Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church - Marshfield, WI

I See You (Children in Church)

I see you
By Pastor Andrew Belt

To all my fellow Dad’s and Mom’s with little ones out there in the pew.

I see you.

“Of course you do…” You might think, “So does everyone else.”

All it takes is one shriek, one random outburst, a single cry, giggle, or wail, to make you think: “Everyone sees us…”  Even if no one is looking at you, you probably feel the eyes.

I am a Dad myself.  In fact, I was a Father before I was a Pastor, before any of you knew me.  So, back when the boys were infants and even as they learned to crawl and walk, I sat in those pews just as you do now.  I remember the feeling that you feel now whenever your child makes a noise.

But know this: I see you not because your child makes noise, but because Jesus sees you.

The Disciples in the familiar story recorded in Matthew 19:13-15, Mark 10:13-16, and Luke 18:15-17 are thinking they are doing Jesus a favor when they rebuke the parents who are bringing infants to Jesus.

We are told that Jesus is surrounded by crowds.  He is teaching, he is healing, he is a busy man.  These infants bring nothing to the table, they can’t benefit from Jesus Christ’s teachings and they don’t appear to be sick.  So perhaps the disciples think Jesus can use his time more wisely!  Good stewardship after all!  Jesus has bigger fish to fry.  Besides, their crying would disrupt what Jesus is doing, and the crowds have to be able to hear Jesus!

But Jesus sees.  And the disciple’s rebuke of the infants and toddlers makes Jesus angry.  In turn, he rebukes his disciples for their words and actions.  “Let the little children come to me; do no hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.  Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child (an infant!) shall not enter it.”

Ultimately, children, infants, and toddlers are the greatest disciples.  As the disciples are arguing over who is the greatest in Matthew 18, Jesus humbles them by placing a child in the midst as the answer to their question.

Children are the greatest disciples in the church, because they emulate everything Jesus wants in a disciple: a person who needs everything done for them.   Children are a reminder to all of us, of what being a disciple really is: someone who needs and receives everything from Jesus.

When our congregation sees you bringing your kids, we see parents who know that it is important that their children are here.  Children need to receive from Jesus as well.  The rest of us need to remember that.

“But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ they were indignant, and said to him, ‘Do you hear what these are saying?’  And Jesus said to them, ‘Yes; have you never read: Out of the mouth of infants and babes you have prepared praise?’” Matthew 21:16

We are so pleased to see you and your infants, toddlers, and children in this sanctuary.  This building was made for them, their cries, their voices, and even their praise.  We need them here and they need us here.  We need to hear and see you!

So parents, and also fellow members of the congregation, here are some tips that I want all of us to take seriously!

  • Sit toward the front with your children, infants and toddlers.  We adults have big heads and backs that make better doors than windows.  We have a beautiful sanctuary building.  Make sure your kids can see it! 

  • As you sit toward the front, you can ask your children what they see.  Ask them what colors they see, what shapes can they make out.  Take out the Bibles and hymnals and show them the art and the designs.  Ask them to point stuff out.  Ask them where Pastor is at, ask them what Pastor is doing, what he is wearing, etc. 

  • Sing as loud as you can!  Parents, especially fathers are the number one reason why children stay in church and by singing you show kids how important this is! 

  • If you have to leave the service with your child, feel free to do so, but please come back!  We do have a nursery with a crib, changing table and some space to allow for whatever needs you have.  The nursery is equipped with our sound system, so you can still hear!

  • Remember this as well: Communicate to your child that leaving church in behavioral situations should be seen as a punishment and not as a reward, otherwise children will outburst because they know it will turn into a chance to play in the nursery! 

Members of the Congregation:
  • We were all a child at one point, remember the wiggle you had in you, I am sure some of you still do 😊. 

  • Parents have it tough these days, any sort of discipline is seen with intense scrutiny, sometimes parents feel like they can’t do anything because someone will judge them for it.  Aid parents as you can. 

  • Ushers, elders, people in the pews, if you see a parent in distress, come to their aid.  It will make Jesus smile and bridge the gap that exists between members. 

  • Maybe sit next to families and hold the bulletin for them as you worship with them.  Grandparents, I know many of your grandchildren live far away, adopt a family here! 

  • Smile at the children, wave, make funny faces, and let kids know that you love them here.  Tell parents how much you love seeing them with their children. 

  • Remember, the presence of children is a gift to the church and their screams happen because they are growing in the faith just as much as you. 

  • Remember that the way we welcome children and families will directly affect how they view the Church, God, and each other.  Put no stumbling block in the way!