Worship With a Difficult Child

My colleague Heather Moffitt, managing editor of the Moody Bible Institute publication Today in the Word, has written a moving article about what it is like to attend church with a difficult child. The daughter of a pastor, Heather says that although she didn’t expect her children to be angelic, she did expect them to learn how to comport themselves. “Reality doesn’t always conform to expectation,” Heather observes. When her son was 14 months old he began to exhibit “debilitating behavioral challenges,” just weeks after she joined a new church.

 Heather writes:

During the Easter Sunday service one year, he was part of the children’s program. He had one line: “J is for Jesus!” When it was his turn, he did not say his line. Instead, he screamed, “NO!” and hit me in the face. I was bleeding in front of the entire church. As soon as we left the platform, I dragged him to the car to go home. I screamed, “This is the worst thing you have ever done to me!” In truth, it wasn’t. We had weathered far more intense outbursts and tantrums. But this happened at church. My expectation of compliments for my well-behaved children was a fantasy; my illusion of parental control over his behavior was as broken as my upper lip.

 In the article she goes on to describe the mixed advice she received on how to deal with these challenges. But more importantly, she tells how her imperfect church proved to be a manifestation of God’s grace in this challenging situation. The church is not perfect. Not yet. But even in its current rumpled state, it has the potential to be a powerful agent of God’s grace.

 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Pet. 4:10-11).

 I encourage you to read the entire post on Duke Divinity school’s Faith & Leadership blog: http://faithandleadership.com/content/broken-behavior-going-church-challenging-child

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Published by

John Koessler

John Koessler serves as professor and chair of the pastoral studies department at Moody Bible Institute. His most recent book is The Radical Pursuit of Rest published by InterVarsity Press.

One thought on “Worship With a Difficult Child”

  1. As a “P” with “PKs” I can commiserate with this poor woman. More so my wife can as she has the task of dealing with the immediacy of our children in the pew.
    The expectation that the Pastor’s Kids be perfect is alive and well.

    I know the capstone statement in the article is supposed to be the closing paragraph but the best statement in the whole article IMHO is this one:

    .A challenging child in church forces everyone — parents and other parishioners — to confront whether we value compliance over compassion. —Broken behavior: Going to church with a challenging child | Faith & Leadership

    Compassion indeed. God bless the church in this article. And God grant His Church to display Christ to all the weary mothers.

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