While visiting Facebook recently, it is not difficult to know that many of my friends and church members are enjoying their joys of parenthood with all their postings of photographs of their children. These pictures tell us blissful stories of blessings and joy of a family which they would like to share with those who knows them. These pictures also bring much joy and warmth to those who know them, especially their grandparents. However these pictures also reminded me of my own experience of having young children. And I know behind those beautiful pictures were hard-pressed parents trying to cope with taking care of the needs of their young children while carrying on with daily chores and routines. With our modern cum busy lifestyle and high expectation of living, it is not easy to be parents of a young child. Many went through stressful few months when the baby arrived and some even years later. And a lot of them need the support from family members, friends and church members.
As a church, I believe we need to be gracious to parents with young children. When I was still a single, I remember attending a church and after the church service, a church leader came to talk to me while I was seating at the pew. As we were walking out of the sanctuary, he noticed some parents with young children. He leaned over to me and whispered to me that parents with young children should not be in the sanctuary as their children would disturb the church service. I just kept silent not knowing how to respond.
You might be wondering why I would begin my perspective with such a story. I believe there is an underlying sentiment, held by some members of the church that children, from infant to kindergarten, should not be in the church service because the young children will disturb the service. And sometimes, I wonder if this is the reason why some parents stop coming to church knowing that at some point in time, all infants and young children can be unpredictable, disruptive, and distracting. Parents tend to stay away from those places where owners and leaders expect young children to be well-behaved. The first question we have to ask ourselves honestly is whether or not our church is one of such places. If the answer is yes, then any initial success we achieved in reaching out to young families will eventually result in a dead end.
How we can support parents with young children? Apart from carrying the baby away from their parents, whom many baby lovers like to do, I would think that one of the best ways to support them is to welcome them into our services. Sure, the infants and young children can be unpredictable, disruptive, and distracting at times but I haven’t seen any parent who would let their child cry through the entire service. All of them and if not most of them would push their pram or bring their children out when their children were out of control. In working towards a welcoming church to young parents and apart from the cry room, the last row of the pews on both sides of the isles is designated for parents with infant and young children. However I am disheartened to see many congregation members who were late and disregardd the sign “For parents with infants”, sat there because they were too embarrassed to be seen. I hope this perspective will act as a reminder to all of us that we should refrain from siting on those pews because those seats are reserved for parent with infants.
Out of courtesy most parents with young parent will choose to sit on the last few rows of the pews just in case they need to leave the sanctuary with their children without disturbing the rest of the congregation. However because of this, some noises from the last few rows are unavoidable. So for worshippers who like serenity during service, please avoid seating in the last few rows of the pews. I would suggest the first few rows as you will hardly notice any noise from the rear. And for worshippers who prefer to sit in the last few rows, please be considerate and give the young parents a break by not staring at them as if that they had commit a crime when their children make some noise. I had noticed a worshipper putting her finger on her lips and signalling to the parent and child to keep quiet because the child was asking about a new word he found on the power point screen. I believe that is the worst gesture you can give to parents.
I must admit that there are times when we are curious to know what the children are doing. We can do so without putting the parents and children in an uncomfortable position when we remember to put on a smile as we observe them. We can do lots of thing to support parents with young children and one of the best ways is to welcome parents with young children and allowing them to worship God with the rest of us. With this, I believe they too will enjoy being part of the church. Don’t forget, it is our Lord Jesus who said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14.
Preacher Alvin Lim
October 28, 2012