When babies don’t feel welcome in The Church
If you are acquainted with me or Hope in the Healing even just the least little bit, you are aware that we have been blessed with a miracle grandbaby, Norah Jayne. With us now just 4 1/2 months, she already trumps every plan and every move we make; our lives are centered around this little bundle of joy.
Our family took a vacation together to the mountains to celebrate my DIL’s birthday and to just be together this past weekend. We also dedicated our precious miracle and gave her back to the Lord in a beautiful, intimate ceremony in the Smoky Mountains. Norah had her Mommy and Daddy of course, her cousin Liam who read a beautiful tribute he had written,
her Nanny on Mommy’s side,
her Uncle Kris
and Uncle Korey
plus The Sweetheart and Yours Truly, a.k.a., Nana and Poppy.
It was beautiful!
Norah’s pediatrician had given the go-ahead for baby cereal to be introduced and Mommy decided that when we were all together would be the perfect time to let Norah be fed with a spoon for the first time.
I truly wish someone had been there to take pictures of all of US taking pictures of Norah. Eight people hovering around cheering her on as if she were the only person on the planet to ever eat cereal. (She wasn’t overly thrilled at first but caught on pretty fast!)
Then, Sunday night, we were privileged to be in service in Knoxville where I heard a pastor compare the attention we give to new babies, and rightly so, to the attention, or lack of, that we give to newcomers and visitors to our churches.
When you welcome a new baby into the family (btw, that term has always intrigued me…are there any OLD babies?) they don’t have to beg for your attention, do they? They don’t have to ask to be loved, held, hugged and snuggled or to be included in family functions! In fact, it is quite the opposite, they are the center of all the attention. The baby is usually the reason we gather together. There isn’t anything they do that we aren’t overjoyed with and more cell phones are pointed at that newborn than Jennifer Lopez on the red carpet.
Do we make over them as we do a newborn that has just entered our family? The Bible says the angels rejoice when ONE sinner repents!
What about when they walk in the door? Is it only the ushers that greet them? Are they then left to feel awkward as they make their way to a seat and hope it doesn’t belong to someone else? After they are seated, what about those in front and behind them? If that is you, do you turn around and speak?
“Well, I am shy. I wait until they speak to me.” Seriously? Is that what we do with a baby? Wait until they notice us, or speak to us? No, because they are a baby! They are the newcomer in the room and need someone to care for them, to love them, to help them find their way.
Anyone can say, “Hello! So glad you are here!” Especially if they are new converts or visitors that do not know the Lord, they need to feel as if they belong so that they will return. We want them to feel the presence of God and His love and it begins with us because He is IN us!
I have been a newcomer, more than once. I have also been the pastor’s wife so I have seen all sides. Recently we made a major move to another city, another state, to be near Norah Jayne. Our new church family has been amazing in making us feel at home. Some of them we have known a while, some only from a distance, and most we are just learning their names. But every time I walk in those doors, not just one person speaks and welcomes me but several. Others have given up their seats so we could have a place to sit! I have never felt as if I was taking someone’s seat and that is a testimony to great leadership, teaching and examples of servanthood.
A baby that is ignored, not fed, not loved and not made to feel welcome will do one thing.
It will die.
And a new baby in Christ will do the same thing if they are not made to feel as if they are the most important person in the room…because they are.
Love on them, welcome them, invite them out for Sunday dinner or over to your home for conversation. Go shopping with them, to a ballgame, INCLUDE them in church activities or group events. Have a Bible study going in your home? Let them hear about it! If announcements are made about something going on at the church, a dinner, fundraiser, etc., make sure and tell that newcomer that you will be looking for them there and then follow through. Invite them to sit with you so they don’t feel uncomfortable. It makes all the difference in the world.
Yes, babies are a lot of work. It takes time to care for them, nurture them and give them the tools they need to grow. But they will grow and they will become workers in the Kingdom who will then reach out to other babies and so on and so on. Remember, they are not ready for steak and eggs. It takes time for them to learn so don’t expect them to get everything right. In fact, we can learn from them! Babies are filled with wonder with everything they come into contact with. Everything. Their eyes light up with every bit of knowledge they take in.
Babies, kind of like puppies, also think YOU are wonderful and new converts are no different. Just as a baby and toddler will copy their parents or siblings, so will a newcomer to the Lord. They will imitate you and watch your every move. Make sure you practice what you preach so as not to be a stumbling block to them. Remember what it felt like to be the new kid on the block whether it was at school, a job or your church. You don’t want them to get six weeks or six months down the road and say they just couldn’t fit in or feel as if they didn’t belong.
This is the Gospel in action. This is what Jesus came to do and this is the commission He gave us as well. Preach the Gospel, walk in love so that we can point others to Him. It’s not about us when the baby enters the room, it’s all about them.
Love those babies, He has entrusted them in your care!
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