Baby goat and I went to worship alone today. Mr. Goat was singing in the choir and was sitting in the balcony above so we were on our own for the service. Seeing as I came in from chatting with my Sunday School teachers we slipped into the end of a pew near the back, next to an elderly couple.
What proceeded was a very normal worship service with an active toddler. He was happy but occasionally a little loud. He liked to pull things from the pew racks. He tried to engage with the people around him. He occasionally fussed to be held, or to be put down. He wasn't great I suppose, but being that it was just him and I for a full service he did fine.
I made sure to follow my own advice and as we were exiting I thanked the elderly couple for their patience with us as I'd seen a few of the "looks" from their direction. Still I was unprepared for the woman to say to me, "He really ought to be in the nursery at this age."
I swallowed and replied that he'd spent the Sunday School hour in the nursery and that in order for him to learn it is important for him to be in worship.
She just gave me the look again and said, "We'll just be sure to sit elsewhere then."
Now I was fuming after this short exchange. I am confident enough as both a parent and as a Children's Ministry Director to know that baby goat belongs in worship - despite the occasional distraction he may cause. We are committed to regularly bring him to worship. Will we use the nursery sometimes? Probably. Will we take him out if he gets disruptive? Yes.
But I'm fuming not because of what was said to me about my child but that it could ahve been said to any parent trying to make worship work with a small child. What if it was said to a single mother who was frazzled and trying to enjoy the service? What if it was said to a visiting family checking out to see if the church was family friendly?
It is hard enough to parent without judgement and a church should welcome children. Let parents feel good about their decision to bring their children to worship. Children are the future of the church and if we fail to welcome and educate them the church and its traditions will fade. Bringing baby goat to church now helps him learn that this is an important thing. He learns the habits and the traditions.
I'm not easily swayed by the crabbiness of another but who knows who might turn away from what a church can offer because of a cruel word and a judging glare.