We were heading back home after sight-seeing in another state for a weekend. My niece was ready to settle down and go to sleep, but her brother pulled out his paper to jot down the last of the money he had spent. All the way there and back, Kevin kept a running tab of the money he was spending. He also kept a tab on his sister and the money she had been given by her parents.
Finally, I asked him, “Did your mom and dad talk to you about how you spend your money?”
“Boy, did they ever!” he replied.
“What did they say?” I asked curiously as we drove along the interstate.
“Well, I tell you,” he replied, “I can’t remember exactly what they said. But I’ll tell you what. I got the message!”
When we’re raising kids, they will get the message about what we think about church. We don’t need to say a word. They’ll hear us loud and clear.
What are our reasons for church attendance?
Is it so we can learn more about the Bible and more about God, our Father? Is it so we can become more complete and perfect?
Is it to connect with other believers who can encourage us and sharpen us in our walk with God? Is it to receive fuel for our week and a guide for how to live?
Or is it just a social event we attend when there’s nothing else to do, when we’re not too tired, or not out of town?
I recognize that there are moms out there who are single parents. There are also moms who take their kids to church while their husbands are sleeping in or out golfing or fishing. I’m so sorry for the extra effort it takes on your part, and I encourage you to keep on doing what you’re doing. Don’t allow being a single parent to keep you from the most important event of your week.
Please remember that I am writing from the experience of having a husband who was (usually) a willing participant in helping get everyone ready and out the door on time. Whoever you are, and whatever your situation, just tweak these ideas to fit your family.
And always, measure any standard (including mine) by God’s Word and what He has to say about it.
So here goes.
- First things first. Church should be a priority because God said so. You can read what He said about it here, and here, and here. If it’s a priority, it will show in what we do to get ready for the day.
Our children will absorb our attitude about church and its importance. We don’t have to be negative about the minister or the music or the people. We don’t have to be negative about going to church. Our kids will catch our attitudes. We’ve heard it said that more attitudes are caught than taught.
So if we choose to go to church when there’s nothing else to do, our kids will figure out that church isn’t a priority for this family.
If we choose to only attend church if we’re not too tired or not on vacation, our kids will grow up thinking church is a tack-on when we’re home or when we’re not too busy or too tired; they’ll believe that when we go on vacation, it’s okay to take a vacation from God.
We don’t have to say a word, but they’ll get the message.
- Saturday Starters. What needs to happen on Saturday so you won’t be singing, Get Me to the Church on Time! come Sunday morning?
Think about the things that frustrate you every Sunday morning. Then figure out the why behind the frustration, and fix it. If it’s the fact that your hubby doesn’t help get the kids ready, talk to him about it. If he still won’t help, plan a way to get it done without his help.
If you have toddlers, is your diaper bag ready the day before, or are you throwing things in at the last minute? If Saturday is too busy, then get the diaper bag ready Friday or even Thursday. Do whatever you can do on Saturday that doesn’t need to happen Sunday morning. It’s true that you can’t add a bottle of milk or formula or a sippy cup on Saturday, but you can get it ready and put it in the fridge so all you have to do is toss it in the diaper bag Sunday morning.
My mother used to tell us, “Never put off to tomorrow what you can do today.” Don’t put off to Sunday what can be accomplished on Saturday.
- Wardrobe Wrestles. What will you (and your kids wear)? When we had three boys under three, I rarely went upstairs during the day. So when I changed the sheets on their beds on Saturday morning when they first got up, I went ahead and put their church clothes on top of the dresser: shirts, pants, shoes, socks, diapers. I also stocked the diaper bag. I knew that, once I went downstairs, I wouldn’t be back up until bedtime. I also laid out their pajamas and diapers for my hubby when he dressed them for bed after we gave them their baths. It was my way of making sure I had their clothes ready for Sunday morning, so I didn’t go downstairs until that was done.
If your kids are old enough to pick out their own clothes, let them do so on Saturday night. Making the rule “If you don’t decide before you go to bed, I’ll choose for you in the morning” will help alleviate your stress and might give him/her incentive to decide the night before. There’s little more frustrating than a kid who decries ten minutes before it’s time to head to church, “I don’t have anything to wear!”
