Sitting in Church With Kids: When We Feel All Eyes are on Us
Nervous in church sometimes? I am. I’m nervous my kids’ wild energy will shine through and I’ll look like a mess of a mom. I would love it if everyone liked me, and I’d like them to think I have it together. Yes, I did remember to quiz my kids on appropriate church behavior on our way in. But, what I’ve got going on five minute later is three little ones bouncing on pew cushions asking when it’s donut time. “I’ve got this” is not the look I’m pulling off.
I’m nervous I’ll get those comments after church. You know the ones. “You have your hands full.” “Should I be helping you?” “In my day, kids were not allowed to run like that.” I don’t want all eyes on me when things are going wrong. I've had days, though... I’ll share a couple of stories.
A couple of years ago, my husband (a Seminary student) and I thought it would be nice to work towards attending communion together without babies in our arms and around our legs. Our kids were getting old enough. We tried it first at his parents’ smaller church, and it went well. After all, we were only about fifteen feet from the kids, they didn’t mind sitting in the pew for five minutes. It was special to commune together.
So, we decided to try it again at our home church on a Sunday when Daddy wasn’t preaching. We prepared the kids ahead of time, discussing the plan so they wouldn’t be surprised. As we made our way into the line in the aisle, though, our littlest boy started missing mommy. I could hear him whisper “mommy, mommy.” As we got up to the altar, he tried to follow us. Our oldest son knew the rules, and thought he should really remind his little brother that he needed to stay put. So, he tackled him in the aisle. As we received the bread and wine, the whole church heard “MOMMY!” “NO! DADDY SAID STAY SITTING!!!” as they wrestled on the floor. I have never been so embarrassed at church. Needless to say, all eyes were really on us, and we did not have it together.
Has anything like that happened to you? I’d love to hear your stories.
If your sons have ever bear hugged and wrestled while you sang in choir,
If your daughter ever pinched her big brother in front of the whole congregation during the children’s sermon,
If your baby discovered her high screeching voice during the offering,
If your kid ever screamed during your husband’s installation prayer,
If you’ve heard a little voice crying, “Mommy, I’ve got ashes in my eyes” (What!?) on Ash Wednesday,
If your son ever cried “MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY” while you played piano,
If you’ve ever been relieved to walk into church and realize it’s contemporary Sunday, because the praise band will cover the sound of your kids jabbering,
If your kid ever ran down the aisle after a children’s sermon yelling, “Pastor said there was a lion in church, I think he was just pretending,”
If you've been told “you have your hands full” after a service…
Even if all eyes are on you, oh well - totally worth it.
You are doing something very right, mama. It has nothing to do with your children’s perfect behavior, or how much you have it together. If any of the above items happened to you, it’s because you ARE in church. You are bringing your children to Jesus. All the rest can become a distraction; this is what you are doing right. Keep bringing your children to Jesus, wild as they may be.
Even if all eyes are on you, oh well - totally worth it. You can even use that experience to encourage the moms around you when they are nervous. “My kids tackled each other in the aisle once. You’ll be fine. Just let the children come to Jesus.”
There is nothing better you could be doing. This is not a job that can be pulled off with perfection; you may rarely look graceful doing it. Some Sundays, it will be clear you (or more likely - I) do not have it all together – but you are not letting that get in the way of following Jesus. You know his grace covers you, you will get you through, and it will get better in time.
By all means, continue to guide your children’s behavior – no grinding cheerios into the carpet, no coloring on the pew, no snowy boots up on the hymnals, no tackling, no wrestling, no screaming, no commandeering the offering plate, no victory laps around the sanctuary. Remind them of these things, but we aren’t in church to show off how good our kids are at following the rules. Let the children come to Jesus. You are doing that, so take a big breath. You are doing a difficult job that is very important for your kids, and for your church. You are letting your squirmy, energetic, screeching, sassy, impolite, bear-hugging, wrestling children come to Jesus. They know his forgiveness, they know “Jesus loves me,” they know your love as you snuggle them in the pew.
One last story – The Little Children and Jesus
Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them.
Sound familiar? Were the kids maybe behaving like our kids do? You can imagine how those mamas felt when the disciples rebuked them, can't you? Don't worry, the best part comes next.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.
Please feel free to laugh alongside me. Share your stories of trying days with your little ones in church in the comments!