Children’s Church Part 5 – A Closing Story

Written in January 2021

In the hours after my daughter’s birth, I saw a little blessing from God. Not only did I get to hold my daughter, but I was given a little comfort knowing that my daughter knew me and trusted me. She was being held by someone in the room and started crying. I asked to have her back and began singing to her. It was a song I had sung many times before her birth (among the many hymns I loved to sing). The song was “Come, Thou Fount.” As I began to sing, my little girl immediately stopped crying and looked directly into my eyes. It was a beautiful moment, one I hope never to forget.

My little girl is now a year and a half old, and I still sing hymns with her. Sadly, our church sings hymns at the late service rather infrequently. In a blessing in disguise, since reopening, our church now has only two services: one at 8:15 and one at 10:30. The late service happened to conflict with nap time, so we began to attend the early service (which before was too early for us to get to). I love the traditional service, and while my daughter is still rather squirmy, she loves it too. Here, there is a lot of interaction. We get to do Lutheran aerobics and we sing. A lot. We sing parts of the traditional liturgical settings, and we sing hymns. While she doesn’t know all the hymns (or many words), she knows a couple. This past week, we sang “Amazing Grace.” While she often “sings” along with a lot of the hymns, and often thinks she’s having a conversation with the pastor, it wasn’t until this week that I noticed that she actually recognized the hymn we were singing. As soon as the music began, she immediately turned from her fussing and began to pay attention. Then for the first verse, she sang along.

Shortly thereafter, she was distracted once again (I think this was the point in the service where she pulled off my mask and threw it) and ceased her singing. But it was a start. Actually, the start began years ago and has continued with her presence in the service. Another thing happened at church last week. As I was walking to help my husband teach a class, one of the older gentlemen stopped me and told me how much he loved having my daughter in service. He loved hearing her voice and knowing she was there, and I greatly appreciated his words. While I had heard a lot of negativity, there was also some praise. And no matter what, I was going to bring her because she was part of the Church too.

You see, it is tough having my daughter in service. She fusses, crawls under pews, cries, tries to play with whoever is in the pew with us, and even has run up to the front of the church just before service (and during a Bible study once… she’s so fast! Being pregnant, I am very slow). It’s rough having kids in service, a sacrifice. It takes everything in me not to take her out every single time she starts fussing (and always during the quietest parts of the service) so that she doesn’t disturb everyone else. Teaching a small, wiggly, distractable child can be really hard.

But the Divine Service is for her too. This past week the pastor spoke on the parable of the laborers. The pastor reminded us that we are among those hired at the last hour and are so in need of the grace we have been given. My daughter is among those people, too. So often I think parents are embarrassed by their kids’ obnoxious behavior in the service. We are afraid we will disturb the pious on those solemn mornings. And granted, there are times were it is necessary to leave the sanctuary for a moment. But we have to keep bringing them back. Kids belong in the service too, and it is the only way they will learn that. Faith comes through hearing the Word. The Gospel is for them, and we need to show them (and their parents) grace. We need our kids raised with the Church.

My daughter doesn’t recognize hymns, prayers, or creeds on accident or by chance. She recognizes them because she has heard them over and over again to the point where she is trying to sing or say them to the best of her ability. She will still be fussy, but she will also be able to participate in something great and wonderful. She is able to receive the Word of God and sing His praises for the wonderful gift of grace she has been given along with the rest of us. And Lord willing, she will continue in this when she is old. That makes all the sacrifice and struggle of the younger years worthwhile.

Parents, don’t give up on bringing your kids to the Divine Service. It’s rough, I know. And it can be embarrassing when someone turns their head to stare at you and your child on the verge of a meltdown. Disparaging comments are discouraging. But your children are listening and learning right along with you. It will take the time and patience God has given to us. And with time and patience, they too will learn of the amazing grace God has given us. Plant them in the pew so they can be fed, and water them at home. This is the only way they will learn. Children belong just like everyone else, so involve them in all the wonderful gifts God and our spiritual parents have handed down to us. Make them a part of the yearly traditions that have been passed down to us over the centuries. Teach them the meanings of the colors they love and the stories of the art they see. Show them the rhythm of the service and encourage them to watch the people who come. They are part of the Church, the Body of Christ, something that stretches back millennia and connects them to the Way, Truth, and Life. They are little sinners saved by grace, just like us all, so they need to know they are loved. The service is not just for those who sit still but for all. The Church is full of children, so make sure yours is too.

Thanks for joining me on this little series on children in church. As I said in my first installment, this has been a journey for me to be in a place where I feel like I can talk about everything. But I hope you found what I wrote helpful both for you and your children.

Blessings to you and yours,

~Madelyn Rose Craig

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