I believe we have missed the crux of the matter entirely. The problem is not whether children are welcome at Mass - they certainly are and should be because that is where they are immersed in the Christian community - but whether adequate resources have been given to nurturing and engaging our children at Mass.
I feel that Children's Liturgy should be available at every Mass because we know for a fact that it is difficult for young children, and even pre-teens, to appreciate the Liturgy at Mass. Children's Liturgy has an important role to play in the induction of young children into the Christian community. The Children's Liturgy seeks to introduce the Word in a manner that is easily understood by them, be it in the form of songs and dance, skits, role-plays, and so forth. Essentially, it is bringing the celebration of thanksgiving to their level.
The children are led to special activity rooms after the entrance hymn and they return to the sanctuary just before the Offertory. Hence, the children are meaningfully engaged for a good first half of the Mass. Having attended a few Children's Liturgy sessions with my 16-month old and 3 1/2 year-old sons, I find that the message of the Word as it is broken to the children comes alive in me in a very simple and touching way.
My husband and I have been going to several churches in the hope of finding a suitable Children's Liturgy program for our sons to attend while at Mass. To our dismay, many churches either do not have Children's Liturgy or the program is only available once a month at only one specified Mass time.
The program, first and foremost, must cater to the various age groups of our children and not a â€˜one-size-fits-all' program, which is the case right now. What really amazes me is how our Protestant brethren have come up with structured children's worship programs which cater to various age groups (as young as 18 months old) and volunteer facilitators who willingly undergo training and are committed.
I think there is an urgent need to address this problem, else we may find ourselves asking in the near future: why are we dragging our children to church; why are our teens not going to church, and why is our congregation dwindling?