Saturday, August 22, 2015
Whispers in the Nave. . .
One of the worst things a parent can do is let a boisterous child or a fussy toddler be the excuse for not attending the Divine Service. Children need to be in the Lord's House with their parents. Sadly, some adults are just like Jesus' own disciples -- they hinder the children. They stare at every noise, shake their head in disgust, and make the parents even more uncomfortable. Jesus welcomed the children and those who love Jesus will take their lead from Him and welcome children to the worship service.
Author Mary J. Moerbe with pictures by Martha Aviles have created a resource for such children and parents. Entitled Whisper, Whisper, the book treats children in the Divine Service as a teaching moment. In other words, the children need more than our attention to keep them occupied. They need to be taught so that they can participate as they are able. Children learn by repetition and nothing helps more than a form or liturgy, repeated weekly. Help them mirror the participation of adults and treat them as they are also part of what is happening. This is the advice of Mary Moerbe.
In a delightful little book, we find little boxes outlining the teaching moment that is the subject of that page. The pictures are well done and the lessons outline the liturgy for little ears. The author makes things simple and plain for the children to understand without succumbing to the temptation to dumb down the service. A rhyming text helps reinforce to the child's memory the words and lessons. At the end are In Sanctuary Tips that summarize what has been said all along so that parents can learn how to guide their children in worship just as the children are learning to worship.
If you are a parent of a child from birth to age 4-5, don't be intimidated by the thought of a child acting up in worship. Your children take their cues from you. If you act like this is normal and natural they will learn the routine, be part of the liturgy, and do it naturally. Use a book like this or quiet bags like our congregation provides with books such as this, paper, crayons, and other resources to direct their attention back into the service. Sit near the front so your child has something more to see than the rear ends of the folks in front of them (not all that interesting). And don;t forget to pray for them and with them! If this is not what Proverbs means when it says train up a child in the way he should go, then I don't know what it means! Hang in there. Take a deep breath. You can do it.
If you are a frustrated adult who finds children distracting, cut the family a little slack. You are the adult. Be the adult. Demonstrate your attention on the Word and Sacrament and not on a child's misbehavior. Don't put even more pressure on the parents but try to alleviate the fears of a busy child in the arms of a nervous mom or dad. Model the best attention and behavior. It does work. We had a grandmother who first brought her grandson a couple of years ago. He was rambunctious and grandma was often at her wits end. She was nervous enough to end the experiment right then and there. Guess what, her grandson learned and he grew up in the liturgy -- literally! Her fellow pewsitters and her pastor insisted she should not give up and she did not -- and we are all the better for it!