One day, I was sweeping up in the house when my toddler picked up the broom and began walking around the house with it. When I asked what he was doing, he proudly replied, “it’s a cross! This is what “Big Ben” does at church.” He then continued with his processional.

There have been several other occurrences of “playing” church: a Captain America shield has become an offering plate and the bath cup has been used to serve communion.

By themselves, these moments are adorable in a “kids say the dardenest things” kind of way. But together, they form a bigger picture: Neal has been paying attention.

What makes this revelation even more special is that for the better part of 2018, Neal was one of Trinity’s “liveliest” church members. And that is putting it nicely. Many Sundays, I would alternate between cajoling and threatening to get Neal to sit still through communion – a Herculean task. Some days we’d escape to see the playground before the last hymn and some days I’d carry him out kicking and screaming while doing my best to fight back my own tears of embarrassment.

So to see him, many months later, pretend to do these rituals, made me realize the effort was worth it. It was sinking in.

Thankfully one of the biggest attractions to Trinity was the participation of the children. Many a congregation member has offered to soothe my crying baby, distract my toddler or pick up the crayons, pacifier or whatever else has been dropped under my seat.

During one memorable communion after my son had eagerly run to the altar earlier in the service, Father David blessed him saying, “may you always have the same passion and enthusiasm for the altar of God.” Tears streamed down my face and my heart was filled with gratitude. we were not distraction or a burden but instead were welcome members of the Body of Christ.

Jesus said, let the children come to me. There is no better place to put that into practice than in church on Sundays. Children belong in churches.

To the fellow parents in the trenches, keep bringing your kids even when it’s hard or you think they’re being wild or unruly. Underneath it all, the work of the Lord is being done.

By Jo Walthall