But then, what is “on time”?.
Does getting to church on time matter? Is it really important? And then, what is “on time”?
If we arrive just in time to slide into the pew before the opening, is that on time? Are we really late if we arrive after the opening has begun? What constitutes being on time?
When we answer those questions, we’ll have a gauge for the time we want to arrive in church. Answering those questions tells us if it’s something we want to do, we ought to do, or if we don’t care either way. Since there’s no rule for when a person should arrive, you get to decide.
For starters, all of us have experienced times when no matter how hard we tried, we just didn’t make it for the opening of a service. A flat tire, a car with a dead battery, a baby with a messy diaper, the misplaced wallet or purse, a shoe that’s missing, a poky child, a full-blown temper tantrum, or a faulty alarm clock are just some of the things that can go wrong.
On occasion, a late night Saturday or arriving home from a trip at midnight kept us hopping in the morning to get everybody up and going. Believe me, I know what that’s like and I recognize that there are times we have little control over the lateness of the hour.
We’ve been the family dragging in after the opening song. Most of us know what that’s like and remember feeling embarrassed. We’ve experienced grace (or should have) when those times occurred.
Changing a mindset
How we feel about getting to church on time is played out on Sunday morning. It doesn’t matter so much our plan of action if our mindset is that it really isn’t important to be on time. The other problem that happens (sometimes) is a spouse who doesn’t mind being late. It’s hard to jump-start an existing attitude every week and try to solo-parent on this one.
On the other hand, having a conversation about priorities and patterns can be helpful. Parents need to decide if getting to church in time so no one feels rushed is important. Some parents prefer sleeping in to being on time. Unless we change our mindset, we will continue to arrive late.
Sometimes teenagers dawdle so much that the entire family is late. Sometimes it’s one parent or the other – or both. When small children get to bed late on Saturday evening, it’s difficult to get them up and going in the morning. These things happen, and they’re short term. Short term is one thing, but long term can set a pattern for life.
Changing a pattern
Dave thinks if we’re not ten minutes early, we’re late. He’s fussed that we’re all gonna be late to his funeral because he won’t be here to get us there on time. I’m telling you this because I want you to know that getting to the church on time takes effort – and planning.
We can make excuses: “It’s just so hard with kids” [yes, it is] – “If we didn’t live so far away” [true, but distance can sometimes allow you to make up time while driving] – “It seems the devil does everything he can to make us late” [you got that right!]. The question is, what are we doing to outsmart the devil in his plan?
We can reckon with the fact that it’s easier to be on time when it matters to us. Truth be told, if we were given $100 (or more!) every time we arrived to church on time, a lot of us would manage to get there in time to get that $100. Tell me it ain’t so!
Changing the pattern of being habitually tardy begins in our mind. We have to decide if it matters, how much it matters, and what we are willing to do to change that pattern. A look down the road at what we’re teaching our kids about punctuality for work (and church) once they’re grown can help us consider the worth.
What we did to get to church on time
Each family situation is different, and what worked for our family might not work for yours. This I know: if we want to become punctual, it can happen if we are willing to put forth the effort. Schedules can vary and Satan will try to interfere, but we don’t need to become accomplices to his plan.
Here’s my two cents – and it’s free. 🙂
- decide what time you want to arrive at church. You won’t be on time if you plan to arrive at the exact time church starts. If you have kids, you’ll need at least ten minutes from the time you arrive until everyone is inside and seated. This gives time for bathroom breaks, a drink from the water fountain, retying a shoe, and outer wear hung on the rack.
- begin the evening before. This includes (when possible) a bedtime early enough that small children can wake up happy with plenty of time to get ready for church.
- start the day before. Do whatever you can on Saturday to make Sunday morning easier. Clothes for kiddos, shoes, Bibles, notebooks, quarterlies, etc. should be at the ready so the morning search is nixed. Stock the diaper bag and have bottles prepared for less fuss come morning. For those of us who don’t frequent restaurants on Sunday, this also includes Sunday’s meal preparation. Check out my tips for Backwards Planning. You might also want to read about Kitchen Hacks. I remember winter days when six piles were stretched across the window seat in the living room – jackets, gloves or mittens, and Bibles, ready to go. Nobody had to search and find! When our kids were too small to choose their clothes, the items were lined up the night before: clothing, diapers, socks and shoes. I wasn’t OCD; I just wanted to avoid morning frazzle. Even with planning, more times than not a jinx is thrown into the mix – all the more reason to do as much as you can ahead.
- streamline breakfast. Your kids can have a simple but nutritious breakfast without a lot of fanfare. They will be sitting in church, so they don’t need a full-course breakfast to get through the morning. You know what your kids like: yogurt, toast, bagels, muffins, fruit, and hard-boiled eggs are simple. If you do a complete breakfast, then get up earlier so you’re not rushed. If leaving the house with a dirty kitchen is an issue for you (it was for me), try using paper; there’s less to wash or put in the dishwasher and the cost is worth saving the hassle.
Nix the detour in getting to church on time
When it seems like you’re always spinning your wheels, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Sometimes it helps to figure out what it is that made you late on a particular morning. Did everyone get up too late? Was there a scramble for coats or shoes? Was there a pouting child? Find the source of the problem and then do something to alleviate it for the next week. Sometimes incentives can help children get moving. While you don’t want to reward a child for what he is capable of doing, sometimes it helps to have a reward for the child who is ready first – or for the time everyone is buckled in their seat belt before time to leave.
Going to church – and getting to church on time – don’t need to be a drudgery. With a little planning, and a method to to avoid detours, Sunday morning rush does not need to be a frenzy. Our purpose is to meet with other believers to worship God. Don’t let your lack of planning make it harder to be in a worship mode once you arrive in church.
You decide if it’s important – and how much it matters, then map your plan. There’s no reason – with a little effort – that your tune can’t change from Just get me to the church on time! to We made it to the church on time!