Saturday, July 26, 2008

Children in Church

Rebekah at CSPP has some great advice for parents, pastors, ushers, and others for making it easier for parents to bring their younger children to church.

I particularly like the giving temporary shut-in status to new mothers. With the exception of the child's baptism, the Orthodox still do that for their mothers, and many other religions have regulations that free them from having to perform daily rituals during the first several weeks after having a baby. In the United States, our mothers think they should be back on their feet and in full gear when they get home from the hospital. As a lactation consultant, a mother, and someone with a degree in psychology and child development -- this is very harmful to their well-being. They should be getting to know their baby, learning to breastfeed (because it is a learning process for both mother AND child, even if it isn't the first) and adjusting to life with a new little one.


Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

You scare me. Don't get into a poker game with me, because I'll go broke. :)

Susan said...

If the mother can't get to church, it seems obvious that the pastor should be attending to her care. But for some reason, the idea of suggesting that mothers be given shut-in status, well, it almost makes it seem like going to church is a duty they should be relieved of for a while. Nobody tells us not to eat or breathe or get hugs from hubby after the baby is born. These are pleasant necessities. And so is going to church. If for health reasons a mother cannot go, then okay. But do we want to suggest that mothers cut back on activities ... and have church be an "activity" that is expendable?

Jenn said...

We were living in Korea when ds2 was born. He was born on Tuesday, baptized that Sunday. The Koreans were shocked (like it was all they could talk about for about 2 months!) that either of us were out in public before he was 6 weeks old. When ds3 was born except for church on Sunday we pretty much went nowhere until he was about 3 months b/c I didn't want to travel (trying it the Korean way). I even got Dh to shop for me. I would think that of course, the pastor should attend to the mother's care but... all to often it doesn't happen. There were plenty of times when a kid was sick and my dh was deployed and the pastor didn't even notice we weren't in church (heck, that happened last week and we were just trying out a different confessional church we'd heard about). This is my argument for smaller congregations. It is very hard to shepherd a flock of hundreds. As to Susan's comment - I'd say that categorizing church as an activity to cut back on is dangerous for sure. My philosophy has been for quite some time that in cutting back church is as essential as breathing and cutting back should be on everything else - now cutting back on "activites" at church can certainly happen!
Those little babies do benefit from being home with mommy and family for the first 6-8 weeks!
Done rambling - my brain is fried, no direct connections anymore! :(
In Christ
Jenn at Bull Run

Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

Susan, I'm sure you've read my comments on it as well.

I read that suggestion not as telling the parents that they don't have to go to church, but as the pastor taking extra care for those families that may not make it to church for reasons as prescribed by their doctor -- preemie babies going home, for example.

Pastoral care should be a given? Yes, it should! But it wasn't in my family's case.

This is kind of like the snow day argument...the pastor may actually have to tell his congregation not to risk lives and limbs if the weather is THAT bad, but he's not pushing anyone away.

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

If the mother feels up to going to church, then yes, I would hope it is the first activity that she would want to return to.

In one sense, no it is not an activity -- in the most important one. We go there to be fed by Christ through Word and Sacrament. What happens there is not our doing. We are being fed.

But for a mother recovering from childbirth, coping with this very day, let alone going to a building with so many other people, not sure of how the baby will react, how they will feed the baby, how to handle all of the new paraphernalia, etc. Is very overwhelming.

I think it is much more loving, should they desire it, to take that time, make sure the pastor takes her and her family through confession and absolution, gives her the Sacrament, brings her the service to hear, and maybe she and her husband go through Matins or Vespers or the daily prayers together, and the husband reads Scripture to her and the baby, and the rest of the family as well.

I honestly can't isolate my experience in this case from being a pastor's wife. When I had my kids in the pew with me, I was alone. Leaving one child in order to walk the crying baby or deal with the temperamental toddler was almost more than I could handle. Actually, often it was.

I talk with other mothers, though, who are completely overwhelmed by their new babies, and the activity that surrounds what is REALLY happening at church is completely overwhelming to them as well. Especially if they have younger children as well.

We have to judge what we are capable of doing, and help young mothers be able to hear God's Word and receive His forgiveness in a way that they can be most blessed by it. It is only a few weeks. If they want to come to church, great. But there are often situations in those early days where because of the care the baby needs, the blasting of the organ, etc., that the mother does not hear God's forgiveness proclaimed, does not hear the Word being preached, is not able to go to the table because she is nursing, changing diapers, walking the baby up and down the halls.

Her body just went through a big ordeal. If that is what the experience is going to be like, then let her be ministered to at home where she can truly hear and be fed.

After all, that was what was expected in the Old Testament, and that is what was granted to Mary as she cared for Jesus in the first days.

Susan said...

>>Pastoral care should be a given? Yes, it should! But it wasn't in my family's case.

Oh, Dan. That's sad. And Jenn's situation too. I agree with her that it's good when churches are small enough that the pastor knows what's going on with the people.

I guess my husband has just seen way too many situations where the mother and baby don't come to church because "too much activity" is bad for the new mother and the baby. But they can go to the doctor and the grocery store. They can get the other children to school, and take care of the school activities. And the sports. And entertain extended family who want to meet the baby. Etc etc. Church is not the priority.

