Church of the Apostles is a community that celebrates children. We do not have “special services,” because we want children to be active members of our community of faith where they are able to belong before they believe.
Throughout the Old Testament, we see God teaching the Israelites how to worship – in fact He designed worship. We believe that “the family is the primary community in the faith journey of the child” (Catechesis of the Good Shepherd) and that children will learn more from their parents on their journeys of faith than from anyone else. Being with their parents in the pews, therefore, becomes an invaluable time of spiritual formation – a time for worship to be taught, modeled and developed.
In their book Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony, Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon discuss the role of children in the Kingdom of God:
In many of our modern, sophisticated congregations, children are often viewed as distractions. We tolerate children only to the extent they promise to become “adults” like us. Adult members sometimes complain that they cannot pay attention to the sermon, they cannot listen to the beautiful music, when fidgety children are beside them in the pews…Interestingly, Jesus put a child in the center of his disciples, ‘in the midst of them’ in order to help them pay attention.
Young children often ask questions during or after church that indicate that they were picking up pieces of the readings or liturgy, even at times you thought they weren’t paying attention.
Even though it could feel counter-intuitive to parents, it might help your young children to sit close to the front of the church so they can see what’s happening in the service. The Anglican liturgy has a lot of moving parts, and it often captures the attention and imagination of young children.
If your child becomes bored or restless during a service, it could help to discuss what’s happening in the liturgy, or draw pictures of the readings or stories from the sermon to give your children something to focus on. If at any point in the service your children need to stretch their legs or run off some energy, feel free to do so and come back when you’re ready.
Nursing mothers are welcome to feed their babies in the Sanctuary. If your baby nurses more comfortably without distraction, feel free to come and go as you and your baby need.
Please be at peace about your children’s behavior in church. If you have to step out because your child is having a tantrum, you won’t be the first parent to do so and you won’t be the last. Try to set your heart on being with your children before the Lord, and not before the congregation (based on the concepts of Robbie Castleman, Parenting in the Pew).
Finally, remember that infants, toddlers, and children can minister to the rest of us, sometimes without your knowledge. Your baby might smile at a widow who came to church feeling lonely; your toddler might give a laugh to someone struggling with depression; and your child’s questions could captivate the heart of an adult on his or her own faith journey. This is the beauty of multi-generational worship – we are able to minister to each other and see the Kingdom of God reflected in our pews.