Good evening! Sunday evening, to be exact. The Saffers went to church this morning, such as we usually do, and as has been typical lately, I caught only part of the service. My five-year old struggles to behave for an entire service. You probably know him as the “church brat.”
And he’s earned the title.
Whether you go to my church or not, you know the church brat. Every church has one, unless they have two.
Don’t get me wrong, because he’s not a horrible kid.
Does you pastor ask rhetorical questions? My kid answers them. Loudly.
He sings along with worship, too. Often times the words are wrong, but he’s trying.
And I’m good with it, because I have solid evidence that he’s paying attention.
At least, for a while…
But as the time passes, he starts to get agitated. Maybe he has to use the toilet (or at least pretend to do so). He’s thirsty, hungry, and tired. Sometimes we make it through an entire service, but ofttimes we don’t. If he gets too loud, I am happy to walk him out of the sanctuary so that he is not a distraction to others.
Unfortunately, there are some who don’t acknowledge me or my wife trying to slip out of the sanctuary without causing a stir. They don’t seem to understand that we’re trying my best to make the church experience good for everyone (our church brat included). Instead of understanding, we get dirty looks as we slink out the back door, shamed like adulterous lepers.
So to you, I offer an apology.
I’m sorry that you’re too hung up on your church experience to tolerate my kid.
I’m sorry that your traditions mean more to you than my kid does. (Obviously, he doesn’t care what you think about his behavior.)
Also, I’m sorry that you forgot what Jesus said about little kids being in church.
And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. (Mark 10:13-16)
This is such a clear picture. People were bringing their little ones to Jesus, that He might pray for them. Not just the well-behaved ones, either. But His disciples (DISCIPLES! Not even the Pharisees that we love to blame) rebuked these parents. Can you hear their scorn?
How dare you bring that kid in here!
Keep your brat quiet. Jesus is talking.
How rude to interrupt the Master. He’s busy teaching us.
Jesus did not take a shine to the disciples’ rebuke.
The ESV says that He was indignant. Other translations say displeased, angry, and ever furious. How dare his followers forbid children from entering into His presence!
And if ever there was a sermon good enough that it shouldn’t be interrupted by a kid, it’s one preached by Jesus. Your preacher might be good, but he’s not Jesus-good. Yet Jesus, the best preacher anywhere and ever, was okay with His ministry being interrupted for the children. It’s as if Jesus thought that the children were more important than His preaching. It almost sounds like Jesus loved people more than He loved talking. Weird, right?
Words are words, but people are people. Which do you love more? Jesus died for people, not for your Sunday sermon.
Jesus said to suffer the little children. That doesn’t mean “suffer” in the 21st century use of the word. You’ve probably heard that this means be patient with them, but it’s so much more than that. The Greek word used here (aphiémi) implies “release, remit, forgive, permit.”
Release the children to come. Give them permission.
Send the children forward. Maybe even “hand over” the children. (Which is what “remit” means)
Forgive the children.
Full disclosure, I’m a committed church-goer. You’re disapproval of my church brat will not sway me from attending, but it might sway him someday. Know well that if I can see your stink-eye, so can he.
And if you make my kid feel unwelcome in church, you would be better off to have a millstone tied around your neck and be thrown into the sea. Not my words, but those of Jesus.
It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. (Luke 17:2)
I’m sure Jesus would feel the same way if you make a young family struggling with their child feel unwelcome. When they don’t feel welcome in your church, they might just leave. There are people who are trying to find love, acceptance, and community, but when all you offer is judgmental glares, you’re not meeting their needs. I’m not leaving, but someone else might be.
So again, for the church brats everywhere, I sincerely apologize.
I’m sorry that you are so hard of heart that you can’t put up with a noisy child.
I’m sorry that you hearing the sermon is more important to you than my child hearing the sermon.
I’m sorry that you haven’t yet figured out that you can read your own Bible, and that church isn’t the only place that you can hear the Word of God.
And most important of all, on behalf of everyone else who won’t say so, I apologize to my church brat. Some people in churches everywhere don’t get it, but Jesus wants you there, and so do most of the rest of us.
If you are the parent your very own church brat, you can sit in front of me on Sunday. You’re trying. I get it as well as anyone.
Please SHARE THIS with the parents who are trying, and who shouldn’t be apologizing for their kids. They probably need to hear it.
EDIT: I’ve gotten some great feedback on this post, and I feel compelled to say the following: Most people are understanding, and that’s great. In my own church, most people are totally understanding of my kid and his antics, and they’re cool with the fact that we’re working with him, and he is getting better.
My pastor has responded to my kid’s answers. He told me (from the pulpit) that he wishes that I was more interactive, more like my son.
So this is not a dig at my church. My church is great. The people (almost all of them) are great about kids. It’s true what they say about apples. A few rotten ones can spoil the barrel.