Monday, September 12, 2016

Parenting in the Pews (or on the chairs, as the case may be)

My mama and me when I was
about the same age as my
littlest one is now.
It is family lore that when I was about three, and my family was sitting in our usual spot on the front pew in the balcony of our church, that I was (as usual) fidgeting and talking out loud. So my mom tried to put her hand over my mouth to keep me quiet. Instead it had the opposite effect. I wriggled away screaming, “Mommy don’t hit me! Mommy, don’t hit me!” This, to the extreme embarrassment of my mother (my distress about being struck was completely unfounded) caused heads and eyes below to swivel immediately to the commotion above.

Now, as a parent of vocal, wiggly, strong-willed children I can see where it might have been a mistake to try to physically restrain a child whose first response is defiance. And as a parent I understand the struggle of trying to help my children understand that there’s a time and place for moving around and being loud and there’s a time to do quiet activities. As a pastor I want church to be a place where both are okay. As a pastor I want other parents to know that their children will be not just tolerated but loved in their loud questions, their running around the altar, their inattention, their stomping across the mezzanine floor and down the ramp, in addition to their quiet coloring or precocious scripture readings.

I am proud to be a part of a congregation that boldly and warmly welcomes little ones into the faith family with a commitment to their formation and care throughout their growing years and to supporting families. I encourage us to be visible and proactive in that support. On a Sunday morning, this could mean sitting beside a family with children and quietly talking with a toddler about what you notice happening in worship or what’s in the bag they brought. It might be engaging with the teenager next to you during the passing of the peace to ask about school. It could mean volunteering for the next Parent’s Night Out or bringing a snack to Sunday school. For 20 or more of you it could be adopting a family with kids as their prayer partner (that’s how many families there are with kids under 12), checking in regularly and bringing them into God’s light as a spiritual discipline.

I thank God for you when I think of you, Seattle Mennonite Church people. You care deeply for our families with children. May we welcome and bless them just as Jesus did.