

April 2, 2007

So far, my blogging has mostly been about Julianna. Which is unfortunate, really, because Alex is a riot. He’s always doing unbelievably adorable things, like falling asleep with my old First Communion prayer book clutched tightly in one chubby little hand (and I do mean chubby!) It’s enough to make me wonder if he really will be a priest someday. That, and the way he squeals with delight when he sees church—any church!

Then again, maybe that’s just the drums talking.

For months, Alex has been fixated on drums. He associates drums and church, which is really funny considering how rare it is to actually find drums in use at church. Every time we go to church, he runs for the music closet. The drums have to be the first thing we set up for contemporary group. Then he bangs happily on the trap set until we are done. When the pastor came to visit us in the ICU, Alex took one look at him, shrieked ecstatically, and then began miming every kind of drum he knows.

The former pastor of a local church used to have an announcement read every week, essentially telling people to remove their kids from church if they grew “restless.”

Now, I imagine if you asked, he would have insisted that was not his intention—his intention was to remove children who were screaming and causing a disruption. However, every single parent I know heard that announcement exactly the same way: KIDS NOT WELCOME.

Every parent has to juggle parenthood, ministry and personal spiritual development. When I worked for the Church, it used to annoy me that young families didn’t volunteer more. Then I gave birth to an angelic first child. Even now, in the terrible twos, he’s pretty good at church. And that made it *possible* for us to continue in music ministry—but not easy. We had to be very committed.

Alex was the first “choir baby,” but now there are more like five. A few months ago, a parishioner complained that it was distracting to have kids being “passed back and forth” in the music area during Mass. Lectors and Eucharistic ministers don’t get to have their kids with them when they serve. Why should musicians? If there is a better way to make families feel that their contributions are unwanted, I don’t know what it is.

Then, shortly after Christmas, Alex was banging happily on the toms and a man began complaining that he came to church to pray, and he wanted it quiet. No matter that it was 20 minutes after one service and 25 before the next began—church is supposed to be a quiet place. Fortunately, our parish priests are wonderful men who know how much we put into our service to the Church. They told us that we should celebrate the fact that our son loves to be at church, making a joyful noise to God.

I sympathize with the desire for a distraction-free environment to worship in. But children are the future. And children are children. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me,” and I highly doubt that he added, “As long as they are quiet and don’t bother anybody.” If we make kids—not to mention their parents—feel unwelcome, we are sabotaging the future of the church. Yes, children need to learn how to behave in church. But the only way they learn is by being in church. And that means that they’re going to act fidgety, restless and yes, probably disruptive before they learn to sit still and “behave.”

In the meantime, we ought to be looking for ways to encourage young families to participate in ministry, not looking for reasons to be annoyed that they have their kids with them. Kids who are involved will become adults who are involved. The more people who are involved, the richer our Church will become.

OK, I’ll get off my soapbox now. It’s taken me all day to write this blog, anyway, and I need to be mom now!