Updated: Apr 14
Are you the innkeeper?
Out of a recent personal experience, I decided to write about the no kids policy implemented by some churches. Not sure if anyone will read it, but at least I’ve written down some convictions as I say goodbye to 2019 and usher in the New Year. Maybe in 2020, we will start to see with a new unobstructed vision (pun intended) of the things we are lacking in our churches, communities and on a personal level.
May we find solutions to the many problems in our world today and continue to pray for the ultimate solution which rests in the return of our Savior, Jesus Christ. May we commit to being the problem solvers, the answers to others’ prayers, and the bearers of our brother’s burdens instead of shuffling the blame around?
May we learn to stretch the dollar so we can feed and clothe the ones in need? May we bring back patriotism, respect for our veterans, and teach our children the true cost of freedom? May we graciously leave the comfortable to embrace the uncomfortable fulfilling of our purposes? May we have the courage to obey God and stand in the face of adversity?
This letter is not about a particular church. It’s about a policy that's instituted by some churches and I want you to see the policy from the perspective of the person it is enforced upon.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of being let’s say “set apart” by a church. Yes, I said privilege because I’ve grudgingly learned that trials are what shape us into who He intends us to be. I describe it as a privilege because I was able to experience what it feels like to NOT have inclusion in a church family. I finally understood one of the many reasons contributing to the decline in church participation.
After walking in a steady cold rain toting a diaper bag, baby on a hip and holding my 4 year olds hand -- I was relieved to make it in the warm church. There was a nice man with an umbrella that walked us in from the sidewalk.
My older son went off to class and I was relieved to find an empty seat by a friend I knew. This was my third visit. My 9 month old son was entertained by the music and then downed a bottle as the church news was airing on the TV’s. Then my son turns around and starts babbling with the people behind us who were waving and laughing with him.
Ironically, I had just asked my friend where to go in case my son got too loud - which in this church would have to be really loud given the volume of the mic. I felt a tap on my shoulder so that I would turn my attention to the volunteer waving at me. My son and I were escorted out and given directions to the "family room".
I stood at the doorway of the empty dark room filled with chairs and a TV. The family room was void of any toys, books, communion or bibles. Tears puddled in my eyes as I thought about how I just got my children ready, made myself presentable and walked in the cold rain to sit in a room by myself and watch a sermon on a TV -- which I could have stayed home to do. Oh, and this was the Sunday before Christmas too.
I sucked the tears up because I had been through far too much in my life for this situation to deserve my tears. No other volunteer in the hall offered to come sit with me. No one offered for me to stand against the wall rocking my son. It wasn't long before two more moms came in both with 9 month olds. The single mom with a babbling baby was new too. She also had been asked to leave and she admitted how embarrassing it was. This was the first time she had brought her daughter because she wanted her child to grow up in church. Because she didn't have that experience.
In a serious tone on the TV, the pastor gave a message about waiting and he mentioned “maybe you’ve been waiting for a long time to get pregnant.” My sarcastic train of thought quickly quipped, “And when you do have that baby – we have a special family room for you.”
Oh and the message the week before was all about the glorious birth of a baby. A baby who would become a man that included children and used children as an example to teach his disciples. A baby that would be our Savior. The one that was born in a stable because the inn was full. The very inn that was mentioned in the cliché question in the sermon "Are you the innkeeper?"
So to the church in general, "Are you the innkeeper?"
Are you excluding parents with babbling babies? How about parents with disabled adult children that may make noise during service? Are you staring at mixed race families or people covered in tattoos instead of inviting them to sit next to you? Are you holding hands with the addict, comforting the grieving, or filling the pews with homeless and hungry?
Are the least of these, the ones we seem to view as inconveniences, set aside in a stable or are you making room in the inn?
That single Caucasian momma with the beautiful dark skinned baby girl didn't deserve to be excluded. She's already subjected to exclusion on a daily basis.
As for me, I'd rather party with the people in the stable. The authentic souls that squash hypocrisy with their boots and always have damn good stories to tell.
So if you are a church that institutes a no kids allowed policy, consider the perspective of a single momma with a baby that's not comfortable in the nursery or maybe the baby is teething that week. Think about the fact that she works full-time and doesn’t get to see her child the majority of the week. Think about the effort that the parents took to get their children to church in the first place. Think about the stay-at-home parent who just wants to be around other adults for a couple of hours.
At least mention to the momma with the baby on her hip that you have this policy when she checks into the welcome center. It’s a lot less embarrassing in the hallway for the ones “set apart.”