Reader question: "What's the point of turning up to church with small kids when I miss most of it?"

Why go when I spend the whole time breastfeeding out the back? What's the point of going when all I do is walk the block trying to desperately get my baby to have a sleep for five seconds? What's the point of going when I all I do is sit in creche with my 18 month old who won't separate from me? What's the point of going when I can't follow the sermon because I only get to hear bits of it? What's the point in going when I can never finish a conversation at morning tea because I have to take a child to the toilet/sort out a tantrum/stop them killing themselves on the steep steps outside the front of church?

Why go? Well, here's what I think.

Because it's not so much about you and it's quite a bit about serving other people. It's turning up because it encourages others that you too care about meeting together enough to make the effort (even though it feels pointless). It's about turning up because maybe your short snippet of conversation will mean you share your life in a way that helps someone else. It's about turning up because it encourages others to keep coming ("well, if she does it, then maybe I can do it too").

So, if it feels pointless or a waste of time, ask yourself what it is that makes you feel like that. "I miss hearing the sermons" - ask someone to tell you about it afterwards, or get a copy of the talk to listen to later. "I miss the great singing" - buy some Christian music and pop it on in the car (a much preferred option to 14 long years of The Wiggles, let me assure you!). "I miss good conversations with people" - make a time to catch up with people at another time that is better or make the most of the time you have in creche/crying room/waiting outside the toilet/standing near the precarious steps to chat to people.  Follow up unfinished conversations with an email, if you got suddenly cut off with the, "there's a poo coming... NOW Mummy" cry.

And believe it or not (I did not believe it would), it truly gets easier. Be kind to yourself, be impressed with your own ability to just get out of the front door dressed and recognise your presence for the encouragement that it is to others.


JMS said…
Such an encouraging blog Jenny.
Taara said…
I often feel this way with my two small ones - and it feels even harder for me because our services are in Portuguese and I have to focus really hard to understand everything. But slowly we are making progress and the kids usually stay in sunday school without me so now I can stay in the main room for the sermon. And how will they learn if we wait until they're older or "ready" to behave? :)
Fiona said…
Hear hear. I often say this to people, because someone once said it to me. You turn up because it encourages others.
Can I add, though: breastfeed in the second row, no one except the preacher will see you (you're worried about privacy) and they won't notice. And if your child won't separate and go to crèche, keep them with you. They are better off with you, learning how you worship, than being in crèche.
Sandra said…
A friend and I used to stand in the middle of the courtyard at morning tea and chat until our respective multiple toddlers and preschoolers got beyond the critical safety distance at which point we'd run - sometimes in opposite directions and sometimes with a similar purpose. We'd have small snippets of conversation in between chasing them and sometimes go home wondering why we'd gone to church, and especially why we bothered to stay for morning tea.
Now they are teenagers we meet together to swim and have coffee while they are all safely contained at school. We often laugh about 'the old days' and continue to try to encourage each other as christian parents. Kerrie is one of my most treasured friends - we grew our friendship despite of what seemed to be difficult circumstances at the time.
Karen said…
I often feel like this. Like you, some Sundays I have to just suck it up and tell myself that I'm turning up because (hopefully) it's encouraging other people to do the same.
Fortunately, our church has a special program for the 18month to 3 year olds which they go out to while the sermon is on. And we're working on getting the 6 month old to sleep during the sermon so we can listen to it. The toilet trips are still hard work though.
We'll get through it eventually. There's no point sitting at home either. And you're right, it does improve. A bit of a way off yet for us, but sometimes you just have to hang in there.
liz said…
I'd like to add that as a Christian mum, a large reason I went to church when my kids were small was for their sake. It established our family identity. Lots of situations were difficult with little children: eating, sleeping, visiting family but I did them because they are essential to life and keeping up relationships. They are the habits I wanted to train my children up in. Taking their place in God's family at church was the most important to me. My babies were a blessing to the church family, too. God used my little ones to teach us all patience and love. He exchanged my pride in my involvement at church to humility that he used me even more in my weakness and need. (I fed them in the front row, Fiona!)

Now they are 21,19 and 16 and still think of church as where they belong.
Karen said…
Liz, that's such a great point! When I read that, I realised that what you said was another one of the big reasons why we keep on turning up each week. Thanks for sharing your thoughts :)
Elizabeth said…
Keep coming because you won't be able to anticipate when it will get easier, it will just happen without you noticing. And if you have stopped coming, it will be a difficult step to get back in the habit. There are times when we give support to others, and times when we need the humility to accept support from others - another way to bless others through giving them an opportunity to serve. Church should be a place that anyone can come to. If there are things that make it especially difficult, do what you can to make it easier for your self and therefore for others, or ask someone to change it for you and for others.

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