Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Cry rooms, Nurseries, and Children's Church. . .
Large, comfortable cry rooms where children can go to continue to behave badly, nurseries designed to remove children from church and relieve their parents of their responsibilities to raise their children in the faith or one of the so-called children's "churches" are not appropriate substitutes for sitting with mom and dad in the pews. They are not only dangerous for the children and their parents, they are dangerous to the congregation. First of all, the problem of those children creating a disturbance hasn’t actually been solved by a cry room or a nursery, it has merely been moved to another place (out of sight and out of mind for the rest of the people in worship). While this is often necessary for a brief period, it is never a good thing Sunday after Sunday. Children need to learn that not only do they have a place on Sunday morning, they have a responsibility as part of the congregation as well as to the congregation gathered in worship.
Children are already segregated away from the general populace. Now, more than at any other time in history, children are seen as intruders into the adult world. We have little patience with the children and we have even less with their parents. This is not a good thing. It is surely a requirement of entertainment worship in which the people are spectators or an audience while others perform but it is not a requirement of liturgy. In fact, by removing our children regularly from the worship space, we are teaching them that they do not belong there, they do not need to learn the behavior appropriate to the arena of worship, and they do not need to learn the liturgy itself (learned best by participating). The Church does nothing good for moms, dads, and kids by encouraging their infants and toddlers to be absent from the congregation in the most important time we spend together.
Congregations dominated by older people or by adults without children are lonely places and it is not in keeping with the faith or the liturgy to segregate by age or marital status or preference. Just the opposite, it is the place where all of these come together and we are served by the Lord with His gifts for all. Sunday morning is the most integrated place of the Church -- all ages, races, singles, families, etc., as one people before the Lord, receiving His gifts, and responding with praise and thanksgiving.
I can understand why some kinds of churches prefer to eliminate children from worship but I cannot for the life of me understand why this would be appealing to Lutherans. While there may be a few who cannot keep their eyes off a squirming child or stop themselves from condemning the faults and failings of their parents, the nature of liturgical worship is to integrate those children into the common life flowing from font to pulpit and altar. To adults who complain, grow up and train yourself to focus on the Word of the Lord and the liturgy. To families who feel conspicuous with their occasionally fussy or squirming or noisy children, calm down and be patient. They are just kids being kids. They will learn. And to congregations planing for worship and planing for buildings, don't segregate the kids from the rest of us because it sends a bad message to the kids and it gives us a distorted message about what worship is.