Distractions in Church

My recent musings about children in church sparked a lot of discussion. One thing that came up frequently was how much of a distraction children can be to others in worship, even when they’re well-behaved. That got me thinking–at what point do we have to take ownership for the things that we allow ourselves to be distracted by, instead of placing the blame on the person (or thing) that is distracting us?

Everyone has different things that cause their attention to wander, be it in church or somewhere else. For example, unless a total meltdown is in progress, I very rarely notice any child-noise in church, unless the noise is coming from my own children, of whose noises I am hyper-aware. Maybe it’s because I’m a mother, and I just tend to block it out; maybe it’s just not something that tends to cross my radar, I don’t know.

On the other hand, there are things that *do* distract me, to the point that I will suddenly realize I missed a big part of the service because I had been focusing on the distraction. But whose responsibility is that? The person who had been distracting me? Or myself, for allowing my mind to focus on something other than the Word on Sunday morning?

My guess is that the real problem there is me. Again, I’m not talking about something that is almost impossible to ignore, like the complete meltdown of a child, or someone collapsing in the service. I’m talking about rather innocuous things–things that might bother me, that you’d never even notice, or things that make you crazy, while I’m left wondering what the problem is. It’s the minutiae in life that tends to get us, after all.

There are so many things in worship that can distract us if we allow it. The innocent noises that come from babies and toddlers. The way someone is dressed. Adults whispering a few pews away. The scent of perfume or cologne (or even the flowers in church that Sunday). The sound of coughing or sniffling. Even our own thoughts and plans. Any of these little things can encourage us to move our focus from where it should be, to something, anything else. Who among us hasn’t drifted away, only to realize that half of the sermon has gone by, without our hearing a word? And worse yet, *the* Word? I know I have. Mea culpa.

Yes, as fellow members of a congregation, we need to be sympathetic to those things we do in worship that may cause our brothers and sisters to become distracted and take their focus of Christ. I would never suggest that we concern ourselves only with our worship, and what works for us–we should be concerned with the whole body of Christ. But we also need to be responsible for our own minds, and the direction our thoughts take when we allow ourselves to look away from Christ, and focus on anything else when we are in His presence. And in everything, whether as distractor or the distracted, we should all keep in mind the words of Galatians 6:2–“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the Law of Christ.”