I have learned not to complain to my mom about my kids and their antics. I am raising two children. She raised six. She has lived every story I have, many times over. I have no problem saying my mother was a parenting superstar, especially on Sundays.
Every Sunday morning of my childhood, my mother woke early and made sure all six of us were dressed for church. My dad was a pastor, and he often left the house before we even woke up. So mama did it alone. When we were young, my sisters and I regularly wore matching dresses. Everything was perfectly ironed. Everyone’s hair was combed and sprayed. Frilly white socks and black-patent-leather shoes on our feet, tiny Bibles in our hands. We were at church on time with smiles on our faces and freshly-learned memory verses on our lips, ready to recite. My mom was a Sunday-go-to-meeting hero.
I do not know how she did it. I have not learned all of her tricks. Sunday morning at our house can be mildly chaotic at best. At their worst, Sunday mornings can end in tears for at least one of us. My husband is also on a church staff, so I am often on my own. Things can get rough. On these mornings, I would like to stay home in my pajamas, watch Netflix, and drink my coffee very slowly, but I still go. I go because at the very least it’s an opportunity for me to have a sweet little break from my fabulously stubborn toddler. And those meltdown mornings are a good reminder that we all need a little more Jesus in our day. You know what I’m sayin’?
I’m not a professional like my mama, but I have learned a few things over the years. I learned from watching her, from my days as a foster parent, and now with my own kids. There are things we can do to make that transition from home to church a little less hell and a little more heaven.
Prepare. This is truly 90 percent of getting to church (and anywhere else, really). Get the outfits (don’t forget socks and shoes), diaper bags, and Bibles ready for the kids. If a shoe is going to go missing, Sunday morning is the time for it to happen. So have everything laid out. Involve the kids in what they will wear, if you have kids who are opinionated about such things. Go ahead and pick out your own clothes, too. I go so far as to try on my outfit sometimes, especially if I am pregnant or post-partum and everything fits weird. It saves me from the possibility of Sunday morning tears and frustration.
Make it special. Sunday mornings mean donuts at our house. My toddler may be reluctant to get dressed and head out the door, but when we mention donuts, his disposition changes. They aren’t healthy, but they are only once a week. I can live with that. We also listen to kids worship music in the car. It’s music he can sing with and do a little car seat dance to. It’s fun music. It helps him to get excited about where we are headed.
Get them used to it. This is a hard one. Sunday morning only comes around once a week. If separation anxiety is going to rear its ugly head, church is the ideal place for it to happen. Being consistent in attendance is a great way for your kids to get familiar with their age-appropriate worship environment. Take them early (yes, even that sweet baby!) and often. Additionally, any teacher will tell you that, for most kids, you should drop them off and go. Tell them you love them. Assure them you’ll be back. Then leave them. I know it’s so hard to walk away when you hear your child is crying for you. I have been there. But unless your child has special needs or circumstances, it really is the easiest way to get them adjusted. Most churches put lots of time and money into making sure their workers are fully qualified and trained. So grab yourself a cup of coffee, make your way into the service, and enjoy being able to listen to something other than Daniel Tiger songs.
If you just.can’t.do.it. And sometimes, you can’t. Sometimes, a child will not stay in the kid-specific class or service. Many churches have rooms specifically for moms with little ones. They often have screens or speakers with a live feed of the service so you aren’t missing anything. If your church doesn’t offer this kind of thing, try sitting up towards the front. This sounds a little crazy, I know, but I have a friend that swears that children are more attentive up front because that’s where the action is — the lights, the music, the sermon! It’s all happening at the front. If the front is too intimidating, try the front rows on either side of the sanctuary. Those seats are slightly less conspicuous. You can also pack a bag of age-appropriate quiet toys or activities to help keep your child entertained. Keep your expectations reasonable. Sitting still and quiet is not really what kids do best, but praise them for their efforts.
So there they are. My suggestions to keep you from losing your religion trying to get your little angels to church.
Do you have any tricks for a successful Sunday?