Let the little children come to me
I heard earlier today from a friend of mine, who recently moved to a rural town. He and his wife have started attending a local church, where his children are sadly the only young people. It’s a big change for them, having come from a much larger church beforehand with plenty of children. But they still sit patiently through the Sunday morning. At a recent service, one of them was playing with a small toy that makes a wee click, when an elderly lady behind him leaned over and hissed the following words: “Oi, you, stop making a noise!”. This was so unexpected that the child dissolved into tears and had to be taken out of the service.
To be honest, I was pretty appalled that this kind of behaviour still happens within our congregations today. And it’s not at all uncommon. At one of my placement churches, I can remember talking to a lady who had been ‘ordered’ to leave the church from the front by the minister because of her crying baby. This took place a few decades beforehand, but she was still obviously very hurt by what had happened.
I hope and pray that this is not an attitude we would ever take in Barrhead St Andrews. When we are absolutely crying out for young people and children in our churches, it seems incredible that someone would go out of their way to make a child feel actively unwelcome. Yes, we might sometimes prefer a wee bit more peace and quiet at times. But I would far rather hear the sound of children feeling at home in our building rather than having pews that are completely empty of young people.
And I’m pretty certain that Jesus had the same attitude. I love the story about how some people brought their children to him, hoping that he would bless them. The disciples started to get a bit stuffy and stuck up (and dare I say “Presbyterian”) and started to turn them away. But Jesus rebuked them and said these words: “Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.” After laying hands on them, he left” (Matthew 19:13-15, The Message). I am absolutely delighted that we have at least some children and young people still in our pews, and I hope that we can all go out of our way to make them feel as comfortable as possible in our church family.