Friday, October 4, 2013

Superwomen Goes to Mass: Ten Tips for Bringing Your Child to Church

Day 4 of 31 Days in the Life of A Superwomen Sufferer

Superwomen Goes to Mass

I recently saw a clip from the upcoming film Mom's Night Out. In it, the mom is faced with getting her crew, and herself, presentable and to church. It is quite comical and somewhat true to my life. With three children, two under the age of six, going to Mass is an event to say the least.

My Protestant friends have what they call children's church, where parent's can drop off their children, get a beeper like the ones you get at restaurants, and head off to a peaceful hour of worship and liturgy. Not so at Catholic Mass, for it is the duty of every Catholic to support the mission of the family to raise godly children. We go to Mass as a family to worship together, receive God's grace and unify with christ and our Catholic brothers and sisters through the sacrament of the Eucharist.  

It is often difficult to get kids to sit quietly and pay attention, but I believe we are doing them more service to train them proper behavior at church from an early age and engage them in the community of believers worshipping together than we are to put them in a nursery. Nevertheless, it takes a lot of effort to "train our kids in the way they should go" at church.

For instance, on any given Sunday you will find my family in a pew. My youngest loudly enjoying the music, my oldest mortified at the attention her younger brother brings, and my middle child trying to keep my youngest entertained or asking me questions about the service. With a little preparation, we make it through okay and we may even catch a little bit of the sermon. 

We try to make sure they have had a snack before church so they are not hungry and we usually bring a bag of Cheerios, just in case. We also bring a toy or small stuffed animal or a plush nativity set they can play with. 

Recently, I was given this new children's book Rufus and Ryan Go to Church,  by Kathleen Long Bostrom. In the book, four-year-old Ryan explains to his stuffed Monkey, what is happening as they attend church on Sunday morning. He lets Rufus know when its time to sing, pray and be quiet. Part of a new series of  inspirational books for preschoolers age two to five, featuring Ryan and Rufus. This series uses Christian and church concepts as the foundation of the series and focuses on character traits and development. My little ones really enjoy the fun illustrations and ask to read it often.

Rufus and Ryan Go to Church! 
Written by: Kathleen Long Bostrom 
Illustrated by: Rebecca Thornburgh
Publisher: Ideals Books
Board book
Available at

Here are Ten tips for Bringing Your Child to Church

1.         Make sure the kids are well-napped and well-fed.
To help minimize distractions and meltdowns, be sure your kids are well-rested before services and have had something to eat. Additionally, you may want to show up a little early to avoid the stress of being late.

2.         Bring your child to church on a day other than Sunday morning.
Call the church office and make an appointment with a pastor, religious education director, or church school teacher. Go on a tour of the church facility, and locate the Sunday school rooms and bathrooms as well as the sanctuary. Let your child explore the sanctuary, see how it feels to sit in the pew, and leaf through the Bibles and hymnbooks. Look behind the pulpit, altar and baptismal font, and explain the use of these.

3.         Take home a worship bulletin and go through the service at home.
Show your child that there are times to sit, to stand. kneel, to sing, to pray, and to listen. Help your child learn the Lord’s Prayer.  Let your child practice offering the sign of peace or making the sign of the cross at home. Prepare offering envelopes and let your child put money in the envelope, and explain why the offering is important.

4.         Play “Let’s go to church” at home.
Practicing the worship service at home will help your child feel more comfortable with what happens in worship.

5.         Read the Bible and pray at home.
Purchase an age-appropriate Bible for your child and read the stories. Let your child handle the Bible and encourage questions. You can explain that the Bible is where we learn God’s story, and how we are part of that story. If you let prayer be a part of your everyday life, not just something you do at church, your child will understand its importance.

6.         Sit near an aisle or in a place where you can make an exit if needed.
If your child needs to go to the bathroom, or is feeling overly stimulated or having a disruptive day, don’t be embarrassed. Walk your child out of the sanctuary until she can calm down, and then come back in. This is much easier if you don’t have to crawl across a row of other people in the pew!
7.         Be prepared with a worship notebook or bag.
Colored pencils can be used to mark the parts of worship in the bulletin as you go through them one by one. Get to church a few minutes in advance and use a bookmark to mark the hymns that will be sung that day. Have some coloring pages from a Bible coloring book for your child to color, or some blank pages for doodling. This is not disrespectful, and can help your child listen more attentively. Have the words of the Lord’s Prayer printed on a page for the child to follow, if he or she is of reading age. Let your child draw a picture of the anthem or hymns being sung, or the sermon, and give this to the choir director or pastor afterwards. There are Bible-related toys they can bring to play along with the service. They have some great inspirational items and plush toys at Wee Believers.

8.         Teach basic church etiquette.
Speak to people before and after worship, and teach your child how to shake hands and greet others.  If your child is shy, don’t force it, but practice at home and let your child see you greeting others. Let the child put the hymnbook and Bible away after use, and be sure to take your bulletin with you, rather than leaving it in the pew. Meeting other people and taking care of the church facility helps a child feel that “This is my church!”

9.         Get to know the pastor.
Pastors of child-friendly churches love to get to know the children of the church. Introduce your child to the pastor after worship, and participate in other church activities so that the pastor becomes a friend and not a scary adult.

10.       Don’t give up!
It may take awhile for your child to become comfortable in worship, and to learn how to sit quietly. The best way for this to happen is to attend worship on a regular basis. There may be days when it doesn’t go well, but don’t let this stop you from coming the following week. Practice makes perfect!

Share your tips for attending services with your children in the comments below and find more useful tips here: