Weekly column from Italy: Don’t forget that the little disturbers might be disciples


Christian Life

Chiara Lamberti, CNE.news

Photo Facebook, Chiara Lamberti

I just gave birth to my second child. After a period of staying home from church, I was looking forward to returning to our Sunday service. After the pandemic, online worship has become an option, but it is certainly not the best way to enjoy fellowship and the sense of community as understood in the Bible.

I just gave birth to my second child. After a period of staying home from church, I was looking forward to returning to our Sunday service. After the pandemic, online worship has become an option, but it is certainly not the best way to enjoy fellowship and the sense of community as understood in the Bible.

Despite my great enthusiasm, I immediately thought about what would happen. With my super-active and not-so-silent toddler and a baby ready to cry because of colic or hunger, we would probably be a very noisy family during the service.

Chiara Lamberti (1992) was born and raised in Naples, Italy. She studied Communication Sciences and has a master's degree in Information, Publishing and Journalism. She also has a degree in theology. She writes for the Italian Evangelical Alliance and contributes to the Protestant magazine Loci Communes. With her husband and daughter she lives in Rome.

I am a member of a church where children stay with their parents the entire time. They are never removed from the common room where worship takes place.

This has always been the case in my life. The church I attended with my parents also had a provision for the children to attend worship and other meetings. I know, however, that this is not always the case.

In Italy, many churches, perhaps the majority of them, provide parallel programmes for children, activities that ensures that children do not get bored and that allow parents to follow worship at their leisure.

The fear of missing a sermon

If you consider these things, perhaps it is a choice that makes sense. Now that I am a parent, I experience the embarrassment of my daughter dropping all her things on the floor in the silence of prayer or trying to distract other members.

I also know how frustrating it is to come home after a few services having missed part of the sermon. But I know that for my church in Rome, having children present during worship is not an accident or a lack of organisation. It is a deliberate way of being a confessing and biblically inspired church.

I was very encouraged when I read a paper by an Italian Christian educator, Lucia Stelluti [1], who wrote in a theology magazine precisely about the presence of little disciples in churches. First of all, the Bible has never excluded the little ones from God's plan. Samuel, Jeremiah, and Timothy received great callings at a young age and served the Lord faithfully. Jesus himself also addressed children without excluding them. On the contrary, he valued them and presented them as an example for the older disciples.

Our children, therefore, should not be treated as "children of believers" but as possible children of God who need to hear the Word of God and experience the fraternal communion of the gathered saints.

People of all ages

God's people in both the Old and New Testament have always been a people of all ages, and today's church also needs to be open to all. The church must be the place where we talk about Christ to children who do not yet believe, but also the place where we learn to welcome children who are already believers.

Sometimes churches are not ready to think of children as church members, but we need to be open to the idea that is God to call his children and he is not interested in the age.

Children need to participate

If we want to reach the people outside the church with the proclamation of the Gospel, we must first remember those in our midst. Our children need to participate in church life where they can learn about the unity of God's people from an early age and where they can be valued and integrated according to their abilities and possibilities. This does not exclude activities and moments during the liturgy that are designed and reserved for children, but participation in the ordinary life of the church is important for their own growth and for their parents who will be supported by the whole church in raising their children in God's love.

In Italy the churches are really very small, and the proclamation of the Word of God is a difficult and big job to do. So, there is a need for generations of young people growing up in churches that take care of their discipleship constantly, and not just during isolated and generationally segregated programmes. That way, we can have children and young people with lives transformed by Christ who can also transform society.

It has become clear that family worship in our church life has helped to cultivate family discipleship at home and cross-generational discipleship within the body of Christ. My church members know my children and I know theirs, including their gifts and some of their struggles.

As a mother, even though there will be times of distraction, embarrassment or weariness, I am so grateful to be able to bring my children to the service with me. I know that even at such a young age their active participation in the life of the church will be healthy for them. They will learn that there are people of all ages, with different characters, different views, and different gifts to interact with and learn a lot from. They will learn from the life testimonies of other believers.

Children don’t learn as adults

If the Lord calls them as his children, they will not have to learn as adults how to serve in the church after years of interacting only with their church peers. They will already be accustomed to experiencing the church as a united body. This consideration of even their small lives will surely be important for every aspect of their social life, and as a parent I can only be grateful for this great opportunity the Lord is giving us as a young family.



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