Now, of course, you might not care what your family wears to church. You might feel that as long as you get everybody there, that’s great. I’m okay with that. What I’m saying here is geared for those who aren’t on that page.
I’m of the old-fashioned group who thinks that going to meet in God’s house to worship should result in reverence in the way we dress. I’m not saying you have to go in a three-piece suit and tie. I am saying that if we were going to meet an earthly king, most of us wouldn’t be going in tattered clothing. We’d choose from our best, and we’d probably make sure that what we wear is clean, unwrinkled, and decent. (Yeah, I think some things are more decent than others; you probably do, too, even though our definition of “decent” might not always be identical).
So when I choose to dress in something other than “everyday clothing” because I am going to meet with others to meet the King, I’m preparing myself and showing Him that I reverence Him.
If you’re not of this mindset, you can still meet with the King. He takes us just as we are. He really does!
My choice is more about who I want to be when I go into His presence than it is about needing to dress a certain way to be accepted by Him. It helps get me ready because meeting with the King with others is important, and it shows Him that I care about my meeting with Him.
Whatever you decide, make sure the clothes your kids will wear are ready the evening before so you’re not wrangling over decisions in the morning.
- Responsibility–Ready. Do your kids have Sunday school quarterlies or put money in an offering during class? Are those items ready? Do they take their Bibles? Do you know where they are? Line them up the night before.
Do you have responsibilities at church, such as teaching or helping in another capacity? Is your stuff lined up and ready to go the night before, or are you scrounging around trying to find that paper you were supposed to take?
Do you write a check for the offering or hand your kids money during the church offering so they can put some in the basket? Do you have the check, coins, or bills ready so you won’t be scrounging around in your wallet when it’s time for the offering? Do you have a tithing amount you give, or do you just give what you happen to find in your wallet? If your kids are old enough, they should be responsible to take their offering money with them when they head out the door.
That an offering is an important part of church is a message they’ll get by watching what we do, even down to those pennies.
- Weather Wear. Is it rainy? Snowy? This, of course, depends on your climate and geographics and the time of year. There’s no reason to be searching for umbrellas, coats, gloves, boots, or windbreakers on Sunday morning. Those should be found and ready the night before. When our kids were small, their clothes were lined up in order of how they’d put them on. A three-year–old can do that by himself. We lined up their coats on the window seat with their Bibles. Once they were dressed, all they had to do was grab a coat and a Bible.
- Food Finagling. Plan your breakfast to be simple and nourishing. There’s no reason to spend the morning trying to force a child to eat something he doesn’t like for breakfast when you have a deadline.
(I assure you, I’m a firm believer that children need to eat what is set before them and that they should finish their food before they go play or if they plan to have dessert). Just save that hassle for a Saturday or a non-school day. I’m also a firm believer that the devil will do anything he can to get us out of worship-mode while we’re getting ready to go worship. So beat the devil at his game.
In addition to breakfast, there’s lunch to think about. I recognize that in this day, many families eat out on Sunday. For those of us who choose to not frequent businesses on Sunday, the noon meal doesn’t need to be a stressful event. Planning ahead can save the day here. You can read more about how I handled that when my kids were small here.
Choose the Message You Want to Give – because they are going to get it. Years from now, our kids won’t remember the things we said so much as the message they got from our lives. Our attitude toward church – including priority, attendance, vacations, leadership, their teachers, etc.—will be absorbed by our kids. It’s a sobering thought.
We think that if we don’t say anything negative, our kids won’t be negative about church or church attendance; however, so much more is involved. Think about the message you want your kids to get – then take steps in the areas listed above. They will remember what you did and didn’t do.
They will remember whether or not you skipped church because you didn’t want to visit a new church on vacation; they will remember whether being tired was an excuse for not showing up.
They’ll remember if church was a priority and if you were excited about being at church. They’ll remember if it was important to be prepared or if church was just a happenstance.
They’ll remember whether you were excited about the morning’s message or whether you had simmering preacher on the back burner even though you didn’t say a word.
They’ll remember if you thought tithing or giving was important enough that you gave every time the offering plate was passed or if you just gave when it suited your fancy.
They’ll even remember the size of the bills you put in the offering or the figures they saw you write on the check.
Years from now, your kids might not remember what you said about church and its relevance in your life, but I can guarantee you – they’ll get the message. Let’s help them get the right one.