We Were That Family
I’ll admit it…even as a full-time Church Worker in Children’s and Family Ministry, this past weekend, we were that family.
For the first time in several months, we all came back to in-person, Sunday Worship. Yes, I am here each weekend doing a Children’s Message, but usually, my husband watches from home while he cares for our 1-year-old.
We would occasionally venture together to the Saturday evening service, but really the last time we regularly all attended in-person worship together was when my son could still be cradled in one arm like a football and he slept through the whole service. We only have one vehicle and I do a Children’s Message at both of our services and like many families, we felt more comfortable with my husband and son watching from home.
But, this past weekend, we decided to all attend in-person worship. We felt very comfortable with all of the protocols that have carefully been put into place, however, my son has grown up a ton since we were regularly bringing him to in-person worship, pre-pandemic.
We now have a 1-year old wiggle worm, who doesn’t particularly like being held now that he knows how to walk and was being reintroduced to a whole new world- Church.
For the first time in our lives, as new parents my husband and I were that family. Although we were armed with a bag of toys, a bag of snacks, and I even grabbed one of the high-chairs in the back of the sanctuary for him to sit in, there was a circus happening in the Carr family’s pew. As you can imagine, our toddler didn’t sit still for very long. My husband and I took turns passing him back and forth, doing our best to entertain him. He ate a granola bar and a ton of baby puffs, and I’m pretty sure that was even before the sermon began.
After I did my Children’s Message, we desperately tried to keep our son engaged on things other than his desire to run down the aisle or under the pews, praying he wouldn’t show all of the congregation the decibel level his voice is able to achieve as we often hear at home. Knee bouncing, reading book, observing the other kids in the pews behind him, and of course, more snacks but eventually we were running out of ideas. Whether they were or not, it felt like all eyes were on us as my husband and I sunk deeper and deeper into the pew with every tiny noise our son made. We felt like terrible parents.
Eventually, I took a turn with my son, letting him walk in the back of the church. There, two young sisters were able to keep his attention for a few moments as the sermon was wrapping up as they waved to him. Their mom shared a similar experience that she had with her daughter’s crawling underneath several rows of chairs back when worship was happening in the gym before we returned to our pew.
Look, it wasn’t pretty, but we made it! We went to church as a family with our 1-year-old which felt like a huge victory. As the Family Life Minister, I say give me a church filled with noisy kids, but I know as a parent, that feels like breaking a whole lot of rules.
Research has shown that the most important groundwork you lay for your children happens in the first 7 years of their life. Church with kiddos may be rowdy, wiggly, filled with lessons in whispering may ensure, and like me, you may make several trips up the side aisles with a little one bouncing on your hip, but it’s worth it! You are watering that small seed of faith planted in their heart! You are demonstrating for them the importance of your relationship with Jesus and how to Worship Him. Our churches are filled with people who have previously been in your shoes and I was reminded of that by those who shared with me afterwards how nice it was to see us all together and reminisced on a story or two of their own church adventures with their own kids.
Parents- you are welcome here, you belong here! Your children belong here, wiggles and all, whether in-person or at home! Sing along with your kids or feel free to quietly explain what’s happening within the service. If you ever feel like you need to take a step out with your children, go for it, but please come back! I’m not sure who said it, but I once read, “Going to church with children can be hard, but living a life without Jesus is even harder.” Seeing children in church, my own included, reminds me that our church is growing! Remember, Jesus himself said, “Let the little children come to me.”
And to the parents reading this right now, don’t forget to give yourself grace. Taking your children to church is hard, but it’s worth it and we can all be that family together! So, I don’t know who needs to hear it, but we are glad you are here!