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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Children in Church

When I was growing up I saw plenty of children in church, children of all ages.  There was no such thing as a cry room at our parish. If a kid acted up that badly, I suppose you just took them outside. But I can’t remember my mother or any of the other mothers I knew taking a kid outside. So when I moved to Oklahoma it seemed strange to me that in other churches children would be sent to the nursery. In my mind I did not understand it. How was a child to learn about God by going to the nursery? How was the child to learn how to behave in church  if they are not in church with the family?
A child learns mostly by doing. In going to church and attending mass with the family.  I always find it interesting that in some churches children are expected to go to the nursery and come out at age 5 or so knowing how to behave in church.  It is my belief that children belong in church with the family and will learn to behave through practice.
I am happy that we attend a church were children are the norm. We know and appreciate that they will have problems from time to time, we look out for each other’s kids and each other and are happy to support the other parents when there is a parent out of town. Since our kids were old enough to go to church, sometime after 6 weeks, we have always taken our kids to church with us, the only exception being when a kid  was sick.  Then one of us would stay home with the sick kiddo. Usually me. Because my husband is on the altar, the kids sit with me or now that they are a bit older sometimes with friends. Living out in the country, Church is the only place they see some of their friends.
Children can be noisy creatures. My oldest, even as a baby, often had the need to sing in church. Sometimes the song would be over but not her singing. It was on one of these occasions that a parishioner told me not to worry , because in the Lord’s Eyes “ the sound of children in church is second only to the angels..”
Our children need to go to church and been in church with us. They need to attend mass with us. If they are always sent to the nursery how can we expect them to know how to behave? If we do not take them to church, how do we expect them to go to church when we are not there to take them?
For without children in church, our church has no future. Did not Jesus himself ask us to come to him like the the little children? We all need to be more like them and trust that God knows what is best.
How do you deal with children in church? Do they attend with you or are they off in Sunday School, or Kids Church? What are some of your strategies for Surviving Church with kids? I would love to hear your comments on this topic.


Dwija {House Unseen} said...

Oh Lisa, you and I are totally on the same page with this! The #1 blog post of all time on my blog was about this very topic. It's not very long, but supports exactly what you've said here:

Our kids are with us, in the pew, every Sunday. By doing that, by the time they're 5, they are fully participating (except for receiving the Eucharist of course) in the entire mass. It's really a great way to spend time with your family, all focused on the common goal :)

Jackie @ Blueberries for me said...

I have mixed feelings. Growing up we always stayed in church and I liked being with my family. I have distinct memories of preparing for my first communion and thinking "I can't wait to do that."

On the other hand, the church we attend now has a sorta "kids liturgy" where the kids leave after the opening prayers and come back during the offering. It's just in the fall, and they are their for the Eucharist but I think it must be kinda nice for them to here the Gospel in a way they can understand. The church runs a school so there isn't CCD (or maybe it's on the weekdays?) so I assume they have CCD then. I don't know how it works...I didn't live within 100 miles of a Catholic school so we all went to CCD.

I think its a mix of figuring out what is best for the a) family b) kids and c) parish as a whole. I think having them leave for the liturgy gives parents a break and a chance to concentrate, but keeps the family intact for the actual communion.

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

Jackie, I can understand where you are coming from. I also grew up very far away from any Catholic School, and I have visited a parish where they do take the little ones out during the homily. Our current parish offers a program for 3-5 years old children that is teaches them the gospel at their level. When my kids were very small - toddler stage there would be times I would walk one out for a few minutes but I always stayed somewhere that allowed me to hear the homily. Usually I tried to be prepared to stick it out with the kids. Even though Deacon G was not yet on the altar all the time, he was usually busy with helping set up, ushering, etc. Having kids changes your life. You are right that parents do not always get to concentrate on the mass in the same way, but we have a much harder job, to teach our children about the mass and its importance. When you have children, I am sure you will figure out what works best for you too.

