A quick caveat before I start here; this is still pretty soon after an unpleasant experience. I’m hoping I’ve reflected on it enough to take the sting out, and try and generate some constructive outcome.
Last night I had the chance to try out a bit of a different experience at church – instead of running the show, I was (after a stint on piano) the parent in charge of a noisy child.
Normally, the child in question isn’t noisy, or I delegate (as dads often do) to someone else to look after the noisy issues. But this time it was my turn.
As I’ve seen before, if you’re in charge of a noisy child, a church can be a hostile place. This, though, was a service where we’d already made a number of changes to make it easier for parents of noisy children.
Worse yet was the “split into small groups” time. Here the adults not in charge of children were allowed to stay in the main area of the building, while the parents and small children were ushered off to sit elsewhere. Ushered was a bit strong – really, the location was only mentioned as an afterthought.
With the group time over, no-one thought to tell the small children group that everyone was getting back together: perhaps a case of “out of sight, out of mind?”. As someone who is generally involved in some kind of up-front role in a service, it’s quite unusual that I would see what it’s like to be left out.
Asking about this afterwards, I found that this sense of alienation from the rest of the group is common for mothers: being a full part of a church group is one of many things that mums give up, generally without complaint.
This might strike you as obvious, but I’d never thought about it, or even heard it was an issue. Perhaps this is because mums (usually the dominant carer in a service) are not given much of a voice in planning meetings?
So what can we learn from this experience? It’s worth putting yourself in the shoes of a range of different people in your church. There’s always room for improving the way that things are done.
For the church-going mums reading this, is there something that could be done to make your church-going experience better? Am I making a mountain out of a molehill?