Pastoral Perspectives

The Cry Room – Who Is It For?

Recently, the pastoral team has noticed that the cry room was crowded not with babies and toddlers but adults. Maybe, we all have lost the purpose of having a cry room in church. The cry room –that soundproof area in the back of most churches where parents are expected to take their children to during service if they are “cry babies”. Cry rooms, which should be for the temporary refuge of parents with “noisy” children, often times are considered to be for the benefit of worshippers who think that only quiet child is a good child. It does a horrible disservice to children.

Maybe most of us have not noticed the sign outside the cry room. Like any rule, if it is not enforced, people will liberally climb all over it. There are adult couples, grand parents and maids sitting among us. Some have no kids while others have older kids. Now, it’s possible that some of them have a legitimate reason for breaking these “rules,” but the majority of them are just either late or choosing the convenience. I notice that there were some parents who have fairly well-behaved children and they felt that putting them in the cry room seem to encourage the very worst behavior in kids. There were some kids running around like crazed honey badgers having the wild of a time.

It has been a constant debate about babies crying during church.  But whose failure is it?  The parents who think the world revolves around their precious bundles?  Or the other adults who feel entitled to peace, quietness and orderliness at all times? Church is a communal experience.  We come together to make a joyful noise for our God.  We come together to encourage each other in faith.  We come together to welcome newcomers into a relationship with God and his people.  And that welcome extends to children.  Our job as a congregation is to welcome children into the life of the church.  This job may fall primarily on parents, but it won’t work if the entire community doesn’t pitch in.

Cry room is not a time-out from parenting.  Parents have the responsibility, and incredible blessing, to lead their children in the life of the church.  This means recognizing that the cry room is not there only for your child’s enjoyment.  They are part of a community, and teaching your children to respect that community is important work. Similarly church is not an adults-only resort.  Yes, some parents need to do a better parenting job at church, but your hostile eye-rolling is not helping.  Neither is your attitude that it’s not a problem for you to solve.  How much support do the mothers get from you, especially mothers of colicky babies or kids with special needs?  Has our church gone out of its way to make everyone feel welcome but little to make children feel the same?  If you can’t sing while a baby cries or an autistic child bumps into you while he tries to get comfortable, might you not be the one who needs to adjust a few things?

Children need to learn that worship is more than Sunday. If you don’t learn to worship the rest of your week, the worship on Sunday will not make up for it. Sunday worship is the culmination of worship, not the extent of it. Therefore, family worship is crucial for the preparation of your children. It teaches your children the habits and discipline of worship. It teaches your children that worship is all of life.

John Piper says, “The greatest stumbling block for children in worship is that their parents do not cherish the hour. Children can feel the difference between duty and delight. Therefore, the first and most important job of a parent is to fall in love with the worship of God. You can’t impart what you don’t possess.”  I’ve always remind worshippers that “I love the sound of a crying baby in church; it’s the sound of life.”

Robbie Castleman in “Parenting in the Pews” writes, “Parenting in the pew can help children and parents to pay attention to what is really important. Learning to pay attention to my children has helped me pay attention to my heavenly Father in worship… [It] is one way to pay attention to the truly important and life changing moments of life. Parenting in the pew keeps you focused on the significance of the moment, so it is not lost in the distractions of the day.”

For parents, what you can do during the service:

  • Sit, stand, and close eyes with the rest of the congregation.
  • Sit up straight and still – no lounging, fidgeting, crawling.
  • Keep papers as quiet as possible.
  • Stay awake.
  • Look towards the front. No people-gazing or clock-watching.
  • If you can read, read and sing along with the words. Read along the Scripture passages.

It will help your child to have the same version of the Bible as is used in our church, which is the English Standard Version (ESV).

For those of us who do not have children:

  • Remember the commitment you made as a church when children were baptized, a commitment to encourage them to become disciple of Christ.
  • Introduce yourself to the child sitting beside you.  Make him or her feel welcome and important.
  • On some occasion, ask a parent if you could invite one of their children to sit with you during the service.
  • Understand when parents need to take young children and babies to the nursery or the rest room and then return to worship.
  • Have patience with the learning process, and pray for families that you see are struggling.
  • Compliment children who listen attentively during the service.

My challenge to parents in teaching your child to worship is to worship together with them. We should do this before they begin their next phase of spiritual journey in the U12. To those who do not have children please be more tolerant and extend grace to these parents. Let’s not forget that the cry room, including the last pew in the Sanctuary, is RESERVED for them. It is not a “refuge” for those late for worship nor is it a place for social conversation. Observe strictly the rules posted outside the Cry Room:

  • Total of 1 adult per baby
  • Worship in reverence and silence
  • Preschoolers 3 years and below
  • Cooperation appreciated