One of the things our church has sought to do is include the little ones in the service. We treat them as though they belong with us, because they do. We used to have a full-fledged Sunday school or children’s church during the “adult” service way back when, but over the years it has fallen out of use. The parents wanted to keep the children with them rather than send them off to their own service. So we have many little ones of all ages, and they sit with us and participate at their own little level. From all I can tell, they love it. Now I know that some of you belong to communions with a different understanding of these things, and so I am just describing what we do here.
Now of course we have a couple of rooms available for parents (a mothers’ room and a fathers’ room) with piped-in sound, so parents can bail if they need to. Some parents go in and out quite a bit (especially with babies) while the kids are learning how to sit quietly. But we are used to a certain amount of childish noises, and we like it that way. They are a very important part of the covenant community, and we want them to join in with us. They learn to sing with us, they learn to speak with the congregation, to say their “amen” with us, to say the Apostles’ Creed with us, many take the bread and wine with us, and they lift their hands during the Gloria Patri. We are their people, and they belong with us. They are not excluded from any part of the service.
My thirteen grandchildren are only a small fraction of the many children worshiping with us. At the end of the service a bunch of the grandkids go barreling up front to give their grandfather a big hug. Then they charge over to me for the candy. (Okay, so I’m the sugar nana.) Several other children have joined into this little liturgy, so I bring extras. There are many multi-generational families gathered together each week, and we are just beginning to see with our eyes the joy of God’s covenant promises to our children’s children.
It’s quite an undertaking to teach the children to sit quietly through church, and I admire the parents who have patiently labored with their children on this: teaching, training, sometimes practicing at home, correcting, and rewarding. But eventually they get it, because I see two and three-year-olds sitting through the service. It’s like everything else. You teach your children to sit at the table, to say “thank-you” and “please,” to stay in their beds, and a host of other things. It is astounding how they can rise to the occasion, especially if it involves being with their parents.
Jesus told His disciples to let the little ones come to Him, and He blessed them. We are to imitate Him in this as in everything else. So we say, bring them all in. And if the service gets a little rowdy sometimes, then, good for us. Big families are like that.