As a single person, one of my favorite things is when a smiley baby sits in front of me and gives me the cutest smiles during Mass. I just might get a little distracted when a cute little one is giving me these fun looks, but I still love it. I love seeing children at Mass on Sundays and during the week. It gives us a vision for the future of our parishes – that they will be full!
On our surveys we receive a variety of comments about having children at Mass from “everyone’s welcome” to “children belong in the cry room until they can behave” with everything in between. I’m sure you’ve heard them too! When considering how your parish can live “radical hospitality” think about how you treat families with children.
I’ve read a few great things online recently to give us some fodder for this discussion. The first is from Meg over at Held By His Pierced Hands from the perspective of a single woman. She writes:
Because yes, your kids are distracting me. They’re distracting me from my narcissism. They’re distracting me from the idol I’ve made of worship, making me encounter God as he really is, not as I want him to be. They’re distracting me from the endless series of irrelevant thoughts that occupy my “praying” mind.
Your screaming kids are distracting me. Thank you for that.
I also read this great article from Colleen Duggan over at American in August. At one parish, she knew a family who had many children, most older than hers who sat with her family. Each of her children had their own person to sit with during Mass and they loved it.
I wanted to lean over and tell Janet and Danny to get up and run. I wanted to inform them that sitting with our kids was like sharing a pew with a traveling circus, but before I had a chance to plead my case, Janet grabbed a toddler, Danny grabbed another toddler and a few of Janet’s older kids sat between my other little ones. For the entire 60 minutes, our children were quiet and entertained by the person with whom they sat.
The next weekend, Janet met us in the parking lot and invited us to do the same thing. It was hard to accept help, but it was impossible to deny how efficacious it was to sit with the Hoover family. The stress of managing our children was gone, as was the worry we were annoying and distracting other parishioners. Janet and Danny weren’t shocked by anything the kids did (they’d seen it all by then), and they helped teach my children the appropriate responses to the prayers.
When they moved to new city a few months later, they missed Janet and her family! Years later, they were able to pay it forward with another young family.
What does your parish do to welcome little ones?