Upside Down

Upside Down: Children In Church


Update:  I have decided to change the name of this series of posts from Different Lenses, to Upside Down.  This term speaks more clearly about my intentions.  I want to look at "normal" things through the Upside Down way that Jesus seemed to.  He set the world on edge when he brought to the universe of faith a completely different way of seeing things. "Hey, Honey, there’s snot on your shirt." The way we see the world is tainted, or at least filtered, by the lenses we wear. In this series of blog posts I want to take some things that we may think of as “normal” and maybe look at them in a different light, through Different Lenses, if you will. Children In the Church Service I recently read an article about children in church. The article had some really helpful things to say in regards to encouraging those who struggle with small children in church. It attempted, and maybe succeeded, it communicating that they and their children are not just tolerated, but are actually welcomed and appreciated. However, I wonder if we could look at this through a Different Lens. There was something in the article that made my senses uneasy, made me tilt my head sideways a bit, narrow my eyes, purse my lips and wonder, “Hmmm … is all we can do here is ‘notice them’?“ You see, the article repeatedly said, “I see you …“, then filled in a particular struggle the mother/parent was having with the small child. I am a visual person and in my mind’s eye, I saw a lady in church, smiling gently as she looked across the room at the struggling mother, and in her heart she really was grateful to have the lady and her child there. She really was glad to see them … but … she just sat there. What would happen if it wasn’t enough to just “see them” in the service? What would happen if instead of validating their struggle by watching and not complaining and even accepting it, what if the writer got up and offered to help? What if she showed the lady where the nursery or the location of another room where she could hear the service and let the child play (we call it a Cry Room)? What if she simply sat next to her and kept the child occupied while the mother listened to the service? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be scornful here, but I do want us to look at this differently. Accepting and tolerating this often difficult situation is great, but what we as the church are really after is relationship, first with Jesus, then with each other. To bear one another’s burdens means more than even loving acknowledgement of each other’s struggles. It means jumping head-long, or feet first or cannonball if you please, into each other’s personal struggles and grabbing some of the burden for ourselves to bear. What if the young mother didn’t need a blog post to tell her that we saw her, but she felt that we loved her? What if she knew we loved her because we offered to give her a break from her fussy, or young, or ill-behaved child while she tried to soak up some teaching or singing or maybe just an unspoiled cup of coffee? What if we went even further and modeled for her hopefully present husband (though she may be alone) that it is ok for him to also engage with the children if he isn’t already? I know that in our culture this seems intrusive and we are all afraid of being “butt-in-skees” (have no idea how to spell that), but deep relationship requires us to first, actually care about the plight of those around us and, then to act on it. To look at this through a different lens might mean that we go home that day with snot on our shirt that belongs to someone else’s kid. (I know, that’s a tough call to make). It may also mean that we miss the lesson that morning. We could listen to the recording later, you know. What it also means is that this mother / parent goes home with your love, the Love of Christ, on his or her heart. That’s a pretty fair trade for some snot.