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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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What you don't see

Blessed be those who bring children to worship

As a parent, a certain dread comes with Sunday mornings. I love to attend worship, and I know raising my children in faith within a church community is a priority for our family. But to be honest, I don’t like church as a parent all that much. It’s stressful.

With an energetic 5-year-old and a newborn, our worship life is rarely quiet and contemplative. I admit that I spend too much time during worship asking, scolding and begging my preschooler to behave. “Sit still.” “Listen.” “Don’t kick the pews.” “Shhhh.” 

Often it’s the expectation of others that I’m trying to have my son meet. Any parent who worships regularly with kids has experienced the sneer or glare from another member. I see the judgment in their eyes: judging my child and me for his behavior.

Yes, I’m aware of his loud “whispers” in worship. I notice every wiggle as he attempts to sit still. I see how he runs around after the service. I see it all and yet, as if I don’t, I’ve been stopped on more than one occasion by other members who find his behavior offensive, disruptive or disrespectful. Here’s what I wish I could say: 

Before you consider telling parents about the faults of their child (and their parenting) in worship, please consider what you don’t have the joy of witnessing. 

You don’t hear my child whisper the Lord’s Prayer along with the congregation.

You don’t see his smile as his dad sings in the choir.

You don’t see him sharing stickers with the kids around him who don’t have them.

You don’t hear the questions he asks after worship.


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