I ask myself this all the time! However in relation to this blog - I have decided to blog about my experiences of young children's worship in the Church of England. I have no professional qualifications in this field whatsoever. My husband is an ordinand in the Anglican Church (LankyAnglican) and we have a two year old daughter (LittleLanky) and we spend quite a lot of time in church services. I have never previously been interested by children's work and before LittleLanky's arrival didn't have much experience with Play-Doh but all that is changing.
I'm intrigued about how different churches tackle children in church. Some churches provide creches, some have children's areas at the back, some have an external place you can take your child (eg. Church hall, vestry etc), some have play bags that they give out and some have nothing. I only have a sample of one child to go on but I think from talking to other parents I'm not alone in my experiences of these.
Creches - great for some people, but not for us as a family. We all want to stay connected together and it's important for LittleLanky to see her Dad at the front of church (sometimes dressed in some odd clothing). So we don't use them.
Going out to other locations - often a necessity for practical things. Like LittleLanky shouting NO at the top of her voice every time the choir started their anthem while we were on placement. I think we all understood her feelings but we were polite enough to keep them contained. So it's great to have these spaces to take a child out to for practical reasons but I always feel very disconnected to the service even if they're relaying the service in there. And if I'm honest, sometimes these spaces end up being filled with chatting parents. Nothing wrong with that but it's not what I go to a church service for.
Play bags - these are great but have limited value in my experience. Brilliant for visiting children who have never been to that particular church before (or any church at all) and are intrigued by the contents and normally a little overawed by unfamiliar surroundings so normally stay close to parents.
Nothing - there's nothing wrong with having no special provision for children in your church in my opinion. Often churches have a diverse and changing population and if you have no children at a point in time it's difficult to see what you should provide. The thing I love in churches like this is if people point out that LittleLanky is very welcome and I should feel free to move around and not worry about keeping her quiet. I know that she is welcome in church, but it's lovely to be reaffirmed in this way. I do also try and keep her fairly quiet because I think it's the best way for her to appreciate the service but we're obviously not always successful as she is a normal two year old!
Children's area in church - this is my area of great interest at the moment. As I believe it's the ideal for LittleLanky to stay in the service, this is where I have ended up. The interesting thing is that her behaviour in these spaces is not generally very good. She tends to get bored by the toys very quickly and gets very loud and then tries to get to Daddy at the front. I know people say I should let her go to him but LittleLanky does like to chat to an audience and would be preaching the parable of Jesus and Thomas the Tank Engine if we let her get in the pulpit with Daddy, so for all our sakes we don't let her roam to the front of the church.
At LankyAnglican's theological college, I'm lucky enough to be working with a great group of people on children's church stuff and we're pleased with some of the things that we're trying.
My coming posts will explore some of the things that we're trying with the children. I will only really tell you about LittleLanky's responses to things as she is the only child I feel comfortable commenting on but I think her responses to it will be fairly indicative of the other children.