Ok. If you are a parent with infant and/or toddler reading this you are probably ready to walk out the door exhausted before you even start. Which means if you are a children's minister exploring these ideas everybody (pastor, CM, parents, non-parents, EVERYONE!) needs to communicate.
You could try to communicate the vision: give everyone a map, and give everyone the tools to take the journey successfully.
You can also give everyone the tools they need and say, "Follow me!"
You just encourage people as they explore their world of faith and worship with their baby. Notice the ways people help their babies and toddler interact with their world and just keep encouraging them.
The possibilities are many
-this is a community. Everybody has a role to play. Better that no one feel alone with the challenges this will bring
-if every parent with an infant or toddler is approaching worship this way parents with infants and toddlers are less apt to feel self-conscious.
-if you let the non-parents know what's happening they may be more apt to extend grace
-every infant is different, every toddler is different, every parent is different. Non-parents, too.
-parents mentoring parents and encouraging one another will help too
-an infant/toddler friendly community will also help this work but people may need to understand what you're trying to do (in the simplest terms -unlike this blog)
It is important to communicate to parents (and non-parents) that this is not a passive activity. It takes deliberate thought, planning, and work - emphasis on WORK. It takes persistence and patience. We were looking for ways to grow those 2 Peter 1:5-7 qualities, weren't we? Approaching worship this way is ALOT OF WORK for parents. And we're not even talking about families with more than one child. Two is not the same as three, which is not the same as four, which is not the same as...but you knew that...
It requires excessive patience on the part of everyone involved - even the rest of the congregation so you may not want to tackle this every week. But we are thinking long term, here. We're not looking at this as special occassions only but rather a lifestyle - a community lifestyle.
If you are a children's minister understand this as well. Once upon a time mothers spent all day, every day with their children - not just teaching, training, but learning from them. Maybe they were in more need of a break but they were used to having their kids around them 24-7. They had opportunity to learn what works and what doesn't. They had some freedom to learn by trial and error. Parents who feel like they're on display may not feel like they have that luxury. Even if you tell young parents [smiling] "You will have good days and not," it may not help the parent of the only baby who always screams every time the music stops.
It's ok. We're trying something new. No one knows how to do this. We're learning together. This approach might not generate confidence but at least it's honest. It's important to communicate with one another. It's important to identify the tools that parents need to succeed and give them the tools they need. It's important to keep the rest of the community informed as important particpants in the process. It's important for a community of people to extend grace to one another.
It's important for parents to know when to take a child out for the sake of the people around them. That's called being considerate of one another.
It's also important for parents to have a break when they need a break.
We have no real way to assess or measure our success until these kids are grown. The peace of the children in service and the rest of the congregation? Perhaps. But sometimes God makes us uncomfortable. The peace of the children affects the peace of the parents and other congregants which affects the peace of the child and God is there somewhere (we hope) Yes, it's a circle or some other multi-dimensional model.
Don't lose sight of the long term- Sharing your love of God, your love of worship, your love of the people of God with children. Learning to love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength, loving your neighbor as yourself, and then giving it away. That's what it's all about. We're God's children. God puts up with us, doesn't He? Somehow He's taught us to worship and associate good things with worship? How did He do that?
Most people are convinced that Sunday school is better. These things are better accomplished in another room with children the same age - some place besides Sunday worship. Different, yes. Better or not remains to be seen.
Just a bit carried away here. Ok, alot carried away.
We'll look at the other age groups, too . . .