Gary has also had "shut-ins" that he needed to visit who were out and about town for everything under the sun, except church. They preferred that the pastors visit them at home, until the senior pastor finally decided "no more." Gary also had kids who were unable to make it to confirmation class -- for valid reasons. When he went to the house to do a make-up class, the parents decided that was much more convenient for them, and pastor should always come to them rather than their going to church for class or meetings or whatever. So I guess he's had a lot of "cater to me!" demands.

But I certainly understand what Dan means when he says there are people with special needs after the baby is born, and they should not be left unministered to. And this is also the reason there is a "churching of the mother" rite in LSB (something that was brought back from pre-TLH days).

Thursday's Child said...

Those suggestions are wonderful. I was blessed when the twins were born to be in a church where my whole family attended. So even though DH was overseas, I still had plenty of extra hands to help. When we moved over here church got left by the wayside because there's no assistance at all for parents with young children in church. They almost look at you like "why did you bring them so young?" {sigh}

At least in Kuwait the church we attend is much more kid-friendly.

elephantschild said...

I stumbled across the churching of women rite while following Anglican buzz on the web, and when I *finally* got my grubby hands on a copy of the Pastoral Care Companion I was thrilled that a version of it is in there.

On a tangent... has anyone noticed you never see pregnant women in church? They seem to stay home for the entire time they're "showing."

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

Actually, we don't have that problem at all. We usually have at least one or two "preggies" walking about. Earlier this year, there were about five of them. Three of them delivered in the same week.

elephantschild said...

Maybe it's a regional thing, being preggos in church.

Or, maybe we've got more out-of-wedlocks who aren't thrilled about showing off the evidence, as it were, of their indiscretion.

Barb the Evil Genius said...

The pediatrician I had when my two daughters were born recommended keeping them at home for the first six to eight weeks, to keep them from getting sick. He was a devout Lutheran, although ELCA, so I don't think he underestimated the importance of church, just as a doctor had concerns about the health of his patients. Of course, both of mine were also born in the winter. We did not take our girls to anything but pediatrician's appointments. We did go out some, but stayed in the car and away from other people. My unmarried sister with no children was mad that we would not let her hold our second child in the day or so after birth because she had a cold. Hey, *I* had a cold while giving birth to my eldest, and my doctor suggested I cover my face while holding her. I also had painful deliveries: first one I had a very bad tear, second one was a C-section. Maybe it wasn't correct, but we trusted that our doctor was recommending what his experience showed was best.

Karla Akins said...

Hi! I'm a rural pastor's wife in Indiana, too! And I ride a motorcycle. Do you? Come visit me sometime:

I also have a tumblr blog at -- I'm just beginning that one and am trying to put some resources together for pastor's wives.

Where in Indiana are you? I'm in the NE part.

Hugs to you, sister!!

Karla Akins said...

Okay, now I need to comment on this blog post because it has my ire up in regard to the linked post about children in church.

I agree with you, Moms of wee ones should be allowed to be at home with their babies. In fact, I believe God agrees with you if it's too difficult and stressful for her to have to cope with interacting with people early in her baby's life. I know it was for me, but as a pastor's wife, i was expected to be back on my feet fast and move forward fast. I was too young then to understand that I didn't have to please everyone. I was a nervous wreck as a new Mom. I didn't have a good Mom, so I was clueless on what to do. And I wasn't helped in the church we were in -- I was judged.

I also take issue with children not being allowed to make noise in church. Jesus said to let the little children come.

I have twin sons with autism. Thankfully, the church we have pastored for the past 9 years has allowed them to be who they are. If not, it would have been very difficult for my family to attend church.

I am just so thankful when people come to church and want to have their children in church. I would never dream of asking a Mom to leave the sanctuary because her baby cried or fussed or made a little bit of noise.

No wonder churches don't grow. Young people are the future of the church. We need to nurture them, not ostracize them.

Families need to be able to worship together. There should be an attitude of family togetherness in a church instead of snubbery. (Is snubbery a word? LOL.)

Yep, this one struck a raw nerve with me! I love children, and I believe Jesus does, too. And while I realize that oldsters loose patience with little ones because they aren't used to them, it doesn't make it okay for them to reject them. A child's soul is just as big and important as an adult's soul.

Children learn about God and how to worship from adults. And it's no wonder they grow up and don't want to come back to church when they are rejected by the very people who should be loving them.

If you can't feel safe and wanted at church -- where can you?

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...


Glad you found us. And I think you found a group of people who agree with you regarding children in the church service.

I often think that "children's church" or nursery care during church actually sends the message to children that there are more fun things to do than be in the presence of God...or worse, that they don't deserve to be in the presence of God because they are children.

God's blessings to you and your twin boys (and your husband, too)

Rebekah said...

Hee hee. Didn't know there was so much talk going on over here!

--Not all new moms are physically capable of getting to church. Others use their baby as an excuse not to go. A faithful shepherd makes every effort to keep them from getting disconnected regardless of why they aren't coming, particularly when there's a baby who needs baptizing involved.

--Sometimes babies scream and toddlers throw tantrums in church. They should not be allowed to outshout the pastor. They should be taken out. This is not being unwelcoming to children, it is being considerate of everyone else in church. When they're quiet, bring them back. I am very opposed to "children's church," and when we were at a church with a fancy shmancy nursery, I never took my kids there. I stood with them in the boring narthex until they calmed down. If you read the whole post, you'll see that I didn't say any and all noise from children must be stifled.

Thanks for the link RPW. :)