The Parent-Child Listening Room

Today is sunday, the day of rest and worship. We attended Mars Hill this morning and we were a tad late, so we had to sit in the back. Throughout the wonderful worship, WeeMan was content swaying and dancing with me as we sang praise to God. He smiled happily at the folks behind us and reveled in the commotion that is a large church. Fifteen minutes into Rob’s sermon,WeeMan became, well…. fidgety. He squirmed to get down and when placated, played happily on the floor. He periodically looked up at Husband and I and grinned – our answering grins brought squeals of delight to his lips. I was so content with my little family in that moment in God’s presence, until I saw the look shot my way by an older woman sitting across the aisle.

The message was clear… “You are being a disruption!”

Chastised, I picked WeeMan up and we walked to the back of the church where we could exist unobtrusively. As we walked to and fro I caught sight of a tiny room, the equivalent of which you can find in thousands of churches across the nation, the parent-child listening room. This room is designed to offer a space to those families who find themselves in a predicament like mine…being a disruption to the church body.

Huh?

When did we start labeling children as a disruption?

First of all, children are members of our church bodies. They are special and valuable. They deserve the same care and consideration that adults do. Would we sequester our old into special rooms because their walkers squeak and their bodily functions aren’t as controllable as they used to be?  I realize that children can be a disruption to the silent solemn atmosphere that some crave in their worship, but what message are we sending to our young when we do not welcome them, all of them, into the presence of God?

The “parent-child listening room” is today’s gentler version of the “back of the church spanking room” that I grew up with. Yes, today’s parents recognize that we cannot expect our dear little ones to sit completely still and silent throughout a long sermon, and that no amount of corporal punishment can beat into their poor little bodies an ability they have not developed yet. However, the heart of the issue is still the same, children are a disruption.

But are they?

And if they are, is that always bad?

Why were my son’s happy noises so unwelcome in a church service? And what does that say about us? As parents? As Christians?

Why do have so many outlets to get rid of children in our churches today? Children’s church. Sunday school. Nursery. Parent-child listening room. Is it so unthinkable to welcome our children into our services, to worship as one body? Yes, we would have to accept their noises, their giggles, their cries, but perhaps we might gain a little patience, joy, and compassion along the way.

Just a little food for thought I guess.