Struggling with taking your kids to church? Before losing your sanity while trying to take your kids to church, here are 7 of my best tips for taking kids to church; from a mom who’s been in your shoes.
You want to go to church and you want to take your kids with you.
If only it wasn’t SO hard!
While you know it’s important to pray at home, you want to be intentional about helping your kids develop their own spiritual resilience.
I want to tell you that I have been where you are. I have walked in your shoes and now that my kids are a little older (12, 11 and 7) I want to encourage you not to give up.
The benefits of taking your kids to church are far more than you and I will ever know. It is our duty as their parents to share our faith with them and give them the gift of hope, joy, and constant, that is in Christ.
But how are you expected to take kids for an hour (or more) long service without losing your sanity in the process?
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Before I share with you the best tips I have found for taking kids to church, I want to tell you what’s possible for you and your family.
I grew up attending mass Sunday with my family and remember thinking how boring it was and how I would much prefer to sleep in or read my book.
My husband and I are both Catholic but before kids, we were luke-warm Catholics. We attended mass on and off on the weekends we felt like getting up early.
After A was born we both developed a strong desire for him know his faith and have a relationship with God. We started attending mass regularly – the 3 of us.
By the time my second son was born and then my daughter a few years later, Sunday mass was part of our family routine.
That didn’t mean our kids loved it. In fact, there were many Sundays when I had no idea what the readings were about because I was focused on keeping the kids from running up the aisles or I’m sweaty and tired from picking up a pacifier from 4 pews in front of me. Oh, the struggle!!
BENEFITS OF TAKING KIDS TO CHURCH
There will come a point during your church-going that you will questions whether it is worth it or not. Perhaps even the sermon will be a bore and you feel like you’re not getting much out of the entire experience.
Please keep going!
The benefits I have seen in my own kids ensured me that we made the right decision in insisting church be an important family activity.
I am going to make a hugely general statement here but kids who attend church regularly are kinder, more respectful and are able to concentrate much better in school. They are able to quiet the noise in their head for a short time and just be.
That is something that many of us struggle with today. The act of just being.
Church also makes them feel like they are part of a bigger community, which in the age of social media is even more needed today.
As your kids get older and hopefully more and more involved in your church, they will feel a sense of belonging and purpose.
My boy altar serves at our church – which they have called “my church” and on the days they are scheduled to serve they are the first ones dressed and rushing us out the door. They don’t want to be late.
What a joy to see them willingly and joyfully serve the Lord.
7 BEST TIPS FOR TAKING KIDS TO CHURCH
Here are the 7 of my best tips for helping you navigate the stressful time of attending mass with your kids. I hope they help you.
1. SIT IN THE FRONT: I know this might sound crazy to ask you and your
circus cherubs to sit in the front where everyone can see you and the antics the little ones might do during mass but we have found kids tend to behave just a little bit better when they have a front-row view of the action.
I am not saying sit directly in the first pew but I have noticed that families with young children tend to sit in the back to avoid disrupting mass and I totally get it. But the kids might actually pay attention if they can see what is going on. My family and I sit in the 5th or 6th pew from the front. We get a birds-eye view of all the action.
2. IT’S OKAY TO BRIBE, FOR A TIME: Have you seen the shopping bags you get at Ikea? Yeah, I am talking about the huge blue ones. That is the kind of bag I needed when we started attending mass with more than one child. Between all the stuff for the baby, plus cheerios, puffs, water bottles, tissues, coloring books and on and one, I felt like I was packing up the house just to attend an hour-long church service. We brought it all.
When we decided to scale back on the food and coloring books we turned to bribery. Every Sunday after church, we would stop at the local Dunkin Donuts and get coffee for us and munchkins for them. For a while there, I felt like we were attending mass just to stop at Dunkins.
As soon as the kids got a little older though we starting scaling back on all the things. In fact, we decided that if the kids can sit through two 30 minute episodes of Super Why or Dora then they could sit through mass without being entertained.
We would let them bring their baggies of snacks but they had to leave them in the car. Same with the coloring and sticker books. It wasn’t easy – they’d come kicking and screaming – but slowly they adjusted and were able to sit (somewhat) during mass.
3. FIND YOUR WHY: As Christians, we can sometimes have more demands on how our children act and behave. I’ll admit, I have some pretty high standards for my kids and how they present themselves (thankfully God is helping me work through this).
When we decided that we would attend mass on Sunday, I expected my children to be happy and onboard. This was not the case. In fact, there were some Sundays when it would have just been easier to stay home than to argue and fight to put a squirmy 3-year-old in a dress. But we went anyway.
