Sunday, November 7, 2010

Kids at church

I keep thinking about what I think of kids at church, how they are part of worship, etc. It depends partly on the "church" (congregation, leadership, service, etc. - which isn't really "church" but seems the best word to use here). But from my standpoint...

I don't recall exactly what we were and weren't allowed to do, when we no longer went to the nursery, and when we actively participated in all of the church servicce. I do remember being a bit older than my 7 year old, and participating except during the sermon at which point each of the 3 of us got little pieces of paper and we colored on those.

I know now that I used to sit where there are seats outside our sanctuary, with our daughter, when she was under age 5 or so, because if she was really loud, I couldn't pick her up and carry her out - that darn MS! I was a bit jealous of parents who could just "throw" their loud kid over their shoulder, and exit for a bit. Out there, I felt like an outsider in a way, and I'm not recalling a regular nursery setup.

Then she grew old enough to not throw those fits, so we got to sit with everyone else! She would take in dolls, toys, books, etc. And for the most part she was (and is) quiet with these. I don't know what I would be like if I didn't have MS. I do know that with MS, the way to get inside the sanctuary with her was via her toys. If I made her sit next to me and not move and just sit there... well, I think she would have thrown a fit and we would have been outside the sanctuary again. For those people who CAN get their kids to nicely sit without toys and behave, I think they are somewhat lucky.

As Lori gets older, I realize that although she is playing with dolls, she has also been absorbing parts of the service. Sometimes she wants to sit and color, but I know she is listening to the sermon ("you mean the part where the pastor talks about boring stuff?") because she will make comments (which don't make me think she finds it all boring). Sometimes she will sit and listen. Sometimes she will try to follow along with the Bulletin - it depends on the day. And (aside from a couple times) I think this is ok.

Why? Lori has a beautiful creative side; she has a spark to her; she has a deeply empathetic side; she's smart, musical, and artistic. I get to say these things - I'm her mom. I don't want to "squash" any of these or make her hate going to church by forcing her to sit the same way each Sunday. It's fine if other parents want to have their kids sit nicely, and probably at a certain age that should be done - but perhaps it will come naturally (I hope so). But I want to see Lori's creativity continue to flourish; I want to see her spark remain there.

As I said, I don't know what I would think without MS. I think MS somehow made me this way - I don't have the energy to spend my time disciplining her, and I think disciplining her would cut that creativity and spark that is beautiful (mostly) to me.

Yes, there are times when it might be too much - maybe she is too loud - and then I can set boundaries.

I suppose this is also how times have changed - other parents without MS seem to do the same things I do.

We can introduce tools to "help" kids be more engaged in church. Some Sundays, Lori will utilize these. Other Sundays, I'll still let her play, which she seems to do less as she gets older. Today she was playing when the choir started to sing "All Things Bright and Beautiful." She popped right up, said "I know this piece!" (yes, Mom has played it in the car a bunch), and listened. Then back to playing.

Earlier this week, I was taking Nemo (my name for my wheelchair) out of the car. Next to my car, out of my earshot, but not out of hers, 2 girls were talking about me. They assumed I had been in an accident. They said something to the effect of I would have been better off dying than having to use a wheelchair. Lori heard this. Ouch. What does this have to do with behavior in church? Well, I think she learns things that help her with this kind of stuff, even in playing. Empathetic Lori.

It gets to what is really important, I think - sit still and "listen," or something else? I'll go with the "something else." I think Lori will be fine, and I think she will continue to learn.



hikerrev said...

Thanks for this thoughtful post ~ you've articulated from a personal perspective very thoroughly what I believe about young people participating in worship will all the people of God.

Debbie said...

And I think she will be fine too. You are doing a wonderful job raising your beautiful daughter and when she is playing or coloring or choosing the moments when she wants to sit and listen, she is listening and absorbing. If someone ever criticizes how you are raising her, tell them to come back when she is 20 and then they can talk.

Clare said...

My son draws in the service and he takes it all in, we chat afterwards and we have had some wonderful conversations.
If I tried to make him sit still with nothing to occupy him he would switch off completely and learn nothing at all.
I dont think there can be a set rules for children you do what works for you.
And you do not want children to not want to come on Sundays.
My husband preaches most weeks so its just me sat wwith my son and his friends and they are relatively well behaved.
Most of all they are listening to the words of God.
Do not worry about what others think:):)

Rosemary said...

Beth, Lori is blessed to have such a caring Mother. You lead by example and believe me she is registering all of that. I wish I had been lucky enough to have had a Mom to take me to church. I went with friends and I must have absorbed something because I accepted Christ when I was only 10 and I will never forget the wonderful feeling that washed over me on that day. My walk with God is because someone cared enough to take me to church every week. Kids are like sponges they take it all in. Blessings to you and your family.

ms'er faith said...

Thanks for all the comments!

We "hopped" churches growing up and I only remember feeling a part of 1.

Somehow I developed faith - not sure how - but I knew if I had a kid, I wanted them to be part of a faith community. And she is - it's really a beautiful thing.