Coming back to church can feel rather intimidating, especially when you have little guys who prefer to run and scream in the privacy of nursery! Please know, from my heart and the pastors', that your children and the chaos they bring, is WELCOME in church. It can be embarrassing, frustrating, and even annoying when your children would rather jump on the pew and run down the aisle than sit like angels and be quiet. We get it. We've been there. I've come home and cried on Sundays when there was no nursery because all I did was referee my children. But, there is no better place for your family than in church Sunday morning. They will see the effort - and the priority - you make and it will impact them. Also, we are church family and family doesn't get annoyed by its youngest members.
Below you will find some Q & A’s about bringing your children to church. We hope these waylay some anxieties and provide useful tips for how to make this work for your family. However, if you choose to stay home, there is no judgment here. This letter is meant to be an encouragement, not a guilt trip, written from a heart of love, not judgment. We each need to do what is best for our own family.
As we move closer to green, we are weighing our options cautiously about how to re-open all of our classes and programs. We will begin with nurseries and work our way through to the older children and will keep you informed as we get closer.
Every Blessing –
Q: What do I do if my child is loud – is there somewhere to take them? And how disruptive actually is it?
A: I posed this question to our pastors and asked them specifically what is distracting for them while they preach. Their answer? Basically nothing. The only thing that will throw them off is a child that is screeching non-stop, which makes logical sense, I think!
What is very helpful is that with the "social distancing" restrictions, there is one entire pew between you and the next row. With my own children, this was helpful because they were able to move around and even talk without disturbing the rows around us, especially since we sat near the back.
The Hub is open for parents. There is minimal seating, but it's a space to go if someone does end up screaming or just cannot stop wiggling.
Q: I've never had my children in the entire service before. What can I do to help them stay content?
A: A few suggestions for you: Depending on the age, encourage your children to participate with you in as much of the service as possible. Stand (or be held) and sing. Listen to the pastors talk. Pray with us. Save the "fun stuff" for when the preaching begins. This teaches them useful habits and helps the time go quickly. If they're too young to participate, consider leaving them in the carseat, or even a stroller, or holding them as long as possible.
This blog (https://livingtickled.com/churchbag/) is full of practical, simple ideas for filling a "church bag." The premise is essentially to get a bag that is filled with specific church-only items. They are not things they get to play with or use until Sunday. Purchase small, quiet items at the Dollar Store and keep them in this bag as a surprise. The Dollar Store really is ingenious at all these little things to keep hands busy. Include a snack and a drink, such as squeezie apple sauces and puffs. Pull things out one at a time, spacing them so they don't see or use everything within the first 5 minutes, and trade them out regularly.
Q: If I bring my young children into the service, I end up paying more attention to them than the service itself. Is it worth the struggle?
A: Ultimately, that's something each family must decide for themselves. From my heart, though, let me share what I've learned from personal experience. Our children are 9, 7, and 5 and I distinctly remember the days where I chased kids more than I sat and participated in church, small group, etc. But, it was a season. Just like having a newborn goes quickly, so does this time of feeling like you're not getting much out of the service because the kids are distracting.
What’s important is to be sure you are being spiritually fed outside of the Sunday morning service. For women, there are a few options, like plugging into the ladies' Bible study this summer (see the Facebook page “Ladies Bible Study” for info). If you haven’t already, connect with a small group; many are still being held over Zoom and some have resumed meeting in person. Pastor Dave can help you get connected there. If you didn’t catch it the first time, listen to the sermon a second time online during the week, even if you have to do it in pieces.
Remember: This is a season. Seasons go quickly. Every season has its beauty and its purpose.
Q: Anything else I can do to prepare beforehand beyond the church bag and snacks?
A: Set reasonable expectations, communicate with your kids, and plan ahead. Communicate with your kids (preschool age +) about what to expect at church, i.e. - no programs for their age, no check-in, sitting with mommy and daddy, singing together, quiet during the sermon, etc. Show them you will be bringing special things for them to do (not necessarily showing them what those special things are). Set everything out Saturday night, ready to go, including shoes and packed diaper bag. If it's in your budget and feels reasonable to you, offer to get them kids' meals after church if they behave! Give them a snack on the way to church since the service is at 11. Kids ages 4+ can get their own sermon notebook in the foyer (just one per kid, so if you already have one, be sure you bring it back with you!); all you need is something to color/draw with.
Set your expectations to be reasonable. It may not be perfect, and you might referee the whole time. That's okay! It's a learning process for the entire family.
Finally, I have one last suggestion - and it's by far the biggest.
Friends, this is a battle for your family. Satan wants nothing more than for you to not be in church with your family. There is a battle being waged now for your little ones - for their loyalty, their heart, their mind. Fight. Fight on your knees (maybe even literally). Name it as the battle it is. Recognize the worth your children have in God's sight and fight for them.
We are praying for you, too. If I can help you in any way, please reach out. You don't have to feel alone in this.