A friend recently shared a great post from I am totally *that* mom. blog on Facebook. The writer talks to parents who take their young children to church, and tells them (us) how she understands that it's hard, but it's so worth it. That prompted me to come here and write my own feelings on the subject. As you may or may not know, my husband is a youth minister and has been for all but a year and a half of our 8 year marriage, when we were houseparents at a children's home, which essentially, he was a youth minister there, as well. We are obviously believers in God and believers that kids should be taught about God. And, you may think that it is easy for us to take our kids to church because well, hubby "gets paid to" do it. Well, you're partly right, but that really doesn't make it any easier, except for the fact that we already have our church home. I do feel for the parents who are looking for a church to take their kids, where they will all fit in nicely and all enjoy their worship experience.
I have had more conversations with fellow mothers lately about how they aren't going to church because a) they like it, but their kids don't, so no one goes, b) there is no nursery or children's program for the kids, c) they don't know what they believe themselves, so they are waiting until they get it all figured out before taking their kids to church. I understand all of those reasons, really, I do. I haven't liked every single church service I have been to over the past 30 years and my kids have certainly done their share of kicking and screaming at times. I have struggled at times with my beliefs and my faith, but essentially I've learned that it's okay to not have all the answers AND to question what you believe. I have also been to churches where there was no nursery staff, but thankfully that wasn't a problem since my clingy kids don't like to be left with strangers anyway.
We are currently members of a church where the boys are usually the only two under 5 that attend on Sunday morning. It has bothered me at times, but they have an amazing bunch of women (and men!) that are dedicated to helping them learn and love God and Jesus, and for that I'm so, so thankful. Do they do it *just* because they are the youth minister's kids? NO WAY! They would do it for each and every child that walks into that church, no matter their circumstance, no matter their behavior, no matter their learning challenges, they would work with them to make sure they learned about God, Jesus, and the Bible in a truthful way, on their level. That's what I adore about our church. Even though it is small, it is equipped with teachers who are willing to serve kids of all ages.
But….what about those churches that aren't accommodating? What if there is just a preacher (pastor, father, etc) who doesn't care anything about anyone and kids basically aren't welcome? Well, my first inclination would be "RUN!" but I do ask that you give that church a chance. It may just be that they haven't seen kids in a long time, but they have teachers who are more than willing to give your kids just what they need to feel at home. If you've been there a handful of times and no one has welcomed you or your children and they're scowling at you then, yeah, you're at the wrong place because they are clearly not practicing what Jesus preached when he said "let the little children come to me." But know this…..there ARE churches who WILL accept you and your children exactly where each of you are at and help you to get to know Jesus better. If you have to travel a bit further or try out a new denomination, then, so be it. There are plenty of churches out there and it is more important for you to find one than just throw your hands up and wait until they're older for them to learn. Because trust me…..my husband and I have seen those kids when they're teens, and I believe they have been cheated out of a great relationship with God. I'm not saying they're unteachable or unreachable, but it is a million times harder for a teenager to focus on something that is foreign to them, and form that relationship with God that so many of us desire. So, no matter what it takes, just do it. It'll be okay! And it's okay if your 2 year old yells out "I NEED TO POOP!" in the middle of church. Trust me, I've been there. People will giggle and get over it. You'll get over it. It's okay if they drop crayons behind their seats and the sweet lady behind you tirelessly picks them up. It's okay if your kids fight over a squeaky toy truck in the middle of worship and yell "I don't want to share!" Getting hung up on the little stuff is NOT what is important (I must remember that as an adult, too!) and your relationship with God is more important, and your kids' relationship with God is more important than anything your sweet little hooligans could do in the middle of church. Trust me. No one is going to kick you out for having a loud child and if they somehow do….then, well, that wasn't the right place for you anyway.
I wish you and your family the best of luck in finding a place where you can feel like a community, where you share in your love for Christ, and you can find peace and support in life's trials and joys….because it IS worth it.