Originally published April 17, 2013
*Ladies, I’m about to address one of the most volatile, polarizing issues in the church today. Everybody, it seems, has an opinion – a strong opinion—on this one. It has torn message boards apart, led to the giving and receiving of the evil eye across the pew, and caused rampant unfriending on Facebook. Dare I mention this topic that ignites such a flame within our collective bosom?
Well, after that build up, I guess I’d better.
Lemme brace myself.
And batten down the hatches.
And find something to take cover behind.
Um…it’s your baby.
Well, maybe not yours in particular, but somebody’s. Somebody’s baby or small child is making a ruckus in church, and it’s distracting everybody within earshot, including the pastor, who is making a valiant attempt to continue his train of thought even though he’s not sure of his own name at the moment.
There. I said it, and I lived to tell the tale. Whew.
Now before you fire off an angry e-mail, let me backtrack for just a sec. Titus 2:3-5 says that “older women” are to “teach what is good and so train the young women.” So, as much as it pains me at the age of almost 44, I’m going to put on my “older woman” hat for just a minute, because I think there’s a teaching moment here for all of us. Yes, all of us, whether your best church dress (or capris) is freshly stained with strained peas or you’ve graduated to dry clean only.
If you’re a young mother, I’ve been where you are. I have six wonderful children in my family ranging in age from 25 all the way down to 9, and they have all been in church from day one. My husband has been a minister of music for most of our married life. We have served in churches with and without nurseries, children’s church, cry rooms, and “piped in” sermons. (“With” was easier.) I know what it’s like to try to wrangle one or two or three or more infants and small children during a sermon and keep them quiet. There were years when I got nothing out of the sermon for weeks on end because I was so busy trying to keep Baby from squalling his guts out and Junior from scribbling in the hymnal. Believe me, I sympathize. I get it.
Your baby is adorable. I don’t even know what he looks like, but I know he’s adorable. If he’s within a ten foot radius of me, I will probably try to get my hands on him and cover him with kisses. I love babies and small children.
I love that you want to have your children worship with you in church. That’s where they belong! I’m excited that you’ve chosen to raise them in church, and, having done so myself, appreciate the time and work it takes just to get to church clean, in one piece, and not hating each other (or at least two out of three!). And it’s great to have them in “big church” where they can start getting their feet wet learning how to sit quietly through the service. I would never say that people shouldn’t bring their munchkins into church.
So, please don’t see me as some never-been-through-it-herself, baby-hating curmudgeon, but rather an older, wiser, been-there-done-that mommy when I say:
Sometimes your child makes noise. Too much noise.
And, as much as the people around you love your child, it bothers/annoys/irritates many of them when they’re trying to hear and participate in the worship service. And that doesn’t make them bad people.
And it’s distracting to the pastor/pray-er/speaker/musician who’s currently trying to carry out his part of the worship service. And that doesn’t make him inept or unprofessional.
And it is your job as a parent –just as it was mine—to alleviate that situation, not the job of the people around you to ignore it.
Most people are reasonable when it comes to a little distraction. They understand that Baby is going to fuss for the few seconds it takes you to find the pacifier he just dropped, lick the dirt off of it, and cram it back into his mouth. No big whoop. And if it is, well, those folks need to get a grip and show some understanding, or the next time they cough during the sermon, you have my permission to aim Baby over your shoulder in their general direction when he’s of a mind to spit up. (Ok, ok. Not really. That’s not a very Christlike attitude. Sorry.)
What most people find unreasonable is continuous, unabated noise from your child. Five minutes. Fifteen minutes. Thirty minutes. The entire worship service. And that’s not limited to fussing and crying. Happy babbling and talking is cute, but it can be just as loud and distracting as crying. And for someone who’s trying to focus on worship or the sermon, that’s not cute.
You need to take Baby out until you can get him quiet, and then you can bring him back in.
Are you going to miss part of the service? Yes. But—and let me assure you, I say this to you in love –toughen up, Buttercup. That’s one of the things that happens when you become a parent—you miss out on things you want to do. You probably don’t get a full night’s sleep, trips to the bathroom by yourself, or uninterrupted conversations with other adults, either. Add this to the list. Yes, it can be discouraging, but cheer up! This, too, shall pass! You’re training your child, and it won’t be long before you will be able to sit through the whole service with him being quiet. Trust me, there are plenty of sermons on this side of Wailapalooza for you to enjoy with Junior coloring quietly at your side. You can make it!
One final aspect of this issue: church is not solely about you and your right to bring your children into the worship service (which, as I’ve said, no reasonable person who doesn’t want to get spit up on would dispute) and keep them there whether they distract people or not. I know the vast majority of moms don’t think this way, but for the tiny percentage that do, let me disabuse you of this idea right now.
Your role as a church member is not to demand your rights and have the rest of the congregation bend to them, whether you’re a young mother, a pastor, a deacon, the head of a committee, or just Joe Church Member. That is a narcissistic, selfish, unChristlike attitude. Jesus Himself said,
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45
Your role as a church member is to serve your brothers and sisters in Christ. So is mine. That means, if you’re sitting near me, and I see you struggling with Baby or Junior during the service, I lean over and offer to help (Pleaseletmeholdyourbaby. Pleaseletmeholdyourbaby. Pleaseletmeholdyourbaby. :0) even if I end up missing part of the service. It also means that if your child is keeping the people around you from growing deeper in their walk with Christ because they can’t hear and apply the sermon, or if he’s throwing the pastor off from being able to deliver the sermon, you serve those people by taking your child out until he’s quieted down.
If we all practice what Galatians 5:13 says, and “serve one another in love,” we’ll have a phenomenal, loving, self-sacrificing church environment for Baby and Junior to grow up in. And that will benefit us all as the family of God.
*(NOTE: I want to reassure my friends at my own church who are young mothers that this article was NOT inspired by you! We hardly ever hear a peep out of the babies and children who sit in our worship service because we have some fantastic young parents who are in tune with their children’s and the rest of the congregation’s needs, and they serve us both beautifully. These parents and their children are a joy and a delight, and my hat is off to them!)
I just think this is a fun song :0)