What’s Your (Family’s) Problem? The First Step Toward A Better Sunday Morning

Just as I was getting settled, my pager went off again.  Frustrated, I stopped what I was doing and got up.

No, I’m not a physician.   I wasn’t on call.  On second thought, I was a parent of young kids, so I was always on call. And exhausted.

And so, just as another sermon was beginning, the nursery pager went off.  Our one-year-old daughter, struggling with separation anxiety, wasn’t feeling the love from the nursery workers that day despite their best efforts.  She was just being a one-year-old, but privately I wondered if it was even worth coming to church anymore.

If you’re the parent of young children, you’re probably tired.  Not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually, too. And Sunday mornings, which used to be a great time to connect with God and your friends, can suddenly become times of stress and distraction.

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So What’s Your Problem?

Albert Einstein once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”  (I know; you didn’t expect to receive parenting advice from a dead theoretical physicist, but stay with me).

The point: before we can think about solving our Sunday morning woes, we have to define the problem.  It’s not always as obvious as it seems.

Your particular situation may vary, but it probably fits into one or more of these general buckets.

Very young children (birth through diapers).  Our youngest kids need us to do everything for them.  Bathing, feeding, diaper changes, getting them dressed, bringing your entire house to church in their diaper bag.  If your church has child care, even after you drop them off, you might have to pick them up unexpectedly.  Oh yeah – and you can’t really reason with them, either.

Somewhat older children (after diapers, but not self-sufficient).  These kids can do some basic things for themselves, but still need lots of help to stay on track.  If they’re with you for part (or all) of the service, they can get bored and fight with their siblings.  And distract you.

Older children (largely self-sufficient).  Your older kids can get themselves ready for church and know the drill once they get there.  The bigger issues usually come from their motivation.  If they’re not excited about church, the Lord, or their siblings, it comes out in various ways before, and during, their time there.

Special needs and situations.  Sometimes things don’t follow the typical trajectory.  For example, you might have a child with a disability or be a single parent.

Of course, your family may have some combination of the above, or, something entirely different.

You may have already defined your family’s pressure points, but when I was a younger parent, I really hadn’t.  I was tired, frustrated, inexperienced, and… relatively passive.

So, take a moment now.  What are your particular challenges on Sunday mornings?  What causes fights and arguments?  Once you’ve identified these things, then you can start by addressing the most important ones and give yourself the best shot at progress.

In my next post, I’ll share some specific thoughts on how you can make Sunday mornings better, but I want to encourage you as I wrap this one up.

An Indirect, But Important, Solution

Earlier, I shared that I wondered if it was even worth it to go to church when our kids were very young.  Between all the work to get there and the chaos once we arrived, I felt like I didn’t really get to worship or connect with anyone in a meaningful way.  Maybe you feel that way, too.

I want to let you know, no matter how hard it is, that it is worth it.  And not just because we’re ‘supposed to’.  Or (far worse) because we’ll feel ashamed if others notice we’re not there.

At the end of the day, worship is primarily for God, not us.  Long ago, David got it right:

I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;

I will sing of you among the peoples.

For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;

your faithfulness reaches to the skies.  (Psalm 57:9-10)

He saw how awesome God is (‘for great is your love, reaching to the heavens’) and responded in worship (‘I will praise you, Lord… I will sing’).  The amazing thing, though, is that he wrote this psalm when he was hiding from King Saul, who was trying to kill him.  But there he was, in a cave, thinking about God and worshiping.

So we go to church on Sunday mornings not mainly for what we’ll get out of it.  Or because we know our kids will act like cherubs, allowing us to catch every word of the message.  We go because God is awesome and his love for us is without limit.  If we do our best with the circumstances he gives us, we’ve been faithful and he is honored.

That’s something that no diaper change, pouty attitude or pager can ever take away.

Let’s live it out: What’s hardest about your Sunday mornings?  How would remembering the ultimate purpose of worship reshape your attitude toward them?