There we were sweating, stressed and questioning why we were putting ourselves through this but knowing deep down that it was the right thing to do for our family. Know that as you make this choice for your family not everyone will enjoy going to church every Sunday and that’s okay.
Knowing why you want to do this for your family is so important and it will sustain you in the days when you just want to throw in the towel and go back to bed.
4. BRAG ABOUT YOUR FAITH: When I say brag, I mean don’t be afraid to talk about your faith – to your spouse and your children. Don’t be pushy about it but do it in a way that shares with those around you. I often share things with my kids about why we attend mass and also what God has done for me. I tell them about my own spiritual journey and the impact prayer has had on the person I am today. If you have little kids, they probably won’t care or understand but you can do little things at home as well to share your faith with them. Here are a few:
- Get a Bible the kids can look at and enjoy. We love the Rhyming Bible and I remember reading the stories to my kids when they were younger. Now they’re reading it to me. This Bible has short stories that are perfect for all ages.
- Pray as a family. One thing we try to do is say a prayer as a family one day a week – usually on Sundays but pick the day that works best for your family. You can read a short Bible story from the Rhyming Bible or any other Bible you have and then sing a song. Have the kids act out the song while they sing it. They will love it.
- Set up a simple altar. I have an altar, that’s actually a small side table. I place a cross, rosary beads, and a picture of the Divine Mercy on it. I love seeing my kids go to it, kneel and say a simple prayer. Your kids will love it as well.
5. PREPARE THEM FOR CHURCH THE DAY BEFORE: I think the car can be one of the most underrated places to have great conversations with your kids. On our way to church we often go over what will happen and most importantly what our expectations are for them during the service. We are Catholic so we tell them that they are expected to kneel when it’s time to kneel, stand, shake hands with those around them, say the words and most importantly to listen.
When my kids were younger this is how I explained church to them.
“Every Sunday we are invited to eat at Jesus’ house. He usually has something really important he want to tell us so we can be happier. We also get to take part in a meal with other friends Jesus has invited. Remember this is His house so we have to be respectful. When we go there we need to act our best, okay. We don’t talk when He’s trying to tell us something, right. And we pay attention to Him. Can you try doing that? I bet you can!”
Try to make it feel like something special and amazing – because it is.
6. BE CONSISTENT: While things may be crazy right now, my best advice is to be consistent about going to mass. I know it’s exhausting and frustrating at times but it is so worth it.
We have been intentional about making Sunday the day where we don’t schedule anything in the morning. If we do have something planned it’s almost always “after church”. Even when my kids talk about our plans for the weekend they always say ‘after church, maybe we can do X”.
It has been a standing event in our home. But this has only come after trekking our kids, kicking and screaming sometimes to church every Sunday. You can do it too and in time your kids will view church as something you all do instead of something you have to do once in a while.
7. FIND THE RIGHT CHURCH FOR YOU: If you are avoiding taking the kids to church because you’re afraid of how other church-goers are going to react to your screaming kids or because the pastor said something about disruptions during mass then you are not in the right church for you.
I encourage you to find another mass that will be more welcoming to your family at this stage in your life. Personally we belong to one church, St. Mary’s but it has merged and we have a church in our town and another St. Mary’s in the town next door.
We attend either one on any given Sunday but my family prefers the smaller, more laid-back mass in our town instead of the bigger church next door. My boys call it “our church” which makes my heart want to burst with joy.
Perhaps a smaller church might be better for your family right now. Try to research any near you and don’t be afraid to look around until you find the best one for your family.
I absolutely love seeing young families at mass. I smile at the antics of the littles while empathizing with the parents who are trying their best to shush and manage their kids.
Unfortunately, there will be other parishioners who may not be as understanding of having ‘joyful noise’ at their service. My advice is to ignore these people. Remember that you are going to church for God. Not for them. God and His approval are all you need.
He sees your heart and your desire to raise your kids in a way that is pleasing to Him and I promise He will help you.
YOU GOT THIS
If after all this you still find it difficult to take your kids to church, I just want to encourage you to hang in there. The short time of exhaustion and stress will pass and on the other side will be kids who are well-adjusted, confident and love the Lord.
What a gift you are giving them and yourself as well. As they get older you will continue to pray for them and you will rest a little easier knowing that while you can only do so much, your Father in heaven is with them and can do so much more.
As the kids get older getting them involved through altar service or participating in any church activities will go a long way in keeping them engaged during mass.
You can do this. Do it for you. For your kids. For your family.
Which tip is the one that will help you the most? Which one are you going to try first?