According to my calendar, yesterday was Mother’s Day. Unfortunately, since it didn’t rain on Saturday or yesterday, I was on my own. Just a note to the powers-that-be…scheduling Mother’s Day smack dab in the heat of planting season was not a great idea. Father’s Day is a much better date…and I am considering swapping them out.
Instead of enjoying a lazy day and letting my family pamper me, we started off early and kept on trucking through the day. I made a mention on my Twitter account that I was tackling church alone, with four boys, and someone responded that she would like some tips on handling church alone with kids. Great idea!
So here they are…my tips on taking kids to church (follow the ones you like, ignore the ones you don’t, and remember, it’s all about attitude…mostly yours.):
- Start off on a good note. Wake up early, make sure everyone is wearing their favorite church-going outfits, eat breakfast, etc. Being rushed, miserable and griping the whole way to the car sets everyone off on a bad foot. It’s not worth it, trust me.
- Take with a secret stash of snacks. Make sure they are “quiet” snacks. Fruit snacks work wonders, Dorito’s – not so much so. Animal crackers – great, Cheetos – not so great. Granola bars – super, anything chocolate – skip. Don’t forget that if you take with something too salty, you’ll need a bottle of water as well. (And some wet wipes for clean up!)
- Pack distractions. The boys get to choose two things to bring with and put in their church bag. Remember, these need to be quiet toys, so skip the electronics and noise makers. For my boys, the key is Transformers, cars and tractors. Although, I will admit, that sometimes the sounds the boys make with these is just as distracting. Another good idea for older children are puzzle books, word finds, etc. (For those old enough to sit still, but not old enough to quite get the message of the sermon.)
- Know when to say when. Not only do I have four children (ages 9, 8, 5 and 3), but I married into a front-of-the-church family. When our first son was born, and I realized that my husband still intended to sit at the front of the church, I was horrified. I never thought it would work. I was wrong. It can work…but you have to know when to say when. We did not have strict church rules until after our boys turned 2. At that point, we figured it was possible for them to stay in the sanctuary throughout the service. Yet, even then, there are sometimes problems. There’s a fine line between teaching a lesson and making everyone miserable, and you need to be able to read your child’s cues to know when you’re at that point. But make sure you’re not rewarding the behavior. If your child isn’t feeling well, and is acting up, go to the back of the church, but don’t reward them by taking them to the play room. On days when everyone sits well during church, and aren’t too loud, reward them with a special treat.
- The best offense is a good defense. What does that have to do with church? I’m talking about the seating arrangement in the pew. Our biggest problem is George trying to escape and running throughout the sanctuary…or deciding to join the pastor at the pulpit. So I strategically place people at both ends of the pew. But they have to have stiff legs and a quick arm! (Big Bro is much better at this than Boss Man…just sayin’.)
- Involve your children in the service. Make sure they all know when they should be praying, let them help with passing the offering plate, let them hold the hymnal. The only time I don’t let my kids be involved during the service is communion. They could be…our church has no rules regarding who can/can’t receive communion, but I do. They have to be able to explain to me why communion is significant to them, before they can participate. I expect that it will be a few years before Big Bro tackles the subject, although he remembers to look it up during the communion service. I figure if it were that important to him, he would remember outside of church as well.
- The most important key: your attitude. It’s hard not to become frustrated, but it defeats the purpose. Making your child/children miserable in church sets a bad example and a bad precedent. I want my children to think of church as a fun, safe, happy place, where they can pray, learn and share.
No, going to church alone with children isn’t easy. It’s not for the feint of heart. Yet, it is extremely rewarding when your children finally get to the age where they ask questions, read their bibles on their own without prompting and share stories regarding what they’re learning.
I may not have all the answers, and I may not know how to handle every situation just right, but I have someone who does on my side…and His answers are so much clearer than mine!
At the bottom of it all, you have to find what works for you…but don’t give up without trying. And remember, everyone has bad days, it doesn’t always work out the best. Be flexible, be reasonable…
and don’t forget to pray!