Wednesday, September 13, 2017

8 Ways to Improve Your Parish Cry Room

1. Can children see what's happening on the altar? 

If there's not a direct, child-friendly view of the altar, are there TV monitors or screens, so kids can see why they're missing Sunday morning cartoons? 

Good View From A Good Cry Room
2. Can parents comfortably nurse or hold their little ones? 

Would parishioners donate rocking chairs to a cry room? One parish that I visited had an entire row of rocking chairs across the back of the sanctuary! What a welcome sight for a sleepless, weary nursing mom whose baby needs to eat during Mass. 

3. Are expectations for the cry room communicated in a clear way? 

Are expectations posted in visible places around the room? Do they create a worship-friendly, family-friendly space, or do they create yet another place in the parish that young children are not welcome? 

4. When standing in the doorway of your parish cry room, how does it feel? 

Safe? Clean? Like a mini-sanctuary? Like a prison waiting room? Different parishes have different needs and cultures, so there's more than one way to set up a cry room. What does your parish cry room communicate to parents with young children? Welcome? Judgment? Understanding? Isolation? 

5. Are there quality religious board books available for small hands and eyes to learn? 

Is there a budget to replace them when they're torn or taken? We've donated board books to the cry room many times, and they always disappear. This is good! This means godly books are going home with little hearts! 

6. Is there a dedicated bathroom or changing table in the cry room? 

Is it possible for a single parent with multiple young children to keep kids close, if one of them needs to go potty or get a diaper changed? Is there hand sanitizer? Is there a trash can for diapers? 

7. Are songbooks and missalettes available for parents and older siblings to follow along with the rest of the congregation? 

If not songbooks and missalettes (due to the likelihood of destruction), could printed handouts be available with scripture readings and songs? 

These two are old enough to sit nicely in the sanctuary during Mass, but their twin one-year-old brothers are not. So when Dad's out-of-town, and Mom's in the cry room for Sunday Mass, it would be great to have a way for adults and older siblings to follow the scriptures and songs. 

8. Could the "Cry Room" be completely re-purposed? 

Could it be soundproofed with limited, exclusive use for only those parishioners who require absolute silence during their holy Mass experience? ...So I can return to the sanctuary with my minion of young, curious Catholics? 

And for those with young children, who are weary from weeks of overhearing bits of Mass from the narthex or cry room, while holding small children, I hope Father Joshua Whitfield's words will bring encouragement: 

"All along the Via Dolorosa, she’s trying to pay attention to her Son, to see him, speak to him, comfort him. She tries, but she’s jostled by the crowd. Her companions—John and the other women—are crying, needing her strength and support. She’s pulled this way and that, all the while acutely aware that something really important is going on—over there, within earshot, out of the corner of her eye. The sacrifice is happening over there, but she’s harried by the noisy bustle of the crowd. Yet in her heart she’s following her Son, although she remains among the hurried crowd. This is how Mary attended the first Paschal sacrifice—distracted, exhausted. Like you."

Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs."

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