If you go to church regularly or even if you've only been a handful of times, the chances are pretty good that you have either held a screaming baby or watched someone else hold a screaming baby.
While many churches do have "crying rooms" or nurseries for babies and toddlers to play in, some parents prefer to keep their children in the service with them so that they can experience sitting through the service together.
In our family, we try to keep the kids in service with us during the praise and worship music time, and then usher them off to the nursery and kid's church during the announcements. While its only an estimated 45 minutes, that's a long time to expect a baby to be quiet and a toddler to sit still and actively participate at appropriate times. But for us, having our kids with us during that time is important to us so we've found ways to make it work.
We have found the following tips allow us to keep the kids with us while minimizing the distraction they may have to others.
- Opt for a back seat. We tend to sit in the back so that if needed, the children can get out of the isle, stretch out and even dance around in the open area where no one can see. Sitting in the back is also helpful if you need to make a quick exit for a nappy change or to calm an inconsolable child.
- Bring a special bag. Our daughter has a "church bag" that her grandmother made for her. It's a small tote bag that has small pockets on the outside that hold crayons. We fill it will paper, books and small quiet toys like a mini Magna Doodle. We also put in church themed sticker books which are hugely helpful.
- Pack a snack. We bring a spill proof snack container and fill it with Goldfish or other dry snack. We've also packed sting cheese which has worked well. We also bring a kids sports bottle full of water.
- Have a routine. If your children are used to going to church and know what the expected behaviour is, chances are, they will be more cooperative. We make it part of our routine to go out to lunch each week so that the kids have something to look forward to after.
- Feel out the leadership. It can be helpful to talk to church leadership about how much "talking" they are comfortable with (read willing to tolerate) during service. Some churches are more open to babies talking, crying and making noise than others. Having insight may help you feel more comfortable and better able to gauge when you have to take action and possible leave the service area.
- Time services during the baby's nap. When possible, we try to time it so that they baby is ready to nap during service. 90% of the time, this works beautifully for us. We feed him his bottle, he fusses a little as fights going to sleep while people are singing (and no one can hear him) then he falls sleep and I'm able to hold him for the duration of service and my husband is able to care for our toddler.
So while it's a lot of work to make church happen as a family, we do it and most of the times, even enjoy it. How about you?
What are you secrets for surviving church with the kids? Share your tips in the comments section.