If you come to our church on any given sunday I hope you are not easily distracted. Or if you are, I hope you find our little distractions amusing. Because at my church, it is acceptable for the little ones to run up and down the aisles, dance in circles, crawl around on the floor, and generally giggle, coo and squeal for the sheer joy of it. Because at 1027 kids are allowed to worship as kids do. Messy and simple, but honest and pure. They sometimes bump into each other, the tiny bodies in the front, as they spin circles before the Lord. It causes a ruckus as they find their respective moms and get their little heads kissed. This is what happens when your worship leader once seriously considered being a kindergarten teacher. This behavior is accepted.
Not only is it accepted, but I know that when the Peanut has called out for “EIEIO” too loudly and too many times (I think she thinks that Jonathan takes requests) I know that his prayer will sound something like this. “Dear Lord, thank you for our children, thank you for their example to us, that they show us how to worship.” My worship leader believes Jesus when He says “let the little children come.” So he does. And they do.
As a parent it is sometimes hard. It would be easier for me if my kids would sit quietly hands in their laps. But that is not what my kids do. (Some kids seem content like this and that is okay too.) It is sometimes scary, taking people at their word and letting your kid be so kid-like in an enviroment that historically has been reserved for quiet reflection, reserved reverence. What if they are all talking about my naughty monkeys behind my back? Some one elses kid tossing a fit because they are not allowed to play the piano doesn’t bother me that much. Kids are kids after all. But mine? Terrible. Worst mom ever. Whose kid throws a fit in church. (mine does.)
Yesteday the Peanut was putting her hands in the air and spinning around on her tip-toes. I have seen this move a million times done by Elizabeth’s girl. She was runnning between peopled who loved her and squealing with glee on both ends. She was crawling around with her friend Josiah. She was worshiping with her church family by simply being a part of the body, and it took everything I had to not tell her to stop, because I was paranoid about what people thought.
Lately there have not been any 3 foot tall worship mobs running around up front. I don’t know if the kids grew tired of it, or if the parents were worried about it all being distracting, but I have heard people talking about the kids. My church family, they say “How come the kids don’t dance in front anymore?” and “I miss watching Marin dance before her Lord.” They say “It distracted me at first, but when I opened my heart, the Lord allowed me to see the kingdom there in front of my eyes every Sunday with the under 10 set.”
This week I had the privilege of sitting with some new comers. Two 5 year old boys, and a set of sisters 6 and 8. They behaved beautifully. I could tell that my new friends had been told that they were to conduct themselves in a church-appropriate manner and they did. This is good parenting, preparing your children for what is expected. But I could also see the glint in their eyes when I was bopping around with my babies and the way one little boy was carefully shuffling his feet and swinging his hips. He didn’t want to embarass his parents, but he longed to join our little dance party.
I don’t blame the parents. They have a lot on their plate lately, the effort it took to get themselves to church on Sunday was enormous. I was humbled that they would do all that, what I might not be willing to do, just to worship with us. I have been to churches where childhood exuberence is frowned upon. Jesus loves the little children who sit quietly next to their parents thank you very much. I wish his parents had been told ahead of time that kids being kids was okay with us. I pray that they come back soon and join the little mosh pit up front. It ministers to me. Jonathan taught me that.
Note: This post has been edited from the original version.