I have learned that...
1. Churches that have a "nursery" may not use it like one.
One Sunday I was visiting a church and my 6 month old son was hungry and tired. It was near the end of church and I wanted to keep it quiet for him to fall asleep so I walked to the nursery to feed him. I sat down, began feeding my son, looked up and there I met the eyes of the congregation leaving church. The window for me to see worship was now a window for others to see me nursing! The door was open! Could I have closed it? Yes, but people walked in and out of the nursery with snacks & sat on the chairs anyway. I played a staring contest with a pre-teen boy. He lost. I slid my way to the stairs with baby attached to hide behind the wall but was then met with more church members that were coming from the balcony seating upstairs. This was no nursery my friends.
That story isn't unusual. I have seen nurseries used as a play room, hang out for teens on their iphones, Sunday school room, left over storage room, and a place for post-church snackers to eat and drink.
2. I can nurse in the church pew. Nursing in the pew is less distracting to those around me and to my other children. There is no need to pull out the circus tent (my nickname for the nursing cover) anymore if I have a blanket or trendy infinity scarf that can double as a nursing cover with ease. My circus tent is brown with red polka dots... yeah, now that's eye catching!
With my first child I wasn't nearly as experienced of a nurser as I am now so I spent a lot of sermon time sitting on the ivory throne (the toilet) nursing my baby. I regret this. If you have a church without a nursery and don't feel comfortable nursing in the pew ask the Pastor if you can sit in his office. Maybe your church can set up some audio from a speaker or a TV that shows worship in a meeting room?
These days I snuggle my baby close, pull the blanket over his head, and discreetly nurse in the pew not missing the sermon or letting my baby's cry escalate which would draw more attention. The majority of the time others do not even know I am feeding the baby!
3. My kids should not get rewarded for their poor behavior. Have you ever thought that kids disobey in church just so they can get to the nursery? I have sometimes prayed that we had a nursery for me to let my kids (and myself!) just hang back while they play with toys as I try to listen to the sermon over the fuzzy speaker. It would be easier to just let them dig in the germ infested bin of toys, flip the puzzles over, and pull the books off the shelf than to discipline them and sit back in church. Is it really? In the long run - I disagree.
When my children act up in church we leave out the side and they have to sit on the church stairs that lead up to the balcony or down to the basement for a few minutes before we return to church again. Do they enjoy it? Not really. Would they rather get back in church with their busy bags and worship? Yup! That's the point I'm after.
4. You can always laugh later & you get to tell some fun stories! One church that didn't have a nursery did have a baby changer in the bathroom. But there was a catch. There was a sign above the diaper changer that read..
Yup! You had to take "soiled" diapers and stuff them back in the diaper bag. No dumps allowed. Literally. And you can safely assume that my 1.5 year old would fill his diaper during sermon. If something smelled in bible study it was likely coming from the diaper bag. The jokes on them!
5. Less is more. Less is more. Less is more. Have you seen the mom with the kids that stand and sit at the correct times in worship, join in prayer, sing or hum along the hymns, and listen to the sermon? It's not me! But when you do sight one look and see how many toys and snacks she has. Most likely it is none. One of our readers, the Simple Homemaker, commented that her children have one writing utensil during worship and that's it. I'm not sure if our family will ever get there but it's nice to know it is possible. :)
6. Keep consistent and have clear (but low!) expectations. Don't exasperate the kids. If they didn't get a nap or good night sleep expect the morning to be a little more rough. Your child's heart is more important than them "looking" obedient in church. Worship can be enjoyable but not necessarily entertaining. When we bring them to worship the Holy Spirit works faith in their hearts. The mornings feel long but the consistent efforts can be rewarded.
Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. I Corinthians 15:8b
7. Snacks after church are a great reward! When we used to hand out snacks during the sermon my kids would whine and cry for the food leading up to the sermon. "Is it sermon yet mommy?" "I'm so hungry!" "Grooooan" accompanied with pretend faint on pew.
And of course the sneaky one tried to unzip the contents of the bag to find any snack, crumb, or old apple core to eat in their desperation.
One of the churches we went to had fellowship snacks afterwards. This I found was a great alternative and a reward for good behavior during worship.
8. Your toddlers and babies are listening! There will always be distractions that seem more appealing than worship. Even as your kids grow into adults! There are toys and ipads now and in the future there are iphones, sports, and relationships outside of the family. Training our children the value of God's Word and the gift of God coming to us in worship is priceless!
... continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:14-15
Share! If could choose, what would you have in your church nursery? What do you like about your church's nursery?
For further reading about kids in church, take a look at our other posts in this series –
Sitting in Church with Kids: When We Feel All Eyes Are On Us
Sitting in Church with Kids: 5 Ways to Help the Single Parent
Sitting in Church with Kids: 10 Church Bag Ideas