Here at Influence Church we have Hero Factory for our 4 – 11 but we also have Mini Heroes for our little ones.
This week Ps Gale Dowding wrote an amazing blog about ‘What’s the point of coming to church when they are so little.’
If you have children aged 0 – 4 then make sure you check out her blog.
’10 years ago I sat in the foyer with a 6 month old Asher and wondered this question! Why do I really need to come to church when he’s so little? It’s hard, awkward and to be honest, felt pretty pointless. I couldn’t stay in the meeting because he was, and still is, loud! He would randomly shout out, possibly heckle, maybe encourage (who knows!) his great granddad as he preached.
Worship was pretty much impossible too. Picture trying to hold a large octopus and engage in worship – impossible! The one time I did fully worship, eyes closed, arm raised, I opened my eyes to see the key board player (a male) gesture to me to look down, Asher had pulled my top down and basically flashed me to the whole worship team!! Oh the joys!
At that point Church was quite different. We were much smaller in size and there was no creche of any description because there weren’t really many kids to fill it. So there I was, in the foyer again, wondering… would it matter if I didn’t come for a few weeks? Going anywhere with a baby is hard work! Church was just another thing in a long line of places that were hard work.
10 years later, Church is different! We’ve grown and God has done some incredible things. We now have an amazing preschool ministry, called Mini Heroes, which every week see’s around 15-20 pre schoolers in Richmond on Sunday alone! The children are looked after during the message by a team, mainly made of other parents, so there is some degree of freedom for parents of young children. But looking out on a Sunday I still see the familiar mum faces on many as they chase after their strong willed toddler during worship, or have to try frantically to entertain their baby during the slower worship songs. I see the mums after church trying to leave fast so their toddler doesn’t miss nap time, looking exasperated as daddy starts yet another conversation and they are left wrestling the over tired octopus like toddler into a pushchair! Or I see the hero mum who comes on her own with the little ones, trying to have chats and coffee while constantly checking their child hasn’t escaped/fallen down a toilet or punched one of the worship team because they won’t let them play the drums!
10 years on I feel qualified to now give my answer – Is it easy? No!
Is it worth it? Yes!
Does it matter? Absolutely!
That 6 month old who I sat playing with in the foyer on my own is now almost starting high school. He starts going to Elevate (our Youth Ministry) next Friday. And he loves the church! Now you could say, “well he’s the pastors kid, he has to” but I disagree.
Believe me there are lots of Pastors kids who loath the church. Our kids often do 4+ meetings a week of varying types. That amount of church could go either way. Some of you will have seen the video of Noah (7) last week when he had to miss a service because he was ill. He lost the plot! Why? Because from day 1, those kids have been planted in the House of God.
To them Church isn‘t a place they visit, to them its home. Why and how could they not love it!
One of the things I love is seeing little ones walk into church like they own the place! Kick their shoes off, sometimes wander into offices looking for someone to play with and so they should, this place should be home! And I think that’s why for us, and many others, it has worked. There is a key word which explains it…FAMILY.
There are 1 or 2 kids who Asher has literally grown up with in church. Dan Thorpe is one of those. When the Thorpe’s came to church they arrived with 2 boys. One bigger one (who’s now far bigger than me and our go to amazing babysitter!) and one who was 1 or 2 years older than Asher, called Dan. Many of you know and see Dan worshipping on a Sunday, his family are incredible, they truly embody being planted! Dan has Downs Syndrome, a factor only ever mentioned once by Asher the whole 8 or 9 years they’ve been friends. To Asher, Dan is just his mate who hugs him every week, can beat most of his scores on most iPad games and invites him every week to his house! Dan’s communication is sometimes limited, but they’ve never struggled to communicate or laugh together. Last week we wrote Asher’s party invite list. Can you guess who came in top after his brother and with his cousins, Dan. Why? Because Dan isn’t a friend, Dan is family. People tend to become that when you see them a few times a week for your entire life.
I look forward to the first ‘Mini Hero wedding’! When 2 kids who met in creche walk down the aisle! Why not? We’ve had plenty of Elevate ones!
Being planted from day one teaches your children that Church isn’t an optional extra for when it’s easy, but rather that it’s an integral part of life, it’s family and it’s home. It’s the place you go to with your exciting news! It’s the place to run to for shelter when things get hard, it’s the place many of them will find wives or husbands and it’s the place to always be found.
Then along came Noah ….
We have 2 boys. Loud, friendly Asher, but we also have sensitive, quiet Noah. He’s more prone to worry than adventure and for children (and lets face it adults) like Noah, church can be more of a challenge.
We took on senior leadership of church when Noah was 9 months old. There wasn’t even a slight option for me to think “whats the point of coming?” That’s frowned upon for Pastors! But Noah didn’t like people! He hated being left in creche. I still remember hearing him, while I was preaching, screaming for his mummy and having to ask Ben (mid preach) to go out to him!
With children like Noah, who get anxious and scared, we often tend to want to protect them from anything scary or things they don’t like. It’s our mum instincts and that’s right. But when these children start school ofte,n although they struggle a little (or a lot) initially, then something happens, they start to thrive and often quite quickly. Why? Because they usually love structure and also because they’ve realised they are braver than they thought they were and they can be a big boy or girl. Our instinct is to protect them from church if they get worried, but it’s not good in the long run or healthy for us as an adult.
He didn’t make it easy for the kids team, they had to make all sorts of things to help him settle, but we found ways together to make it work. Slowly he started to understand that church wasn’t a scary place, it was a fun place with kind people, food (always helps) and that mummy and daddy will only be away for a short time. Once that clicked, the tears stopped. The problem is that sometimes we don’t persevere and help little ones get to that point of seeing church isn’t scary. If we just scoop them up and protect them from everything then the scary-ness of church (or whatever it is), remains scary and we almost reenforce that fact.
Now believe me. with this I still am fighting it! I came very close to picking Noah up from kids camp this week because he seems so small and I know he struggles at bedtimes, but I fought myself and I know that he will come home knowing, I did it! I stayed 3 nights without mummy, night times aren’t too bad.
Jesus said in Matthew 19:14: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
It’s God’s heart that anyone, no matter how small, comes to church to find him and their own place and friends in church. It’s our heart that we would be able to help you in doing that because it’s worth the fighting through and persevering. It gets easier! They aren’t tiny for long, but while they are, we think that you are doing an amazing job. To the mums and dads who have to worship holding an octopus-like child, or run around after the service chasing them, please know that Ben and I love you and we are so glad your little one is mushing breadsticks into the carpet or placing neat tiny hand prints on the windows!
You are doing great – you are planting your family so they will flourish in the house of God. You’re positioning your kids to hear truth that counteracts what the media and society says. You are choosing what’s right, over what’s easy.
And long may we have tiny hand print covered windows, because one day, I guarantee that those tiny hands will be guitar filled hands of future worship leaders.
The once squirmy toddler during worship, will be the one teen who stands up in her school against injustice.
The toddler you chased will be the one bringing their own toddler to church, a bigger church than we have now and you can empathise with them about the challenge of bringing small people to church but also encourage them that its utterly worth it because it sets your family up for a greater life and a bigger destiny!’