Monday, October 31, 2005

Fit for Service

I have been on the subject of church lately. Specifically homeschoolers and their involvement in the local church. This discussion is still ongoing. Make sure you read the comments.

One issue that seems to come up frequently is allowing children to stay for the Sunday worhsip service. A few people have wondered what to do about children on Sunday morning. To help answer those questions I thought I'd invite veteran homeschool mom of 6 and fellow blogger, Karen Braun in to help answer some of these questions..

Spunky: Do you keep your all children in the Sunday Service?
Karen: Yes

Spunky: Have you always done this?
Karen: Yes

Spunky: Why?
Karen: I became a Christian while in college. The first church I attended had the practice. The pastor's wife explained to me that the children need to see their parents worship the Lord. They believed that it was an important part of building a strong family. I grew up Catholic and this was always the practice for my family so it made sense. Interestingly, when we we visited The Old North Church in Boston, they had family pews. (Paul Revere's family rented #54) Each family sat together during the Sunday service. So it appears that having children in the service is not an original idea. Another church even had each family pew in a square with a half door for entry.

Spunky: What do you do with the baby?
Karen: Well, I had five children in 7 years. So it seemed like I always had a baby in the service. We worked at home to train the children to listen during the church service. We held mini-church services so that they would learn to sit quietly. (Complete with pot and pan worship!) We have a family bible time and that helps tremendously for training. You can also stroller train the baby. I have done this with a few squirmers. They learned to sit quiet in the stroller and eventually would fall asleep. This required a little bit of work at home obviously but it made Sunday morning a more pleasant experience. If the baby was real fussy we would leave and calm him down. We haven't attended church much in the past year because of our church situation so we are just now training Elaina (our 2 year old) to sit in the service.

Spunky: Don't others get irritated?
Karen: Well, like I said, our first church practiced family worship. They didn't mind and we all just learned to listen above the background noise. Eventually, they did move to a children's church but they were still okay with parents who wanted their children in the service. A few newer families didn't understand but because the church as a whole was supportive it wasn't a major issue. At another larger church that we attended, we sat in the balcony so we wouldn't be a distraction. Most of the families were very understanding. After a while, a few other families began to bring their children into the service and the balcony became sort of the spot to sit for family worship. Interestingly, the elderly at the church were the most encouraging. They would always come up to us and tell us how much they wished they had worshipped with their children on Sunday morning. Now that they are older they felt like they missed out on a real beneficial time for relationship building and spiritual growth. And as Deputy Headmistress said, for many it's a time to practice Christian charity. But I must do the same and respect their desire to hear the sermon. So we worked diligently to teach our children to listen attentively during the service.

Spunky: Did you bring food or things for them to do?
Karen: We let them bring a tablet and something to write with and their bibles. My son would often draw the sermon. He came up with some great illustrations for the teaching. For the youngest, we did bring a little bag of cheerios if necessary. But we didn't make feeding during the service a priority. My two year old does drink milk from a cup and we'll let her have that.

Spunky: What do you during small groups or home fellowships?
Karen: We have done a variety of things. For the most part we encouraged the children to stay in with us. Atleast for the worship and prayer time. We encourage them to participate and pray as they feel led. We don't make them pray. We have also used some of the older children to watch the younger ones during the bible study portion. Each parent does what they feel most comfortable with. Now that our children are older they stay with us the whole time. For the last few years, we have not been part of a family bible study because of our difficult church situation. We have just recently started attending one again. They are not used to children in the study time but they have not objected. We are the only family that has our children with us. But since we are new we'll see how it goes.

Spunky: What do you do during Sunday school?
Karen: During our twenty years of marriage we have only attended three churches. Two did not have Sunday school. The one that did, we particpated in an adult class for a very short time. We didn't stay at that church for very long. The older children participated in choir and the younger ones came with us. The church we are currently visiting has an excellent bible teacher so the children are staying for our Sunday school. He is going through Old Testament history and the quality of the teaching is excellent for all of us.

Spunky: Would you ever attend a church that would not let your children stay with you?
Karen: There are a few churches that have a no children policy during Sunday worship. We would not consider attending there. They are fine churches but we wouldn't want to make our conviction a distraction for other believers so it is just better not to go there. One of the churches also makes youth group participation mandatory and that would not be a good fit either.

Spunky: Any final thoughts?
Karen: All in all, I like the way my husband put it when a nursery worker asked him when we were going to let them take care of our children. He said, "I'm not going to spend the first 18 years of my children's lives keeping them out of the service. And praying for the next 18 that they'll come back in. I'm going to let them know they are always welcome to worship with their mom and dad." I think that about sums up how we feel about the whole issue.

If you have any thoughts or questions for Karen, please feel free to ask. Karen has graciously agreed to answer all follow-up questions.

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