The Gift of Children in Church

The Gift of Children in Church

As I’ve been getting to know everyone and talking with you all about WUUC, one topic has come up from many different people in various ways; children’s participation in Sunday services.  I think the most important thing to remember is that the presence of children in our church is a gift.  They are a reminder that our congregation is growing, and children are the future of our church. It can be a challenge to integrate children into our services when we aren’t used to it.  If you need some ideas on what you can do, there are yellow cards in the foyer of the church with suggestions for interacting with children in our sanctuary.  A few items from these cards include:

For Adults:

  • Be patient with noises and movement.
  • Welcome children and give a smile of encouragement to their parents.
  • Know where the activity materials are and feel free to offer them to children

For the Parents of Young Children:

  • Relax! Mother Nature put the wiggle in children; don’t feel you have to suppress it in our church.  All are welcome!
  • Sit toward the front where it is easier for your little ones to see and hear what is going on.  They tire of seeing the backs of others’ heads.
  • Sing the hymns, pray and voice the responses.  Children learn liturgical behavior by copying you.

Note that during our monthly multigenerational services, we offer an activity table at the front of the sanctuary.  We are grateful for our Spirit Play teachers for providing activities and sitting with the children at the table. However, if a child needs to leave the sanctuary to go to the restroom, or if they are having difficulty regulating their behavior or emotions at the activity table, they will be sent back to their parents for assistance.   If you have to leave the sanctuary with your child, please feel free to do so.  But if you can, please come back. We believe children belong in holy spaces.

Keep in mind that the way we welcome and interact with children directly affects the way they respond to church, to the divine and to one another.  In my short time here, I have been impressed with how WUUC includes children in all aspects of congregational life, and I look forward to continuing this work with you.

Just Peace

PeaceAs I prepare to talk about peace and hospitality with the children this week, I am taking time to reflect on our relationship with peace in this country. It is a puzzle with difficult pieces to sort. Our sense of justice calls us to act on behalf of oppressed people or nations and sometimes that leads our country to war, where we inevitably create more suffering amid the violence that ensues. Some wars are merely waged for political gain or for self-interest, some are ages long tribal conflicts that have more layers than we understand. Often times the “battle cry” is for creating a stable, peaceful regime. No matter the reason, both sides suffer loss and experience pain.

We have a culture that glorifies violence in so many ways–in entertainment, sports, playtime pursuits.  As adults we often shelter our children from the images and words that are plastered across our TVs and computers – images of suffering, rage and devastation. Many people think they should not be exposed to this reality. Yet, so many children are already aware of hostility and hatred and see how it presents itself in their own lives — physical bullying, hurtful words, shunning.  I’m not saying we want them to be inundated with images of war, but wouldn’t it be better to engage our children in honest conversations about what a culture of violence does to our hearts as we grow up? To explain to them that we can inflict violence on ourselves through destructive thoughts just as easily as we can lash out at others. That when we use violence to solve problems, nobody wins in the long run.

Our children have such full and loving hearts. Hearts that are easily bruised and need exercising in compassion to grow resilient. If we want our children to inherit a world at peace where they can live open and authentic lives, we need to teach them and model for them the peaceful way to exist. Children perceive injustice in the world and want to make things right. They are watching how we approach issues of injustice and taking notes. They take note of how we treat others, both those we know and those we have just met. We can teach a loving child to speak from the heart when they are angry or hurt. We can model how to welcome the “stranger” in our midst. We can practice compassionate communication with everyone we encounter, even when we are angry or we are the target of someone else’s anger, even when we are afraid or the target of someone else’s fear. Is it easy? I struggle with it every day, but it is a spiritual practice we need if we want to have peace.