“Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”
I have been so incredibly thankful for the joy and laughter in our worship. There is something about feeling at home in the sanctuary when laughter seems to come naturally in that space.
My experience at Bethany has been one of seemingly natural joy. As our children’s program has grown, a new joy has joined us in church on Sunday. Now we hear the laughing and playing of our kids in our sanctuary, lobby, fellowship hall, play room, and even outside. And as our Small Seeds Sundays have grown, as the laughing and volume has increased during that once-a-month worship, I sometimes feel myself worry.
Because honestly, not all worship spaces can hold those changes in volume with joy.
Saying no to the noise
I have consoled families who had children shushed by fellow worshipers. I have listened to colleagues’ heartache when their churches suggest their children be in childcare on Sunday. Some of my friends who grew up in the church hardly step through the doors of a sanctuary now, because they can’t remember actually ever being welcomed into that space.
I have heard people share their heartbreak that they don’t see children in worship while simultaneously complaining that the one child in attendance was making too much noise from the back.
And in all of this, I grieve a little. Because it’s God who fills our mouths with laughter, who gives our tongues shouts of joy. And although sometimes the shouts coming from my own little one aren’t always laughs or joys, all that noise comes together as part of our worship.
As part of people of God together, through every stage of our lives. Many churches have the children leave during worship for Sunday school or a separate children’s worship. I know that some families appreciate being able to send their kids out for age-appropriate time.
But I am a firm believer in worship for all. For every age and stage. Because truthfully, each of us have different pieces of worship that speak most to us. For some it’s communion, others it’s prayer. Some people love the sermon. Other people love to sing.
Saying yes to the noise
And just as adults we find different aspects to be most worshipful, so do our young ones. Our kids learn how to worship by worshiping with us, and by being allowed to bring themselves fully into this space with us.
And yes, sometimes we are extra grateful when a parent of a child gives them a hug, a bottle, or takes them into the lobby to play and listen from there.
But even in those moments of that gratitude, our families are still invited to participate. And many of us have witnessed the joy of children in worship. And the excitement children have when they are welcomed and included. Rather than shushing, we have seen our children be comfortable to share their voices, to share who they are, in worship.
Rather than being hidden away in a nursery or a classroom, we have witnessed kiddos helping to participate in worship. And that be from their pew by coloring on the activities in their bulletin or by reading or assisting with communion.
All this to say, I am so excited at the welcome, the joy, and the laughter we are able to share together in worship. And so today I give thanks, I give thanks for noise and giggles. I give thanks for children who feel at home in our sanctuary. And I give thanks for a congregation who excitedly welcomes the changing levels of volume.
What do you remember from your church life growing up? What were some meaningful moments of joy in worship for you as a child? How about now that you’re “grown up”? What joy and laughter has God given you today?