Our Children Need Congregation Families

family quote

Right up front, here’s my message:
Parents: Take your kiddos to church. It’s worth it. Really.
Congregations: Love ’em up!  Love ’em up!  Love ’em up!

Many young adult parents opt out of taking their children to church. I totally get that.

Dressing a wiggly toddler, loading up the diaper bag, and hauling everyone out the door and into car seats is just the beginning of the effort. Then Sunday worship begins, and the chase is on. Rather than reflecting on worshipful thoughts like “Where do I hear God calling me today?”, parents ponder deeper questions like “How long will this toddler stay still before launching her bag of Cheerios and escaping under the pew?” or “Will elder Brown be offended if I secretly nurse this infant in my pew so I don’t have to leave?”. Often parents spend Sunday morning alone in the nursery, playing the same children’s games they would at home. Afterward it’s a rush through lunch to get home by nap time. And when it’s all said and done, attending Sunday worship has taken up 25% of precious weekend family time.

Congregational life can be complicated. But, at the heart, the purpose is simple: Disciples of Jesus pull together to connect with God. They lovingly uphold one another in their life, faith, and mission.  Similarly, participating in a congregation can be difficult. In truth, fully participating in a Community of Christ congregation just takes extra effort. I’m sometimes discouraged when my congregation doesn’t live up to my expectations and needs for ministry. But, at the heart, I believe my little congregation is being what we are called to be: It’s a loving family of believers who faithfully care for one another and our community. It’s not always fancy or professional, but it’s real.

One of the most Christ-like qualities I witness in my congreation is how they love the little children among us. We don’t have a lot of kids. We don’t even have many programs for kids. But the few small children we do have are loved, loved, loved! As for my two year old daughter. Allison, there’s no doubt in her mind that she is truly cherished and safe in her caring church family. She’s greeted by name, hugged, and looked after when she’s with them. She can tell she’s someone special in the community. At home she calls adult congregants her friends and asks about them by name throughout the week.

Where else could my daughter experience a community quite like this?
Erica and Allison Sept 2013This type of loving community shows kids that the world can be a safe place where they can be loved for who they are.
It surrounds them with models for healthy relationships. It’s a hands-on laboratory in forgiveness, equality, diversity, generosity, and responsibility.
It’s a forum to see first-hand how a real-life God works in ordinary people’s lives.
And it’s a smorgasbord of hugs and attention!

I take my daughter to the swimming pool each week. It’s a hassle. Packing up clothes and swim diapers. Wriggling swimsuits on and off. Slippery tantrums in the family locker room. But I make the effort because it’s important to me that my kiddo learns to swim and be comfortable in the water. And it’s a little chance for us to grow closer together in trust. All parents make that sort of effort for their children.

How much more valuable is it for a child to be a beloved member of a multigenerational community that strives to serve together in love?

Parents:  Take your kiddos to church. It’s worth it. Really.
Congregations:  Love ’em up!  Love ’em up!  Love ’em up!

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