It’s been over 6 weeks since we last attended church. Today, we attended a new church to test the waters. When we left, my husband said, “I smell a blog post coming…” He was right. I want to share what happened because I think we can all learn from other people’s experiences. I don’t want to paint any church in a negative light just because I can, but some things need to be said.
We had my nieces for the night yesterday. They are 3 and 5, and don’t attend church; they have also never slept over at our house before. I sang songs for an hour, tucked the kids in countless times, helped with numerous potty trips, got about 3 hours (and I’m being generous) of sleep last night, and ended the night with a baby sleeping on me at 5:30am while I was wide awake, wheezing with allergy issues, and trying to to figure out how to mind-control my coffee pot into making me a cup of coffee of its own free will.
I got the bed stripped down, made breakfast, made sure all 6 kids were ready, packed up the overnight things, buckled everyone in, broke up nitpicking on the way into church, and drove an HOUR to be there. I was thrilled when we were only 10 minutes late.
It was one new thing on top of another, and I won’t stress a little kid out if I didn’t have to, so we didn’t plan on sending my nieces into the kid’s classroom. Being that we are accustomed to going to family-integrated church, I am always prepared to take my kids out if they are disruptive and bring them back in when they are under control. I’ve done it many times. I sent my big kids to Sunday School, and we decided to keep the four little ones with us. My son’s life was in danger at Sunday School once, and I don’t send my kids to Sunday School because of it. Read more about that in this post. However, I knew the big kids would be fine for one day, and they were with a friend.
We sat, sang worship songs together, and the kids colored. Throughout the sermon, my niece quietly asked me, “Why does he keep saying ‘Jesus’?” and “Why do we want to learn about Jesus?” I was ecstatic to see everyone doing so well, interested, and especially kids that weren’t mine or used to the way our family does things.
Then, I got kicked out of church.
An older gentleman came up to me, “Excuse me, you need to take your kids out to the lobby; they’re disrupting the pastor,” he said, and he was dead serious.
“Even though they’re not being loud?” I asked him, incredulous.
“We can hear them over there. You need to take them out.” He stood there, staring at me, waiting for me to get up and walk out.
I was frozen with indecision. While I know my exact position on kids, church, and the Bible, I am not one to make a scene. Finally, I had everyone pack up their coloring (which was incredibly loud because none of them understood why we couldn’t stay. That was louder than we had been all morning), and we headed out to the lobby to sit in the proverbial box of shame while everyone else got to listen to a message of Jesus’ love, grace, and redemption.
On the way out, he said, “I’m sorry,” but he was hot-headed. I was hot-headed too, and he was standing inches from my face.
“No, you’re not.” I ushered my little girls past him, their beautiful dresses and shoes filing past him, the excitement over getting pretty, hearing about Jesus, and the whole new experience vanishing into the air as I was reminded that I am unwanted in so many places simply because I have chosen to have a family, and we refuse to fit the mold.
“They belong in Sunday School,” he fumed at me, still indignant and holding onto his righteousness, his right-ness. He had won, and he knew it.
I wonder if he thought about who he was kicking out. Putting the kids in Sunday School wasn’t a choice for us today, and instead of getting to spend time hearing the Word of God, I spent the time holding in hot tears of rejection, and then finally crying like a big, hot mess because our family wasn’t welcome.
And I’d thought we were doing so well.
This is one of the reasons I am dissatisfied with our current church: It can be very hard to fit in there if you are not a specific type of person. I can think of many people whom I personally know that would feel uncomfortable there. That’s not the love of God to me. This morning, I experienced that myself. Had it been my first time in a church, I would never go back. Had that been our foster kids, I imagine it would be alienating to them to the point of never wanting to return. It breaks my heart to see a Bible-teaching, Jesus-loving church turn out someone simply because they are younger, smaller, or different.
Tonight, I am still fuming a bit. I had an excellent conversation with the head of the children’s ministry, and he talked to me about the safety precautions they have in place, and told me he would love to see us back next week. A very sweet lady in the lobby came up and introduced herself to me, and told me that not everyone feels the same way as the guy who kicked us out.
In the end, it was bittersweet. Will we return? That is still to be decided.
Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.” He didn’t ask the children to go somewhere else because the whisper of His name might distract the adults who are trying to learn.
If you serve the church in any aspect, do you think there are set rules for every situation, i.e. kids should never be in service? Have you ever considered how the church can serve foster families, extended families, newcomers, children, or people who have been burned by the church before? Or, is it more important to be “right” and “follow the rules”? Have you ever thought about it?