Tuesday, July 10, 2007

church stuff

The church I belong to is a small, start-up church comprised of mostly young families. For several years I went through a period of great discontent with my church for a variety of reasons, including a lack of “programs” for young moms. Basically, I had (have) needs. A lot of them. And none of them were being met by the church. A consumer mentality seeped into my spirit, and I felt I deserved better. I was entitled to better.

And then something happened. Or maybe it wasn’t just one thing, but a variety of things and I began to see this muttering for what it was: sin. I began to replace complaining with prayer, hoping God would change my church. But He changed me instead. As I cried out to God, I began to see my church as His Church. Leaving would cause damage to people and relationships, and finding a “comfortable” place to settle in and raise my children would do little for my own spiritual growth. Oh, and one more not-so-minor detail: it's not all about me.

A friend recently emailed me to ask for my opinion as a mother of three. She’s a leader in her church and grappling with the issue of providing childcare for everything. “Should the church provide child care for all events?” She asks.

Not an easy question to answer. I’ll save my response for another post, but leave the question open for comment. What is the church’s responsibility to parents of young children?


Anonymous said...
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spaghettipie said...

LM - I certainly understand the difficulty that comes along with finding childcare. It's often a barrier to many people when it's not offered. But what strikes me about your post (and the question) is this...we tend to think of the church as an institution or an organization apart from ourselves, but the reality is WE are the church. So if the answer is yes, it's the "church's responsibility" then that means it's our responsibility. It's easy for us to consider the church as another place where we are served, and I'm just as guilty about pointing out the things that could be better or different. But if we are the church, then we need to take part in identifying and implementing the solution.

spaghettipie said...

okay, I just re-read the post again, and have an additional thought. Perhaps it's gathering together the people who would be using childcare most often and brainstorming options. Definitely I think it's helpful to young families to offer childcare, but the church needs to consider it's vision first, and decide how providing childcare fits into that. If it's a huge barrier to accomplishing the vision, perhaps it's an important thing to do.

Llama Momma said...

SP -- I like your thoughts on this. And I agree -- WE are the church! The childcare issue is a big one for a lot of poeple, myself included.

MamaToo said...

Sometimes it's ironic to read your posts, knowing I've been writing drafts & thinking about the same thing lately! What a blessing & encouragement to hear another person working through this.

I think there is a great challenge of making our parenting choices part of our walk in faith. We are raising the next generation of those who know, believe, and love the one true God. Sometimes we may feel called to serve people or places that are difficult or inappropriate for young children. If that is truly where God wants our gifts used, I think He'll supply for the logistics of caring for our kids. Whether it's a formal "program" or simply a friend who's willing to watch them, He will give us what is needed so He can be shared & glorified.

The other side is how much we look for convenience, however. If we really believe that our children need a savior, then we'll be like the parents in Matthew 19, who clamored through every obstacle to bring their children close to the Lord. They could have stayed home, or kept the kiddos entertained at the back of the crowd. They fought through the challenges and opinions of others to get their children into the presence of Jesus.

One final thought (I promise!)... I agree with SP - we are the church. We're told to make a special priority of caring for one other believers' needs. Parents' needs probably include help with children. We can all step it up to help others serve Christ as they're called.

We need to start behaving as community, and stop looking at local churches as if they're a "spiritual wal-mart" - where everything we want is available & always the low price.

whew! that was a lot... sorry, but thanks for starting the discussion.

Craver Vii said...

Good question. I personally wish more churches would incorporate all ages into more events. My parents always brought me to church every Sunday; there was no special place for the kids to go, except right next to Momma and Poppa. I feel like the church family needs to be more tolerant of kids' noises and more encouraging to a parent who is struggling to teach their kid how to behave in the mixed group.

Anonymous said...

i think that since there are so many kids in the church and young families, that it is important for the church to provide childcare for MOST things, not all. I also thing that the responsiblity should be shifted around some. I don't see why the same person who runs the Sunday programs should be responsible for childcare at an event. They aren't the same thing. It should fall somewhere under the event planning. The problem lies in how small the church is.

Idea to toss out as far as programs...what about a mom's day out. Sign up, rotate where kids are (possible liability issues??) and who is responsible for the kids and like once or twice a month you drop the kids off for like $2 for food, and have a morning to yourself. there is a schedule and sign up ahead of time, like a semester, and you are on like one week but off the rest, depending on the number of moms.