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

Dwija, so glad to hear that you have your kiddos in church with you. I would love to hear some of your tips on surviving mass with kids. Sometimes the congregations we find ourselves in are very small. Last week it was just 2 families at the monastery. When we find ourselves in a small mass, it seems like every transgression our children make is a huge one. But when we are at our home parish we see that they are just children. Going to the wedding tonight, I found myself watching the children, they all knew how to behave in church even down to the smallest one, and believe me there were some there that I thought they were going to baptize. It was refreshing to see a family that adopted the culture of family at church and in their celebrations.

Jackie said...

Lisa - I meant to preface my comment with stating that I don't have kids and therefore, have no idea what I am talking about from a parent's perspective.

Crying kids during mass don't bother me at all. To me it's a reminder that we are all a family and that families include babies and babies cry. My husband's home parish has a cry room directly in the back of the church 5 feet behind the last pew. So you still look/feel like you are in there with everyone else. Some families with little ones just go straight there at the beginning of the mass. I think that is a good option too.

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

Jackie, I never noticed kids at church when I was married and had no kids. It just was not on my radar. However when I moved to the Buckle of the Bible Belt and went to play groups and heard moms talking about sending their itty bitty ones to the nursery or spending time working in the nursery and therefore not being in church to participate in the worship I was flabbergasted. These moms went to large mega churches where children were sent to nursery rooms based on age and given a number. If the child needed his parent the nursery would light up a big board with the child's number sort of like a bingo board. It just did not seem right to me. That is the perspective that I am coming from. Where women feel called to work in the nursery, and not in church listening to God's word.

CatholicMommy said...

I was just thinking about this today! I had Peter (1 year old tomorrow) in Mass with me while my husband played with the worship team. Today, he was the model of a good baby. :-) If only he was always that cooperative! I think he behaves as well as he does, though, because he is there every week, learning the rules. Yes, you can sit on the kneeler. No, you can't crawl up to the altar (he's tried!). Yes, you can wave to Mike and Steff behind us. No, you can't eat the envelopes. :-) He also knows that I expect him to look at the altar during the consecration -- and he's interested because Father is holding something to see and the bells are ringing. :-)
I don't have much experience bringing kids to church, but I know my parents brought religious books for us to read, sat in front where we could see, and as a last resort walked around in the vestibule. I wish there was a good place to walk in our church... the pews go right up to the back wall. :-/
I get a bit frustrated by the option of child care during Mass. I agree that children are part of the community (especially once they've been Baptized!) and will not learn appropriate behavior unless they are in church consistently. We do have a Children's Liturgy of the Word (for ages 4-11) where they hear the readings from a simpler translation of Scripture and get a homily at their age level, which I think is at least neutral and probably good. They come back in time to bring up the gifts. I don't think any parent should be chastised for keeping kids in Mass, though.
This all is a long way of saying that I believe Jesus meant it when He said, "Let the little children come to Me."

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

Thanks for commenting on this topic, I as a parent have employed a variety of tactic in church. I will be sharing those with you next week. But most importantly, each child has different needs and their behavior is different. Some children are completely capable of being quiet and somewhat still, while others, have more energy than a rocket ship. Ultimately, we have to do what works for us. said...

I am a new follower from the Bee Friendly Friday Hop. I am glad I found your blog. I am on the fence about children in church. We have moved around quite a bit because of the Military, and because of that we have attended several different churches. I enjoyed a few churches where my four year old is busy learning about God in a Bible school setting, but not when he was just in a nursery in the the basement. I want my son to experience church too, but I also want him to learn about God and because of our age differences we will learn on separate levels. The church we attended while visiting a city recently had a little of both and it was nice. The best of both worlds.

Stop over sometime at my blog.

Saving Your Green

Good Girl Gone Green said...

Beautiful picture! She looks so peaceful!

doreen said...

My children are grown now with their own families but when they were little they were always with me in church. I was always prepared with cheerios and a quiet toy. My grandkids love going to church with us...we have a 1 year old granddaughter, Peyton Elizabeth, who loves to sing through the entire mass. Most people smile but we have gotten some dirty looks.

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

Doreen, That sounds like some of the strategies I have used to get my kids through mass. In fact we nicked named our back corner the cherio corner. I will be sharing some strategies for getting through mass with kids coming up in the future. Be sure to check back.

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