What I’m going to share isn’t new information at all, but I think parents need to be encouraged anyway. Each new group of parents can benefit from learning from those before them, I know I certainly have. But first, some stories…
One day I went to church and spent the whole time in the nursing Mums room making awkward conversations with women I couldn’t remember the names of. Meanwhile my (childless) friends and husband got to sit in church like adults. My baby managed to do an explosive poo, getting it all over her clothes and we had to leave straight after the message finished, I should have just stayed at home and had a much better time.
One Sunday I was in the parents room all by myself. For some reason none of the ‘usual crew’ were there. The vision and audio on the TV wasn’t working and I spent the whole time keeping my baby from pulling cords out of the wall and feeding him snacks. I was exhausted by the end of the service and just wanted to get out of there.
One morning I was really eager to hear the message, but ended up spending the whole time in the parent’s room with my grumpy baby. The room was packed with other parents who were talking and letting their kids run wild. I tried to listen to the message, but I couldn’t hear a thing. I left church frustration and empty.
The question I hear a lot from (new) Christian parents is why do I even bother coming to church? I spend the whole time in the parents room with my kid/s, don’t get to worship, hear nothing of the sermon and go home without feeling connected. I have honestly been through seasons where I have thought the same thing, wondering why I put so much effort into something that felt like a waste of time. Or to be brutally honest, like ticking the ‘went to church’ box.
The answer to the question many flustered parents ask “Is going to church really worth it?” is – Yes. From my experience and those who have gone before me, here is five reasons why I would encourage you to keep going.
You will make friends in that Parents room. If you are a new parent, connecting with others can be so valuable, but just remember that connection and relationship building takes time. Your little ones will grow up together and right now is a great place to cultivate friendship. Sometimes churches can have tight friendship circles, but in the parents room… we’re all in this together. You will meet people of all sorts of personalities and backgrounds that perhaps you would not normally get to meet. You won’t instantly connect with everyone and that’s ok, but you might feel less alone and who knows, maybe you’ll meet your next best friend.
Sometimes, the parents room at church becomes a sort of emotional triage. Parents (often Mums) share their frustrations, struggles and worries while others get around them to commiserate, encourage and provide a sympathetic ear. At times, I can be that person for them, giving encouragement and sharing my snacks, and other times; I need them to be that for me. Look, you may miss out on being prayed for by that Spirit-filled visiting speaker, but I’ll let you in on a little secret, when the audio cuts out in the parents room, sometimes that’s when God does his best work.
God has taught me a lot in my years in various parent’s rooms. I have learned a lot from other parents too and I feel my faith is richer for it. My security comes more from what God thinks of me, than the preacher on Sunday. My faith expression is more than a once-a-week service. I’ve realised that being unnoticed suits me rather well and I prefer ministering and being ministered to in unexpected places where there is no where to hide and I’m at my most vulnerable. I’ve had to develop patience and learn to relax my ‘God plans’ a heck of a lot more, my Sunday church plans rarely work out like I think they should.
4. Go with the flow
Some churches have amazing resources and facilities and are able to cater to so many different needs, while others can’t. Don’t take it personally. Goodness me I’ve heard some parents say some interesting things while I have sat quietly in the corner pretending not to hear. When we are put out, we tend to take it personally and feel we are being deliberately overlooked when often it’s not the case. How many times did you think about parents with young kids before you had them (unless you worked in kids church that is). Many churches are doing the best they can. Speak up when changes need to be made, but don’t get yourself all twisted up in knots. Sometimes, you just have to go with the flow. You should be pretty good at it… you have kids 😉
Time with your littles in the parents room doesn’t last forever and it will get easier. Perhaps your church attendance will look different to how it did in the past (that’s fine by me), but stay connected because this too shall pass. What might be difficult for you could be a pathway to change for others.
We had a terrible sleep that night up and down with the kids, but woke up and rallied to go to church. Our oldest threw a major tantrum refusing to put on her shoes while our middle child spent 20 minutes talking to a bug he found in the bathroom instead of brushing his teeth. To top it off my youngest son did a poo just before we got into the car to leave, so as usual we ended up being late to church. After dumping my older kids with the amazing kids workers (God bless kids workers) I went into the parents room with my son. As I put down my bag and sat on the floor I realised I had forgotten to bring his snacks and we had a looooong way to go until we would be home again. One of the Dads saw my dilemma, generously sharing his grapes and laughing with me about how my carefully prepared snacks were probably sitting on the kitchen bench. Another five minutes went by and one of the single mums started openly sharing about how her older son was going through a really stubborn phase, refusing to do simple tasks and that it was really driving her up the wall. She had no idea what to do to reach him and I felt like I had found my people, I knew just what she meant. Before I knew it five of us were sharing tips and encouragement and I felt like less of a failure as a parent. If these amazing parents were going through the same things as me, I didn’t feel so alone. At the very end of the service, I felt encouraged and empowered. We even got to listen to the last five minutes of the sermon without anyone’s kid screaming. I left church feeling a little tired, but less isolated and down on myself than before I came.
So dear Parent with young kids, I see you. I understand, and goodness you are doing so very well. Keep at it, keep at least trying to connect with your faith community. Sometimes it is wonderful, sometimes it’s a challenge, but hey… we’re all in this together and often that helps.
Love Jess xxoo