-Little peepers

Andrea said...

I identify with your feelings about your church. I thank you for expressing your thoughts the way you did: "it's not about me". Your church sounds similar to mine, and sometimes I get bogged down in that, but that's when I realize I do not have the right perspective. God gives us what we need!
Thanks for stopping by today. I enjoy your thoughts, too. :)

Marmot Mom said...

Years ago, I heard a speaker at a conference say: "when you say Women's Ministry, you say Children's Ministry because they always go together." I have thought many times about that comment. I find that sometimes I agree with it and sometimes I don't.
I guess one thought I have is that We the Church don't really "owe" childcare to anyone. I mean, if we can, that is great, but to not hold an event because we can't get the childcare together?---Hm, I'm not sure I would go that far.
As the mom of two, I still remember pretty clearly how difficult it was to attend things with my little ones in tow. However, I agree with Carver--I would like to see a lot more people in the Church coming to an acceptance of having children around.
In most other countries--I'm thinking of Latin America in particular--they'd think it was pretty strange that we need to plan separate events for children and parents. Our American culture tends to be so much more neat and sanitized. The focus is always on making everything "easier" for everyone.
Do we send crying babies and squirmy toddlers into other rooms to give parents a break, or to keep from offending others that don't appreciate that kind of "disruption?"
Or, put another way...what is the church's responsibilty to parents of young children? Is it coming up with a program or is it extending grace and patience when the children they bring to church act--well--like children?
I'm not sure I have the answer, but it seems to me that these are good things to wrestle with. Thanks for bringing up the question.

Llama Momma said...

Great thoughts, everyone. Thank you for taking the time to share! This is a complex subject, to be sure.

Marmotmom -- I'm glad you found me here. ;-)

Lara said...

I wasn't sure of my thoughts when you first posted, but now that I've read the comments, I'm thinking I agree with MarmotMom on having the kids (& babies) in church or the other event...occasionally. If this were an all-the-time occurrence, well, the only ones really being distracted & inconvenienced are the parents. And it's important for us as a church to come alongside parents & give them a break & let them worship or fellowship or whatever, undistracted. But to always have childcare & isolate the younger part of our Body out? Not so much.

Okay, aren't you glad I oversee your church nursery (don't answer)?

Katie said...

Spaghettipie sent me over here (she must have known how much I needed to read this). I happen to be a children's ministry director and this is a topic of conversation ALL THE TIME. What is the vision of a children's ministry? How does that coincide, support, and play a part in the vision of the church? Where does childcare fall into this mix? Tough questions that I face daily.

I will say that I appreciate everyone's thoughts that "we" are the church. It can be quite lonely to be on staff of a church and feel the pressure to support your families and really seek to provide ways for families to be involved and yet do it "on your own". If I had one thought I would want to share with the families of our church it would be that, while I may be on staff, nothing in our church will succeed unless the entire body comes together, be it childcare or the overall mission of the church.

Good thoughts here. I'm interested to hear llamamomma's thoughts.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Good post, LM, and I don't know!

It would be nice, and really there ought to be a sharing of the responsibility, ideally.

But I think it all has to be worked out in each local context and community.

But I love your thoughts about church and your testimony here. Good words!

Craver Vii said...

Yo! Stacey says hi.

menzach said...

Personally, being involved in ministry and having several babies, I do appreciate every time that childcare is available. This is doubly appreciated when both my wife and I have to serve at the same time, or when we both are free to attend an event at the same time. I will never forget the time that we both had to serve and be there early and had to bring a sitter with us. Of course, during the quiet reflective middle of the event, our one year old decided to scream and cry, and then we had to pass our child off crying to a random person, so we could serve for the end of the event. It was very frustrating, and I strive to always be quick to thank those who provide care for my children, which is quite often. For me, those who care for my kids are my heroes, and they enable us to serve more freely.

Llama Momma said...

Thank you, all, for sharing. Good stuff.

I'll post my response in the next few days.

L.L. Barkat said...

Here's a thought... maybe if another nearby church has a women's group with childcare, you could attend that to meet some of your needs for study and fellowship. I know that our group draws women from many surrounding churches, yet on Sunday these women are with their own church communities. I suppose that your church needn't feel obliged to be all things to all people. Every church is, after all, part of a larger Church too.