It’s difficult not to treat your children according to the behavior of others. Our family visited a house church recently where we met a family with four small children. Throughout the gathering, the children angelically sat around their parents, backs erect, not making a peep (except for when their 8 and 7 year olds offered to read Scripture). Now, I must explain that God has given us three wonderful children, and that God saw to it personally that our boys were supplied with a never ending fuel injected supply of energy. Even though no one gave us a hint that our children were being disruptive, my husband and I felt under pressure to keep our children more still than we’ve ever required of them (I think we ended up resorting to threats and a few pinches here and there). That’s what I remember when I think about that church…how miserable and stressed we were….of our own making.
Obviously, comparisons are not healthy. We can see ourselves as better than others (or a lot worse), and we can judge our children based on others rather than the values that we have decided to cultivate in them.
Here is they key! Family methods and values must be reached and agreed upon before you gather as a church. What can you reasonably expect out of your kids during a gathering? Have you trained them to behave this way before hand? Or do you expect them to magically conform to the picture in your mind?
When we first started gathering in a simple church our kids were 1, 3 and 4 years old. During the week we placed a blanket on the floor, had them all sit, and then sang songs that they wanted to sing (Yes, we sang Old MacDonald). On Sunday, we took that same blanket to our gathering and announced to the children that it was “blanket time”. It helped immensely. They ran to their blanket, knew their boundaries, and were able to wiggle and sing. They already knew what to expect!
So, pray about it, discuss it, and decide ahead of time what you desire (and why) out of your children during a gathering and …. let them know.