Since I became a member of my congregation almost a dozen years ago, we've had a huge increase in the number of young children attending. Hang on, this is linked to a news story. Our small "cry room" worked well for years but it got to the point that it failed to meet our needs. So a few families with young children took over the library and board room, turning it into a pretty snazzy cry room. Although our sanctuary and church facilities aren't configured in a way that permits a cry room with visual access, the Divine Service is piped in so that parishioners young and old can follow along over the toddler maelstrom.
It may seem inconsequential, but since I became a mother a couple of years ago, how to manage my children at church often consumes my thoughts. I never appreciated the luxury of worshiping as a single woman until it was gone, I fear. Anyway, I want my entire family to receive God's gifts in the Divine Service -- something of a challenge when managing a squirming, shrieking toddler who hasn't quite figured out how to behave properly and a newborn with her own set of demands.
So I was really happy to see this story in the Kansas City Star about, of all things, cry rooms. "Some think churches' crying rooms are a blessing" was written by Steven Vegh of Religion News Service. (I think it may have originally been published in the Virginian-Pilot.) Here's a sample:
Crying rooms may seem like a win-win: Congregations get quiet, parents have access to worship and kids can be kids.
Yet the faith world is of two minds about whether fretful tykes should stay in the pews or wail out of sight and mind.
Some pastors say a church can't call itself a family of faith unless every member, however young, is welcomed and included in worship services.
Another view is that children should stay put in services and be taught by their parents how to behave during worship.
Barnes said many pastors complain to him that crying rooms devolve into a place where children simply run wild.
On the other hand, who wants to hear a toddler wailing during the sermon?
"You have to consider not just the pastor but the person sitting next to the child -- they become irritable," said Bishop Rudolph B. Lewis. His New Light Full Gospel Baptist Church has had a crying room for 15 years.
Amen! I find it almost impossible to focus when there are disruptions from the congregation. Although my brother told me that I should treat learning how to focus as a spiritual discipline.
I'm glad that this conflict was mentioned, though, of whether parents should train children or let them run free. I don't utilize the cry room at my church very much because I want my daughter to learn how to join the rest of the congregation in worship. There's a time to play and I am not sure it's during the middle of worship services. So my husband and I only take her out of the sanctuary briefly if she acts up and return as soon as possible. I'm sure I'd be singing a wildly different tune if I had a more difficult child, of course.
I also rather liked the kicker on this story:
Elder James Jackson, a Community [Presbyterian Church] member for more than 40 years, called the crying room an asset. But he's also glad to hear an infant's cry on Sundays.
"If you have a church and do not hear any crying babies, it's a dying church," he said. "Your church isn't going to survive long."
It's one of my favorite things about my congregation -- we have members who are newborns, members who are near death and everything in between. Interacting with people in different phases in life enriches me and helps me grow spiritually. It's nice to see a religious slice of life story that looks at this phenomenon.