“Mommy, can we go to Nanny’s church every Sunday?” my five-year-old son asks.
Nanny’s church does have a pretty cool kids’ wing. The hallway is colorful and reminds me of the bright warehouse hallways from the Disney show Imagination Movers. There are several doors along the hallway sporting signs that say things like “Control Room” and “Faith Factory.” At the end of the hallway there’s a large multi-purpose room with benches, a stage, a couple of big screen TVs, basketball goals, and lots of bright lights.
The church is non-denominational Protestant, and it’s your typical hip church – praise band, coffee shop, jeans instead of suits. I actually enjoyed visiting a non-Orthodox church for a change. And evidently, so did my son.
At our church the kids are in the service with us. We allow them to bring a book to read and a notebook to write in, but still, most Sundays are a struggle to keep the two of them quiet and to keep them from annoying each other. They do have Sunday School, which is very hands-on and my kids seem to enjoy, but it’s nothing like the flashy, fun setup from their grandparents’ church.
My children are being raised in this strange mixture of Orthodoxy and Protestantism. Though they’re baptized Orthodox and we attend an Orthodox church, they attend an inter-denominational Christian school that is heavily influenced by Protestant (and mostly Baptist) beliefs. They learn praise choruses and Bible stories at school; they learn feasts and saints at church. I often wonder where my kids will land when they are old enough to choose for themselves.
I often wish I could find a middle ground. While I appreciate the rich historical traditions that my children learn, I think the Orthodox Church could use a dose of fun. The Protestant church provides that fun, user-friendly environment that children enjoy, although I think sometimes Protestant ministry seems to stop at fun and not move beyond it.
For now, my children experience both worlds, and I hope they are benefitting from that. The seeds of belief in and love for God are sown. And right now, at their young ages, that is enough.
(P.S. I have more thoughts on this. There may be a Part 2.)