But sometimes, the church is just ridiculous. And to be clear, I am not talking about the congregation where I serve, although we have our moments, too. I am talking about the church - all of us - the body of Christ.
In almost every church I that I have had any sort of contact with, I have heard some variation on the same concern: "There aren't enough children. We need more kids in Sunday School. The Youth Group is too small." Sound familiar? Church councils sit around, thinking of what the pastor needs to do to get kids in church. The older members complain about parents who don't bring their kids to church. We talk about all sorts of things ... none of which is actually the problem.
Want to know the problem? Here it is, in a nutshell. A few weeks ago, I walked into a church to preach and saw this sign:
I don't post this to shame this one congregation. The truth is that many congregations, without being as explicit about it, still have this attitude lurking under the surface. The people who complain about the kids who talk during the sermon. The stares we give to the parents of fidgety children. We want kids in the church, but "Children should be seen and not heard" ... and we aren't too sure that they should be seen.
Come on, church! We can do better!
We wonder why our churches are graying. We wonder why our Sunday School rooms sit empty. We wonder what happened to all the families with young children. It's really simple: they got the message. They heard us loud and clear.
We need worship services where children are free to be ... well, children. That means sometimes they will be loud, sometimes they will need to move around and play and fidget. Because that is what children do.
We need churches where parents feel comfortable coming with their little ones; not ashamed or nervous.
If we are going to have churches that have children in them, then those children and their parents should be made to feel welcome. Totally and completely welcome, just as they are.
Let's be clear: if we don't change this, there will not be a church in a generation.