Growing Pains or Opportunity?
“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”—Psalm 127:3-5
Children are a heritage from the LORD. The Hebrew word translated “heritage” refers to a portion or inheritance assigned by God. The testimony of Scripture is that children are a gift assigned by God and are meant to be a blessing to their parents. That is an important truth that needs to be stated again and again and again in our own day when too many treat children as an obstacle to be overcome in the pursuit of their own “dreams” or as an inconvenience to be discarded in the womb. The Bible teaches us that all life is precious and that children are a blessing to be celebrated. Just think of the many examples from Scripture of the rejoicing that surrounded the birth of children. There is the long-awaited birth of Isaac in Genesis 21; the birth of Samuel that brought a quiet joy to Hannah’s heart; the birth of the Shunammite’s son in 2 Kings 4; and the birth of the Lord Jesus that was greeted with an angelic choir. Yes, children are a blessing, and we must praise the Lord for each and every one of them.
It's no secret that the Lord has blessed our little congregation at WPC with many children in the past few years. I have lost count of the number of babies that have been born and baptisms I have performed in my short time here as your pastor. It wasn’t that long ago, as many of you have been quick to bring to my attention, that there were very few little children and almost no babies in our church. That realization prompted you to begin to pray earnestly for the Lord to bring the blessing of children to us; I think it is safe to say that he has answered that prayer, doing “far more abundantly that all that we ask or think.” And just in case you were unaware, there are more babies on the way. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Now, why take the time to state what is obvious to all of us? Well, with the arrival of little ones we have the added volume of their presence. There are at least two perspectives we could adopt as we consider the presence of these precious ones in our services. One is the way of growing pains. It might sound something like this: “We prayed for children and the Lord answered, and it’s really nice to have them and their families with us. So, I guess that means we’re going to have to put up with those crying babies. They’re great as long as they are in the nursery and I don’t have to hear them. But boy, I sure wish those parents would get control of those kids or take them out because they are distracting me.” The perspective of seeing the blessing of children as “growing pains” (at least how I have stated it here) is primarily concerned with self: “I’m distracted; I’m inconvenienced; I’m annoyed; I’m bothered, etc.”
The other perspective we can adopt is that of a growing opportunity. It might go like this: “We prayed for children and the Lord has answered. Sometimes the noises are a little distracting, but Jesus quoted from Psalm 8 and said that out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies the Lord has ordained praise…so maybe they are worshipping God in their own little way. And Jesus was quick to receive the little ones, to take them up in his arms and bless them and say, “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14). It must be challenging for these parents during this stage of life. I think I’ll go over to one of them after the service and tell them how glad I am that they are persevering and offer to help them out any way I can.”
Now I realize that not everyone falls neatly within either of these two categories…and I haven’t even said anything about where the parents of these little ones might place themselves. A parent of a little one might view their children as part of growing pains and think: “I really want to be here because I know it’s good for my soul, but it is such a struggle most Sundays. Little (insert name here) can’t sit still, always seems to make so much noise, and I keep getting that look from (insert name here). Maybe we should just watch online for a while until they get older, or maybe we should look for a church with children’s church so we don’t have to deal with the challenge and get the looks from others.”
How can we as a church family love the children (and their noises) and encourage the parents and see this as an opportunity for discipleship? Let me start with a word to the parents of little ones and then a word to the rest of us.
To the parents of littles: We love you and your littles. We are so thankful to God for you and the blessing that your children are to this church body. A church is a family, and a family is made up of young and old. You are loved and welcome here. We welcome your children in our worship services and we know it can be difficult sometimes to parent in the pew. For most of the time when my children were infants and toddlers, my wife had to do all the pew training herself because I was leading worship services and preaching. I know she would be happy to offer some words of encouragement to you as you navigate those challenges. Make the commitment to modeling for your children what it means to worship God, for it is an investment that will pay off in the long run. There are times when you’ll need to take a fussy child or an excessively chattering toddler out of the service for a bit. Don’t let that discourage you or lead you to think you’ve failed; you haven’t. It’s just part of being a parent with little ones. We have a cry room in the back that can be used and there is also overflow cry room space in the choir room behind the sanctuary. I know that it may be awkward and feel embarrassing to make that walk towards the front to gain access to that extra cry room, but don’t worry too much about it. You can always go to the back and ask one of the ushers in the foyer to escort you around the outside to that extra cry room (we leave the outside doors locked during the services for security purposes, but one of the ushers will gladly open the door for you). Lastly, we offer a loving, safe, and clean nursery for children ages two and under during Sunday School and our morning worship service. We would be happy and honored to care for your little ones at that time.
To everyone else: A word of encouragement and a challenge. First, the encouragement. God has blessed us and answered our prayers by bringing so many young families and their beautiful children to be a part of our congregation. Isn’t God so good? You should thank him for it. Second, the challenge. How are you going to minister to these families and their children? Remember what it was like when you went through that stage. Bear patiently with the little ones and pray for their souls to love Jesus. At each baptism you take this vow: “Do you as a congregation undertake the responsibility of assisting the parents in the Christian nurture of this child?” That is a solemn vow that you take before the Lord. How are you seeking to fulfill that vow? There are so many opportunities. You can serve in the nursery (we need more volunteers here). You can “adopt” a family and help these parents of young children. Have them in your home for a meal and talk to them about your own successes and failures as a parent. Sit with them during the service and offer to help train their little ones in the pew. I know of a few of you who are already doing this; I’d encourage more of you to do so. What a wonderful opportunity we have as a church to help raise these little children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Jesus loves the little children—and so must we.
In closing, let me to commend to all of you an excellent article by Megan Hill entitled Are Sundays Good for Babies? Megan is the daughter of a PCA pastor and she also married a PCA pastor. She offers a word of encouragement to parents of little ones on the importance of the Lord’s Day for our babies. I would encourage everyone to read it because it provides good perspective for the whole church. You can find it here:
Your pastor & friend,
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