This month, we’ve been talking about the great juggling act that mamas have to do to make it out the door for church on time…and with smiling faces too! Last week, we talked about the why, this week, we’re talking about how, and next week we will discuss ways to make Sunday restful. We’ll round it all out by talking about great after-church meals that you can prep in advance! I don’t know about you, but we always arrive home from church hungry.
I’ve found that as we’ve created some simple routines at our house, there’s less stress and more joy in the preparation. Today, I’m sharing a little bit of what we do at our house to make Sundays easier. And you’re in for a real treat because these aren’t just my tips. They’re from my pastor’s wife too, and she’s been juggling children and church for nearly 30 years. Enjoy.
1. Set the Tone
My pastor’s wife says that when her children were little, her husband always played a CD of hymns to set the mood in their home as they were preparing for church. You can create a hymn station on Pandora, make a Sunday morning playlist on itunes, or play your favorite hymn CDs. Some of our favorites are Hymns: Ancient and Modern from Passion and anything by Indelible Grace.
2. Go to bed early
If you want to have a family movie night and stay up late with the kiddos, then do it on Friday nights, but if you want happy kids on Sunday morning, then you’ll want to make sure everyone gets a good night of rest. It’s hard to have a worshipful heart if you’re exhausted and can’t focus on the sermon.
3. Prep clothes ahead of time!
I try to pick out the kids’ clothes (and mine!) the night before. You don’t want to learn that your child doesn’t have any black dress shoes that fit at 9:00 on a Sunday morning (don’t ask me how I know!). Pick it out, iron it if needed, and even lay it out. My pastor’s wife says that her daughters would often try on dresses and outfits the night before for approval. This is a great way to prevent stress, arguments, and surprises on a Sunday morning.
4. Divide and conquer
One reason I leave the kids’ clothes out is so that my husband can get one or two of the kids ready while I take a shower. Then while he gets ready, I’ll fix hair, wipe faces, and do anything else that’s needed to get us out the door, like packing diaper bags if I didn’t do it the night before.
On Sundays when my husband has to be at church extra early to either play bass guitar or run the sound board, then I will get one of the children dressed and ready to go with him. I’ll pack a non-messy breakfast, like a baggy of dry cereal, along with some quiet toys or the Leap Pad for them to play with while he is at worship practice. Remember, my kids are 5, 3, and 1, so they are little, but they can still behave in these situations. My 1 year old isn’t ready for this yet, of course, but one day he’ll get to take turns going with daddy too. And with one less child in the mix at home, I find that it’s easier for me to get myself and the other children ready by myself and still be on time for church.
5. Avoid & Resolve Conflict
What are your kids’ hot buttons? You know them; don’t push them on a Sunday morning. We’ve had times where one of the kids, usually a toddler, wants to get himself/herself ready. I do it myself!! To avoid this on Sunday mornings, we’ve tried two different things that have both been successful.
On most days during the week, I simply give the toddler all of their clothes when I get in the shower so that they can have plenty of time to get themselves dressed. Usually they can do it or they get frustrated and ask for help.
My favorite solution for Sunday mornings with a demanding toddler is to simply get them dressed first thing in the morning. When I do that first diaper change of the morning, I go ahead and get the toddler dressed and he or she hardly notices what I’m doing. He’s too happy to have mommy with him and he’s not ready for a battle. But if I wait 20 minutes after the diaper change? I hear I do it myself, Mommy!!
If you do have conflict with your spouse or one of the kids on a Sunday morning, try to resolve it before you go to church. It’s far better to be a few minutes late than to slap on a happy face and pretend all is well. It’s hard to be worshipful with a heart that is full of grudges.
6. Choose an easy breakfast with very little mess
Bagels, granola bars, fried or scrambled eggs, waffles with no syrup, or even dry cereal are great Sunday morning breakfasts because you don’t have to worry about messy outfits. My pastor’s wife recommends making sweet rolls for Sunday mornings as a special treat.
7. Establish Sunday Morning Rules
With older kids (and adults!) you can have the rule that no one is aloud to “play” (relax, read the paper, play on their phone, etc) until they are completely dressed and ready for church. This is especially helpful with teenagers.
We have other family rules that help us with our church attendance.
We will only miss if one of us is sick–as in really sick–morning sickness doesn’t actually count. If I skipped church just because I had thrown up once or twice before leaving that morning, then I would spend most of my pregnancy at home. I know that I need the social interaction, the fellowship, and the encouragement. And I can always look forward to Sunday naps! This may sound legalistic to always go to church, but remember, being with the body of Christ is a joy. <–Tweet this. I don’t want to miss this time with them. Yes, it may be a hassle to get to church, but it’s always worth it.
Another rule of ours is that I stay home with sick kids on Sundays and my husband will stay home on Wednesdays, if need be. My husband often serves in some capacity on Sundays, whereas I serve on Wednesday nights. I know that sounds ridiculous to have rules about it, but it makes things a lot simpler for us. We don’t even have to think about it. We know if a kid is running a fever on Saturday evening, mommy stays home on Sunday morning.
Ready to take the baby to church for the first time, at 4 weeks old! We were still getting no sleep and I was recovering from a c-section, but so happy to get to worship at church.
8. Talk About it!
We talk about church with the kids. We talk about why we are going to church–to love God and to serve Him. So what does that look like when you’re four? It looks like singing with the other children, helping your teacher pass things out and clean toys up, and loving the child who takes away our toys. We talk about appropriate ways to respond. We talk about our expectations for their behavior and the consequences for disobeying. We also talk ab0ut their little friends at church. We say “I wonder if Nate is going to be at church? I bet you’re excited to play with him!”
The goal is to get them spiritually prepared and excited about church. Infants may not learn much about church, but they will learn to have positive associations with church, with God, with His Word, and with His people. It’s a foundation that will be built on throughout their lives. Should they get hurt by the church or by Christians at some point, they can practice forgiveness and go back to this foundation.
9. Pray About it!
Whether I’m on the way to MOPS with my kids or we’re on the way to church on a Sunday morning, we pray. We pray for our ministry to be effective. We pray for God to move in hearts, both ours and those around us, and we pray that God will help us to be Christlike, serving as He does.
How do you prepare your home and your children for Sunday mornings? Did you find anything on this list that you can try this week?
FYI: The day after I published this post, I somehow brought my toddler to church with his pants on backwards. Just keepin’ it real, mamas.