Thursday, July 19, 2007

childcare

I really appreciate everyone’s thoughts on the “church stuff” post. If you follow this blog, but haven’t read through those comments, let me invite you to do so.

I am for childcare. Each Sunday I am in church and my children are lovingly cared for, I am appreciative. And because I know what it means to a Mom to have a squirmy child lifted from her arms, I am quick to jump in when I can to provide this for others—whether at church or in my home.

We are the church. Let me say that again—we are the church! Isn’t that liberating? It frees us from complaining about the structure of our particular place of worship and allows us the privilege of jumping in and making a real difference in the lives of others.

For those who are leaders in our churches, I humbly offer the following thoughts. When planning events for women, childcare is a critical component. There are many women who will be unable to attend an event if childcare isn’t provided.

With that said, sometimes churches aren’t equipped to provide childcare for every single activity. As a Mom, I’m comfortable with that. I may choose to not attend the event, pay a sitter so I can attend the event, or volunteer myself to provide childcare for that event so others can attend. I have three children five and under. I’m going to miss some stuff, plain and simple. And that’s okay.

A question I think we need to carefully consider: are parents being held back from ministry because they have no one to care for their young children? I’m thinking of the comment from menzach in my “church stuff” post, in which he describes an event that both he and his wife were serving at. They brought a sitter with them to the event. I read that and wondered, “Where was I that night?” Probably home with my own babies. But maybe I shouldn’t have been. Maybe I should have been at church with my babies and THEIR babies too, allowing them to serve more freely.

There are no simple answers or one-size-fits-all solutions to the issue of childcare in the church. But these little ones are a part of His Church too, not a nuisance or a problem, but a blessing.

11 comments:

Craver Vii said...

Insightful.

Might I say that I appreciate the way you ended the post. Your reminder in the last paragraph that children are a blessing... Amen to that. Sometimes we act like we don't believe that, huh?

L.L. Barkat said...

It's amazing how culturally linked this stuff is. When I go to gatherings with my spouse's family as the hosts, children are everywhere... welcomed and part of the proceedings. Even late into the night!

Frazzmom said...

I've been mulling this over since I read the original post...

I vividly remember missing events at church (and NOT being OK with it); or going to church with little ones and wondering "why bother?" since I spent the whole service taking care of my kids.

I even remember a time when I was asked to rotate with the other mom's to cover mini-church once a month (4 year olds through kindergarten) during the main service and I refused. When pressed for a reason, I broke down saying that I was so overwhelmed that I would rather just keep my 5 year old child out entirely than have to add another commitment. I just desperately needed a break from taking care of my own kids- let alone others!

But here is the amazing thing that happened- when I was vulnerable enough to admit to someone else that I was completely overwhelmed- she didn't criticize me. Instead she came along side of me, supported me, and loved me (and no, I did not have to do the 'mandatory' rotation!).

Now, I’m on the flip side. My kids are old enough that childcare is not an issue (if it comes down to it, they’re old enough to stay home alone)… As a ministry leader, I am responsible to determine if childcare is needed for my department’s events. If so, I have to recruit the childcare workers and pay them from my (limited) budget. The frustrating part comes in when we do provide childcare and it isn’t used.

So I don’t think there is a cut and dry answer… I appreciate the thoughts of those who have posted so far, it’s given me some new points of view to consider!

Jenn said...

When I was 8 and my brother was 4, my parents were called to this area to plant a church. It was, admittedly, a tiny congregation, but still, it can't have been easy to be, humanly speaking, in charge and have a quite young and a mid-elementary-age kid to deal with. Still, they took it (and us) in stride. We helped set up the chairs and fold bulletins from early on, and when something was happening that we couldn't help with, we read books we had brought with us.

I suppose some people might resent this upbringing or scream out "child labour!" or some such thing, but I didn't resent it at all. It made me feel part of the church and I am sure set the stage for future acts of service.

Jen said...

I only add this as a suggestion to other parents out there. When my husband was teaching himself Greek last year in preparation for seminary, I took on the Wednesday night Bible study for the junior high students at our church. At the first parent meeting for last school year, I asked for parents to step up and provide childcare for my two young children and another couple's young child (2 - two year olds and 1 newborn). I had expected a rotating schedule to form, but one mom of a junior high student offered to do it every week since she didn't want to drive home and back to pick up her son. She was a lifesaver. My husband couldn't have studied and taken care of our daughters and I wouldn't have been able to minister as effectively without her.

So my recommendations about non-programmed child care?
1. Don't be afraid to ask for help, especially if you're serving them or their children. Dependence is a trait we need to learn.
2. Be zealous to offer help spontaneously and frequently. Don't wait until the stress is starting to show on an acquaintance's face. Be lavish with your random service to others. [Yes, this may require cutting back on hobbies, children's scheduled activities, or even opportunities to serve in a formal capacity, but you may very well be pulling a brother or sister back from the temptation to sin.] I'm enjoying doing this immensely in the close knit Christian community I just moved to.

Llama Momma said...

Great comments!

Craver -- yes, guilty as charged!!

LL -- what is your husband's cultural heritage, if I may ask? A few years ago my husband and I went to our first Indian wedding...we got a sitter for our boys, even though our friends kept encouraging us to bring them. What an amazing celebration that wedding was! An entire weekend of family fun! So much of this discussion is cultural.

Llama Momma said...

frazzmom -- I hear what you're saying. Certainly, I have often stayed home from an event since going WITH my children would be pointless. I guess I just expect to miss some things at this stage of the game, but not everybody is as comfortable with that. And you already know the details of my hallway breakdown when the twins were little -- many, many Moms get to that place of being completely overwhelmed, myself included.

You bring up an interesting point about people not using the childcare when it's provided. Have you ever gotten to the bottom of that?

Llama Momma said...

Jenn -- I love your attitude! (And I'm sure your parents did too!) Involving our children in serving the Body of Christ is important, and it sounds like your folks did a great job at this.

Llama Momma said...

Jen -- Great to hear from you! I just popped over to your blog and got "caught up" on your move. I really appreciate your comments about the "unorganized" child care. That is right where I'm at, and your observations are right on.

It's so hard to ask for help, but I'm growing in this area. One of the things I've found, especially with my neighbors, is that people are very slow to take me up on offers to help them, unless I have first asked for help myself. Meaning, I can tell my neighbor until I'm blue that she's welcome to drop her little ones off at my house while she runs to the store for a gallon of milk, and she'll smile and nod and never actually do it. Until I humbly walk my little ones over to her house and ask if she'd be willing to watch them for thirty minutes while I run and get milk. Suddenly, she feels free to ask when she is in need. I have experienced this over and over again on my block.

I really believe that most people want to live in community...they just don't know how.

MamaToo said...

This post rings so near to my heart, as I have coordinated nursery for a few years. I think many people can relate to your experiences & thoughts. Thank you for prompting such great discussion, LM.

I don't think anyone here has implied it, but I find some parents feel overwhelmed when their church doesn't have childcare because they feel like they must participate in ministries at the church. Thank you to everyone who has echoed that we are the church! We need the encouragement that ministry doesn't require being "at the church" or even outside our home. There is much we can do with our children beside us.

This isn't to say that parents aren't gifted or called into service outside their own family or home. I just want to encourage anyone who feels called to care for their own children or those of others.

Llama Momma said...

mamatoo -- Yes, I know many young moms who feel "guilty" for not taking on a lot of outside ministry when their kids are little. I feel no guilt for this, honestly. My life belongs to Christ -- every single moment. My life is ministry. I do not need a committee to validate my role as a part of the Body of Christ.

God bless you for organizing the nursery at your church. Not an easy task!!