One of the skills you learn as a parent is how to tune things out. When your child repeats "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy…Daddy" for five straight minutes, or your kids argue, "Yes, you did," "No, I didn't!" for longer than anyone would think possible, a parent is somehow able to ignore the drone and fix their attention on something else.
If you are not in a stage of life where this skill is necessary, the constant, meaningless noise can be like nails scraping down a chalkboard or the sound of a jackhammer outside your window on the only day you can sleep in. That is why family friendly home churches don't tend to draw anyone who does not have children in tow. They are just too noisy and busy.
But when you take the time to listen to the noise and interact with the busyness, there are great things to see and hear. Within the chaos of home church, these are some of the things that I love to pay attention to:
- I love the sound of my children's laughter. It makes me smile and laugh out loud just to hear it.
- I love to hear the simple conversations my children have with their friends about the most random and ridiculous things.
- I love to see older children helping and encouraging my children, and see their eyes light up because they have a friend who is older than they are.
- I love to hear my high-pitched children's voices singing simple songs praising God, even though many of the words are made up or mispronounced.
- I love to know my children are comfortable enough with other adults to engage in meaningful conversations about their lives or their dreams.
- I love getting to know my friends' children, and to be known by them too.
- I love that my children are making friends who know about Jesus and whose parents are trying to teach and model Jesus' love to them.
Our kids are the ones who need the most from us. They need to learn about the faith of their parents, but they also need to see how Christians interact and live a Christ-centred life; they need to develop Christian friends who have similar values and goals; and they need to know they are valued members of our community.
Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me” (Mark 9:37). Prioritizing time with children is not only the responsibility of parents, it is the responsibility of all Christians, and it is something that honours and pleases God.
There are times when, for our own sanity, we need to tune out the noise that comes with children but home church is not the place to tune out. Home church is a place where we need to tune in and take advantage of the time we have with the youngest members of our community. It is a perfect opportunity to put aside what we need in order to give guidance and support to the children. It is a time to share what is most important to us, with those who are most important to us.
So when you arrive at a family friendly home church and a child stares at you without blinking for ten minutes, or someone's child wipes their snotty nose on your pants, remember the role you are playing as a discipler of a precious child of God.