Now that pandemic regulations allow Sunday morning gatherings, what are parents to do if they want to bring the kids back to church?
Our church re-opened in late August, as did many others, with a carefully thought out re-entry plan in place. Social distancing, sanitizing and mask-wearing quickly became “the norm”.
Folks are slowly beginning to return, with one notable exception. Many families with young children still opt to take in the livestream service at home.
Some are hesitant to venture out for health reasons. Others are waiting until children’s programming (a whole different level of planning) becomes an option.
Some parents are just overwhelmed with the thought of what it would mean to bring the kids back to church, of trying to occupy active little ones during a worship service.
It’s hard to be a parent with young kids in church, even at the best of times. Add in the extra stress of pandemic requirements, and staying home looks pretty good.
I clearly remember when I took my two young kids home early because I just couldn’t handle another minute in the pew. I missed an entire service because I was handing out colouring books and crayons and goldfish and trying to keep the peace. I was near to tears, frustrated, and very close to losing it.
Parents with young children, you need to know that it’s okay. It’s okay to stay home and enjoy the livestreams and the Zoom calls. It’s okay to delay your return until you’re confident about health precautions. It’s okay to wait until children’s programs resume.
But it’s also okay to bring kids back to church. It’s okay to bring your little ones to the service, even if Johnny is fussing about his mask, or munching goldfish crackers, or whispering that he wants to go play the drums on the stage.
You are demonstrating to your children that gathering with other believers is important.
(Quick caveat: we’re not talking here about overly disruptive behaviour that prohibits others from worshipping, but the “normal” noise one might expect from active little ones.)
And if you aren’t a parent with young children, and those little ones are waving at you from the next row over or poking their siblings? Extend grace, especially now. A smile, a kind word, an offer of help . . . these things go a long way.
The anonymous note that one of my friends received in her church mailbox when her little guys were a bit noisy during a service, admonishing her to get them under control? Not helpful. If you want families to leave, that will do it.
When we make it known to families that their children are loved and welcome in our midst, we demonstrate the heart of Jesus in a very real and tangible way.
We might just end up being blessed, too.
A few years after my kids graduated from the “baby pews”, I found myself sitting in the back row one Sunday, surrounded by a new group of young families.
During a song, two preschoolers began to dance in the aisle beside me. They weren’t being loud, just expressive. It really was wonderful to watch.
As the song progressed, I shut my eyes and imagined us all standing in front of Jesus up in heaven, singing (and dancing!) for Him. Wonderful. Since my eyes were closed, I wasn’t distracted by those around me. And those around me . . . big and little . . . were free to worship as they were led.
At the end of the song, one of the little guys, who had been dancing joyfully just a moment before, looked up at me. With big shining eyes, he declared, “JESUS!”
Wow. And amen to that.
Jesus Himself said, “Let the little children come to me!” I’m guessing they didn’t come quietly, but with all of the exuberance and joy that childhood brings.
That is a blessing we don’t want to miss.
Three Ways to Think Small: watch this Hope Blog video about re-aligning your focus to share the big news of Jesus with the kids in your life.
“Church services may not look and sound the way they used to, but that’s okay. There’s so much grace. Bring the little children. Raise them up to worship Jesus.” Read more in this TGC article.
Do Not Hinder: Welcoming Kids To Worship (Christina Embree, ReFocus Ministry)
Practical Ways to Welcome Kids to Church (Christina Embree, ReFocus Ministry)
Teaching Preschoolers Virtually (Kids’ Ministry 101): Ideas for reaching families with young children who may not yet be ready to return to church.
Kelly Rempel is the Director of Creative Communications for One Hope Canada.