It was a surprise when my friend Lara sent a text on Sunday morning, asking could she come to the 10.30 service with us. She's been through a really rough time recently and left her church a while ago, so it was great to see her and her two little boys.
But she nearly walked out again when I told her that children stay in the service for 20 minutes. It turns out Lara's been looking for a new church for a while and thought she'd found somewhere nice when she took her boys to a Family Service.
'It was aimed at the older children,' she told me, 'and there was nothing for my boys to do, so they got bored and started to play up. People were turning round and staring and then someone shushed us. I just left and haven't been back.'
My husband and I managed to persuade Lara that no one was going to shush her at our church and she stayed.
I'd like to say this was a one-off but the week before another friend who goes to a different church said she'd been tutted at because her three-year-old was running around at the back. The church is losing children and young people at an alarming rate, and the Evangelical Alliance's campaign 'It takes a whole church to raise a child' really strikes a chord with me.
I understand it's irritating to have your enjoyment of church ruined by a child who won't sit still, and I'm not advocating letting little ones run riot during the sermon. But if we react badly what kind of message are we sending to tired stressed out parents, or the children themselves?
My friend Lara survived the service without incident, and the children went off happily to their groups. And when one of the elders gave a notice, I mentioned that his wife runs the book shop in the High Street.
'Oh I know her,' Lara said. 'She's lovely.' And for the first time she seemed to relax. Sometimes even our smallest decisions can have huge consequences. Will Lara come back? I'll let you know.