It's been a couple of months now that we moved to keeping children ages 5 and over in the sanctuary during Sunday's worship service. It has been a blessing that has also come with the trials of working out boundaries and expectations for their behavior.I remember Tamy Schenk, when she made the announcement, saying it's all our responsibility to gently guide the children toward keeping settled, quiet and either attentive or otherwise occupied. I have seen and heard of several people going over to children becoming distractive, settling them down and giving them something to do.I am also aware that sometimes we adults (myself included) are not sure what to do or say, or if we should say something at all. How much leeway or latitude do we give the children? This varies from person to person and is all part of working out the boundaries and expectations. I want to relay an episode I watched transpire this past Sunday.
In the back of the sanctuary 3 young girls were keeping themselves busy coloring when they started singing a song together. It sounded real nice and they weren't being obnoxious about it but it wasn't the appropriate time or place. They were clearly in their own little world, laying on the floor coloring together.Watching from outside the sanctuary doors I saw Lauren Smith, who was sitting close to the front, come back and briefly speak to the girls who immediately, and without getting offended, stopped singing and continued coloring till the end of service.
I share this as an encouragement for the whole congregation. When we hear or see distractions in the sanctuary (from child or adult), as long as we communicate we are glad to have them, but they can't do that here now, it is totally our place to gently say something. I really appreciated Lauren's modeling this for the several adults sitting right next to the singing girls last Sunday, who seemingly didn't know they could or should say something or what/how to say it.
Sometimes the child/person being a distraction will chose to leave the sanctuary after being addressed. This is a perfectly fine option for children who have too much energy to burn, or are just not interested in being quiet or still or otherwise not distracting. They will also know they are welcome back.