nursery or big church?
this post asks the question. i love this blog and the writer is generally very insightful, but i'm not with him on this one.
to me, it comes down to the purpose of the weekly church service. is it a lecture, to gain facts? a concert, to have an emotional experience? or something else? yes, children are distracting. yes, it's hard for them to be quiet and sit still. but does that add up to a one-way ticket to the nursery?
i'll copy here the comment i left on the post:
taking care of children is not a distraction from worship. it is part of worship itself. would you ask if music is distracting? is the powerpoint screen distracting? the stained glass?
if our goal in worship is the cognitive acquisition of information, or attainment of an emotional meditative experience, then yes, children are a hindrance. but worship is not limited to or defined by those experiences. nothing wrong with them, but they're not the only reasons i go to church.
i want my children to love church and look forward to it. i want them to experience God there. if they can do that better in the nursery, then that's fine. if that happens in big church, even better. but i'm not leaving them in the nursery for my own convenience, and i'm not keeping them with me for my pride. a little flexibility and a little grace go a long way.
right now both of our kids go to the nursery. but here's my goal: i would like for them to be where they worship best, experience God most purely. sometimes that's in play. sometimes it's outside. sometimes it's being held and rocked. sometimes it's singing songs with mom and dad. both of my kids have been in church with me as babies, because that's where they felt safe and secure. laugh if you will, but i swear to you they worshiped as they napped in my lap or bounced to the music. (i think we need to broaden our definition of worship; we tend to define it too narrowly.) but for the restless ages, say 18 months to 4-ish, big church is just hard work without a lot of benefit. so i'm fine with the nursery. but they shouldn't just "sit church out" back there. we should provide worship appropriate to their age.
church is not just about "what i enjoy most" or "how can i best be fed." it's more than that.
church is not a product to be consumed by individuals.
families should not part at the church entrance to each go their own way, reuniting for lunch afterward.
church is also not about "being on our best behavior." many advocates of kids in big church say it's important for kids to learn to sit still and listen. ok, fine, but that's not sufficient reason for me. a child who may be unable to comprehend a college lecture or appreciate a symphony is not correspondingly incapable of worship. sure, teach them to sit still. but don't equate that with worship.
i want to teach my children to love God. to live in community. to sing praise and learn their Bible. they may do any of those things in the nursery or in big church.
or i can fail them in either place.
we need grace here. lots and lots of grace.