I’m in a great church now, but that was not always the case. I’ve belonged to seven churches since getting saved nearly 19 years ago, including 5 churches since becoming a wife and mom. There’s only been one (my current church) out of those five where I really felt comfortable about using the children’s ministries offered at our church.
Of course, in some circles, it is complete sacrilege to even mention children’s programs at a church in a positive light.
Especially as a newer Christian and a new mom, I always was very determined to do whatever it was that God asked of me, though sometimes (nay, many times!) this lead to me becoming legalistic, hard, and unbending on my pet doctrines.
What Was I Thinking?!?
As a newer mom, reading many books on homeschooling and Christian family life, I first heard teaching about the idea of family worship and having your children with you in the church. This flew in the face of the norm of using a nursery or children’s program. Though my husband was on a “spiritual detour” at the time, rarely coming to church with us, I still took my very young, closely spaced children to church each Sunday. I stopped using the nursery and started insisting on having them in church with me.
Looking back, I’m not sure what I was thinking there. 😉
A pregnant and ill (and hormonally unreasonable) woman with 2-3 little children, no help, in need of refreshing, and I decided to make having my children in church with me into my very own Waterloo.
I read up, both online and in books, somewhat militant articles about the evils of children’s ministry, the benefits of family worship, as well as forums and egroups where moms in a similar situation all went to complain about how anti-family our churches were by suggesting we use the nursery and asking us to take our rambunctious broods out of the sanctuary.
Not Just Entertainment
To be sure, I didn’t want my children’s whole church experience to be all about being entertained instead of instructed. I didn’t want my babies left to scream it out in the nursery, or for my toddlers to hate the church because they missed me. The Bible gave the spiritual instruction of children to their parents and doesn’t mention children’s ministries, therefore I wasn’t going to compromise in this area. The church I was in at the time had a very entertainment-oriented children’s program, and a negative view of children and family life in general, as was the case with most of the churches I’ve been in, which is sad.
However, as I have grown older, and especially getting involved in a great church (the sort of church I wish you all could experience!), I have come to realize the benefits of having a support structure around you, especially during those seasons of new parenthood, or those seasons of walking alone without family or spouse support.
Support is a Good Thing for Moms
Browsing about on forums and egroups, I read posts from weary moms who need some refreshing but who fight against their churches on the issue of children’s ministry (and I remember fighting that battle myself), and looking back at the age of 40 with older children, I think to myself, I wish I would have accepted help from those around me sooner. I wish I had bent a little more on issues that are not directly commanded in the Bible. I wish I had picked my battles more wisely. I needed worship time, I needed refreshing, I needed time with the Lord and time of fellowship to help me and prepare me for the week of living with a husband who was away from God at the time(and I post this with his permission–he’s thankfully back now from his detour) and living with pressures from family members who fought me on my convictions regularly. Not to mention, my children needed the fellowship and instruction that showed them that it’s more than just mom who takes the Bible at its word.
Children’s programs can be good or can be bad. I’ve seen some REALLY BAD ones in my day, but I also have seen, at our church, some outstanding programs, with outstanding teachers who pray for and genuinely care for the children in their classes, and who view their job as working with the parents. It’s one thing to talk issues of walking with Jesus in the modern world with your 13-year-old daughter, but it’s an added benefit to having this reinforced and modeled not only by you, but by other youth workers, Sunday School teachers, and peers.
The Ideal Doesn’t Exist for Most Families
In the Bible days, it would appear that there were several times when a solemn assembly was called, and children were present, together with the adults.
I think that is the ideal–to have all ages integrated, with fathers leading their families and a support structure of the extended family that actually encourages godly living in the younger generations by instruction and example.
This is the ideal, but it isn’t the reality in many homes. The right kind of local church, with godly children’s church and youth workers, can come along side and help us in areas where we lack and reinforce in other areas as well. Let’s not dismiss out of hand something just because it isn’t in the Bible unless it is specifically forbidden.
Every family and every church dynamic are different, but a godly church with Christ-centered children’s ministries can be our greatest asset as moms. We can’t be afraid of letting others come along side as we raise the next generation.