Ok, so yesterday there was this excellent twitter conversation about children in worship that led to a couple of blog posts that to me, had a huge chasm between them. Not because of the theological issues at play but because they were approaching the needs of families, parents, children, churches, pastors and the church from such wildly different perspectives.
Katie, a preacher and single mom (who rocks my socks every time she writes) shared her own struggles and concerns for other parents who just can’t be fully present in worship while their children are in the sanctuary. Not just because of “the look” that our orderly church culture seems to perpetuate among the faithful as the turn to see who or what is making all that noise. But because really- even well-behaved children make us “multi-task” when we’d really like to be fully and wholly focused on the work of the people in worship.
MaryBeth, a seminarian, mom and minister (who could be my twin separated at birth) shared how the polity and theology of our denomination supports her belief that children need to be in the sanctuary. Of course, our polity and theology point to that “in a perfect world we would” that is not necessarily today’s reality. But it is a reality worth moving toward and fighting for.
So I read those in succession and thought… there is no middle ground. Changing the culture of the church doesn’t change the deepest longings of the worshiping parent – to have just one hour of the week where at least 90% of the mind and heart are free to be the child – climb into God’s lap and be sung over and quieted by God’s love.
Part of the difficulty at Katie’s Tiny Church is the tiny. Even if they wanted to offer a program year-round (Sunday school, children’s worship, holy tiddlywinks) during worship for the children… they don’t have the resources to make it happen beyond the weeks currently offered. And so they are willing to “deal” – probably even more than their sweet pastor would like.
Here’s where I think the polity does come into play.
If we REALLY are a connectional church, then Tiny Church isn’t in this alone. Tiny Church is part of a family- a Presbyterian family that includes me in Florida and MB in Kentucky. And all of us promise to help raise all of the children God brings us in our church. There are presbyterian people in the medium-sized and large churches up the road from Tiny Church, who have hands and feet that are promised to Christ and to raising their younger brothers and sisters so that they may one day claim our faith as their own.
If we really are a CONNECTIONAL church, then Tiny Church isn’t in this alone. The gifts and resources God provides to any of us are meant to edify the whole Body. Those neighbors we are commanded to love include those who worship in smaller churches up the road, around the corner and often out of our line of vision. One of the best ways to love those neighbors is to share – people, books, time, and yes the gas money it takes to drive over and offer an extra month of Sunday school.
Sometimes ministry seems a lot having a kite-flying demo business. On those perfect breezy days, you can just hold the kite in the wind above your head for a few seconds, let out some slack and watch it sail upward… just you and God, taking on the world.
But on the days when the wind is a whisper down low, you need the slack out before sending the kite up to the breeze that is bending the tops of the trees. That takes at least two people…one to toss the kite up in the air while the other runs like a maniac to get enough lift.
God made us that way. Not omnipresent. Not omnipotent. On purpose and in perpetuity.
So that we who are empowered followers would remain dependent on one another, be led to give to one another and begin to model for the world the mystery of the Triune God at work in the world… one yet three. Independent yet unified.
I know… another “in a perfect world” scenario. But wouldn’t it be lovely to model that for our children? To be able to explain- “yeah, sweetie, those nice folks came to hang out with you during church because they are part of our God family.”