I wanted to record my thoughts on a few of Susanna Wesley's rules for her children. I have admired Mrs. Wesley for years, and even named one of my dolls "Susanna" because of her. I hope to find a few good biographies written for adults about her; at this stage in my life she is definitely someone I can learn from!
Require all to be still during family worship.
Now I'm not sure if she was referring to a daily time her husband led the family in worship in their own home, or if she was referring to a church service. But, I'm going to use this rule as a launching pad to explain my family's behavior.
We have recently moved and because of this are attending the church in which the Mechanic grew up. It is a lot different from the churches we have traditionally attended as a married couple. I'm currently a Baptichariterian. He's a Baptiterian. We attended a very conservative Presbyterian church prior to our move, and the culture of that church is vastly different from the culture of the Baptist church we now attend. Some of this I believe is based on personal preference; birds of a feather flock together. But, I also believe that it is significantly influenced by doctrine.
Before I go any further, I want to make clear that I am not condemning any family in our current church, our previous church, or any other church. I believe this is a personal decision that every family has to make, and I don't think someone who does things differently than I do is wrong for doing so. But, I do want to explain why we do things a little differently.
I bring my 19 month old into the worship service with me.
This is not normal in our current church. It's not normal in I would guess the majority of churches in this area. I was asked on a recent Sunday if Ladybug was starting to adjust to the new nursery. I guessed that this person thought that was the reason I was bringing her into the main service. It was at that point I realized I didn't have a well-thought out answer to what I was doing. I told her that the church we previously attended believed in teaching the children to sit through the service at a very early age, that our child had been one of the oldest ones in the nursery, and we didn't want to backtrack on the ground we had gained.
That was an acceptable answer, I guess. I managed to not offend her, I think. But that's not the whole answer.
The reason we bring her into the service with us is that we believe God works primarily through families. This is in direct opposition to what a guest speaker said a few weeks ago. But we believe God uses believing parents in the lives of their children to bring them to Him. We believe, as Christian parents, that it is our responsibility to teach our children from the day they are born about Christ. As part of that, we are to teach them to follow the commands of God. One of those commands is to worship God. This is why we were created. The catechism that summarizes what we believe the Bible teaches says this: "What is the chief end of man? The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." Part of glorifying Him is worshiping Him. We are commanded to gather with other believers to worship and learn from God. There is no age limit on this.
Children can understand far more than we give them credit for. I read to my girls as infants. Why? They couldn't understand the words, and as newborns they probably couldn't see the pictures. But I read to them anyway because I wanted to introduce to them a love of reading. I wanted this to be habit. I wanted them to never know a time they didn't enjoy books. The same thing applies to worship. It doesn't matter, in my opinion, that they don't understand what's going on. I want to introduce them to the idea of worship. I want them to hear songs about God. I want them to have a habit of going to church. Now, I want them to have far more than just a habit when they get older. I want them to want to worship and learn of God. But a formerly common parenting saying is "change the behavior and eventually the attitude will follow." And it has a lot of truth to it.
I am not anti-nursery. I love the nursery. I love working in it. I love using it. The church nursery is a ministry! I'll admit there have been some times I've packed up both kids and taken them to church just so I could have an hour to myself. Currently, Turkey (8 months) is in the nursery all the time. Ladybug is in the nursery for Sunday School and the preaching part of the service. That is my time to learn. At this point, I don't want her to hate worship, and I don't want to dread Sunday mornings, so I don't push it. The first time I brought her to the service, we didn't even make it to the offering, and that was early in that church. Now, she can sit relatively quietly until just before the preaching starts. Eventually, she'll be able to sit through the preaching. But I'm okay if she doesn't do that for another few years. If she can, great. If she's more of a distraction, then we'll back off and send her to the nursery. But I don't reward her for misbehaving by letting her go play. I take her out and make her sit still for a few minutes before taking her to the nursery.
Sometimes using the nursery is just a practical necessity. There's only one me. There are two girls. And there's no way I could have both a baby and a toddler in the service at the same time by myself. So when I was alone because the Mechanic was at work, I had no choice but to leave one in the nursery. Also, a baby is a huge distraction who simply can not understand what it means to be quiet. They are going to test their vocal cords, they'll bang on things, so as soon as they learn to babble off they go to the nursery. Most workers won't object too loudly to you taking a toddler from them, but they tend to be quite reluctant to let those cuddly babies go. So it tends to be a blessing to the workers to give them a cute baby to hold and love on.
So that's my reasoning...