I used to be on the other side of this fence, too.
When JP and I started looking for a church when we moved to SE Wisconsin, one of the big things on my “list” was a good “Children’s Program.” In essence, I wanted an engaging program that taught my kids truths about our faith in a developmentally appropriate way. I also wanted to be able to focus on the service and not be distracted by little ones, so I, too, could grow in my faith through church.
Now, slowly, and interestingly, my view has changed. Some masses do have nursery, and the parish we have been attending does have a 3-5 year old program for members, but by and large, in Catholic mass, whole families are often seen sitting and standing and kneeling together.
I had this moment last Sunday, where I looked around at all the families, wiggly ones and all, and just thought how cool it was. If parents are doing their job in forming the faith of their children at home, spending Sunday service together seems like a natural outpouring from that instruction. In mass, I can explain to my daughter what certain things mean, she can hear all the music, she can absorb some of the homily. Kids can catch on more than one might think. Through this, she also sees me and her dad living out our faith, and she sees us worshipping God with love and reverence.
This is not to say we don’t come “prepared.” There are some crayons and stickers in our row on Sunday. Though Auggie uses those more than Felicity does. And I know not every kid is going to adjust this easily, but both kids have done really well overall. The mass isn’t this long, same thing through the whole service. There is a lot of variety. Music, standing, sitting, kneeling, listening to spoken word, greeting each other. So I think as far as attention span is concerned, it’s actually more friendly to the adult and the child than some protestant services where you might have 15-20 minutes of music then a 30-40 minute long sermon.
And, not that the statistics are super awesome either way, with how many adult children leave the church, even for a period of time, but, it doesn’t seem that having Children’s Church helps change that statistic. I have ask myself: Is it really more beneficial for my daughter to learn Sunday school Bible stories, than to be immersed in the practice of worship in community, in context of the larger practice of the Christian faith?
And, finally, church history. The Early Christians didn’t have “kids church.” Whole families were together. And we too often ignore the example that was set by Jesus’ earliest followers.
I have concluded that there is a lot to be gained spiritually from one’s presence in church, and I love that my kids have a chance to learn from their parents what is happening during the service, and can see our example of how we practice our faith not only at home, but also at mass.