child training family reflections

Learning to Sit in Church

January 7, 2010

One of the benefits of Hana Kate not being able to walk (and there actually are a few), is that it has forced us to help her learn to sit through church services.

On Sunday mornings, we minister with the neighborhood Bible class, which is a bit shorter and a lot smaller than the normal morning worship service. We like that everyone meets together first, and then the kids go to their classes. We teach the primary class, which is usually 1st-3rd graders. On a few occasions, we’ve had Hana Kate join us for that. She has done well sitting through the first part while everyone meets together, but has generally struggled sitting still through the second class. A few weeks ago, there was not breaking up into smaller classes, and Hana Kate did fine sitting through that.

Ideally, I would have loved for her to have learned (i.e., for us to have trained her) to be joining us all along–at least to sit relatively quietly with us. But our services are quite long (comparatively), I didn’t feel like training her with all the other things going on, and once she joined the advanced walker nursery, she actually loved it (especially if her best friends J.J. and Haddie were there)  and was learning a bit during the Sunday School lesson time.

In mid-December, my mom was visiting and Hana Kate wanted her to do everything with her. Like ride in the shopping cart. And go to nursery Sunday School. So, she was a bit disappointed to learn Grandma couldn’t join her–she cried for the first time since she started attending that nursery (19 months). Of course, she quickly got over it. The next Sunday, Daniel’s parents had been staying with us for a week (and so had his 2 brothers). We had had a full house, and a full day on Christmas, and I think she could sense the transitions and stress. And she cried again that Sunday when we took her to the nursery. This really made me reconsider my desire of going ahead and training her to sit with us now. Her friends Haddie and J.J. were not there that week, and they were one of the main reasons she loved going. So I thought I’d try it another week. But, no need! The Big Bad Boo Boo of 2009 solved my dilemma 3 days later.

By this past Sunday, Hana Kate seemed to be feeling well enough to attend church. I was sick and stayed back with Eden, but couldn’t have taken care of Hana Kate. Hana Kate still being unable to walk, we felt it would be best for her to sit with the family. All the adult SS classes were combined, so they sat near the back with Hana Kate. She spent most of her time drawing, but after about 45 minutes Daniel took her out (just to get some air :)) after she got a bit restless and wanted to talk. It was definitely the Lord’s grace!

After that was the neighborhood Bible class. Daniel leads the songs during the main meeting, and she thankfully sat still (and by herself while he led songs, sniff, sniff -so precious 🙁 ) through that. Daniel was supposed to teach the primary class, but because of low attendance they combined with another class where Daniel did not teach. She seemed to do fine there, as well. How this encouraged my heart-especially after the trying times of seeing her in pain.

So yesterday, Wednesday, I was excited to go and sit through the service with Hana Kate. Our church has an overflow room, the fireplace room, where there is a video feed of what is going on in the main auditorium. Many families with babies and children sit in there, and I really like the smaller feel and more “active” atmosphere (as in, a bit more noise from kids and babies– it’s more rustling than crying/talking.) What a precious thing to sit with Eden on my left and Hana Kate on my right, between Daniel and me. For her, there is no temptation to get up and walk around; doing so would bring pain. And being seat-ridden, she is much more aware of the quiet atmosphere, and easily responds to our telling her to sit still or sit up.

Hana Kate wasn’t quite sure about the singing from a hymnal thing (we sing with an overhead at the neighborhood class), and called it a Bible, but nevertheless looked at the screen with wonder. During the first part of introductions and announcements, she began to color on paper on a little clipboard with a pen (something she doesn’t get to use at home). She diligently continued to draw her little lines (her favorite thing to draw at the moment) for the next hour. A few times she would stop and watch Pastor Rush as he was preaching. Although it did not seem like she was listening, I heard her whisper a phrase that he had said two times. The only other thing she said was “baby,” when a little girl started crying. The main noise we had to “shush” was actually the sound of her pen on the clipboard as she switched from drawing mini lines to drawing fast and furious circles. At the end, we were dismissed from prayer time, and she started looking at the screen, and saying “another man?” “another man?” Pastor Vincent had followed Pastor Rush’s sermon with some announcements and prayer concerns, and I think she thought “another man” should be following him with more speaking. So, perhaps (??), she enjoyed it?

Not sure what we’ll do for the future. Probably, we’ll have her continue to attend her “nursery” Sunday School class once her leg/foot heals, and then have her attend other services. Our nursery only goes to age 3 anyway, but I am really thankful for the way the Lord orchestrated things–an issue that had been on my heart, and which I had been rather unsure of what/when to do certain things.

I’d like to be able to just teach Eden from the beginning to be quiet and less active and stay with us during the church services, as well. Sunday School is definitely where I’d run into the biggest obstacle, but it could prove distracting for those who aren’t used to it in other services, as well. With combined Sunday School this month, it’s not as big of a distraction, though, so she’s stayed with us so far. Deputation and being in Madagascar also are considerations for doing this now, as well as the practicality and beauty of being together as a family for worship and ministry. (Though SS is more of a “teaching” time than teaching and worship, and I’ll probably have her in the nursery through at least that part.)

Other things of note from Wednesday’s experience? Toys: Noble doggie (sat and watched her) and “bug” (put away shortly after the sermon began). Papers used: 4. Pen marks on clothes? Yes-one slip of the pen on her shoe, and one on Daddy’s pants. 🙂 Supplies needed for next time? Tide stain pen. 🙂 I had intened to take a few other activities (took a book) to help during the sermon, but thankfully drawing her little lines kept her occupied the entire time. Now we just need to teach her to listen to the sermon and to use her pen and paper to express what she learns from the sermon. 😉

So, is our little girl sitting still through church because we are such amazing parents? Nope. Because God is merciful to us in allowing this all to happen to the praise of His glory and grace. I do think children pick up on the need to be quiet and sit still much earlier than we think, even though it may be difficult for them continually remember that. Will there be times when it may be a huge challenge for her? Yes. And I think we need to realize that as we worship and there are “distractions” around us. Worshiping is not just being able to listen to a sermon without any distraction at all. In fact, for a parent of young children, I believe a parent may on occasion be dealing with or helping his children the entire time…and yet worshiping God. For in dealing and teaching, that parent is worshiping by teaching his children what worship should be. Rather than letting our children’s needs become an annoyance, let us use them to drive us to greater adoration of the God who gifted us with these young arrows, ever pointing them to Him as we teach.

Yet, I’m not always aglow that my little one has hurt herself. There have been many tears, many hours of carrying my sweet, lame toddler, and many moments where her restlessness has driven her to rebellion, anger, and frustration. But there have been many tender moments, more focused attention, and seeing even more of how much my husband love our little family. Seeing my sweet girl learning to join us in church is a special, precious bright spot in this trial; one which reminds simultaneously how little she is and how big she is. Of how little I am. Of how big my God is.

*Yup, that really is a picture. Took it on the phone camera just as the service began..

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