I received an email that touched a bit of a nerve. Commenting on the pictures of our recent Shabbat gathering, my emailer lamented that the fellowship/group she gathers with has few children which are not much appreciated. Among other things on the blog that struck her, she enjoyed seeing so many happy little faces, and we have a bunch of them.
While I do not know her situation, I suspect it is much like a story I’ve heard multiple times from other fellowships: ‘Children don’t like to study, they are a distraction, too much noise, short attention spans, etc…’ In their haste to belly up to the table of Truth, they have forgotten the most important task they have: training the next generation.
I don’t really want to get on a soapbox, but I would remind all readers that the building block of a nation is family, and family includes children. Our Messiah said, ‘Let the little children come and forbid them not…’ We should go to great lengths to make our fellowships very family friendly. [The idea of ‘Sunday School’ and separating the children into a little groups is entirely contrary to Scripture and the Hebrew culture. Sunday School is a modern invention that dumbs down our little ones and fosters cliques and isolation…. but, that is yet another soapbox.]
If your Torah study is so awesome that you don’t want children to interrupt, ask questions or be a distraction, then you have misplaced priorities. Period.
In our home fellowships, we include children and insure there is enough low hanging fruit that they can grasp and be fed. We are cognizant of their shorter attention spans and allow for them to exit and play as needed. We find they often add valuable insight and can sit and focus much longer than we think… Find the balance that works. It is worth having them around and it is worth preparing them to be the next leaders.
Another thought is that is we are serious about building a nation and a culture, the inclusion of children is absolutely critical….
A side note, if you are bringing children and they are unruly, you have a responsibility to help them learn self control and incrementally grow into boys and girls capable of participating and adding, not distracting and subtracting. All told, there is an element whereby it takes a community… In that regard, be not afraid to ask other men/elders to help with having a child sit with them to be drawn in and to see modeled proper behavior.
Again, there is a balance… It pays to find it.
If the shoe fits…. 😉