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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Advice wanted: children + church

If you're reading this thinking I'll have advice on the matter, you should stop reading immediately. I have none. Church has been a constant source of guilt (and haha- yes, I am Catholic!) for me since my daughter was born in 2008. I know so many people with young children who attend church or temple services regularly and successfully, but I've just never been able to make it happen. Furthermore, I've barely even tried to make it happen, because the few times that we did attend church as a family (Christmas, Ash Wednesday, random ambitious Sunday) were so stressful that we've pretty much just nixed it entirely for four years now.


Earlier this month on my birthday I made a promise to myself that I would really really commit to going to church. So far we are 3 for 3 Sundays, but here's the thing: each Sunday has been worst than the last

I can't wait for next week! 

They're not screaming or throwing things (yet), but they're chatty and squirmy and wiggly and just generally very uncooperative. Also, they seem to be growing increasingly bored and adventurous at the same time. 

For example: "Wow, this kneeler thing-y isn't nearly as cool as it was last week, but maybe if we slam it up and down a few dozen times we can get the magic back."

Any advice out there? I'm not sure if God is telling me to stay in my pajamas and watch Meet the Press for a few more years, or if he's telling me I just need to work harder and be patient. I know this post is sounding a little gilb, but I am so sincerely grateful for the faith and spiritual life that my parents gave me. Looking back, it wasn't just "abracadabra, you have religion!" It was eighteen years of going to church. K-8 of Sunday school. First communion, Confession, Confirmation, Lent, that Easter mass where you have to stand for so long you feel like you are going to pass out. 

Also, I want my kids to grow up with a belief in something bigger than themselves. Last Sunday's sermon was so so awesome (well, the parts that I could actually hear were awesome). The point was that we all need to start looking at the things we have in common with people of other religions and less at the things that make us different. I want my children to learn that lesson. And I want them to learn other lessons that I do not have the insight or eloquence to teach them. 

Are we doing this right? Do I just keep going and sweating it out and hope that one day they get it? Or is my ambition to attend church regularly going to turn it into a negative broccoli-esque experience?

What do you do? Does your family attend church regularly? Do you have any advice on making it an easier and more positive experience? Did you do something together as a family in lieu of church while your kids were young? Do you have church/temple horror stories? Tell me!

Thanks friends,

PS. As I'm writing this the song "Fruitcakes" by Jimmy Buffett keeps playing in my head. Specifically the line, "Religion?!?! Ooooooohhh, there's a thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning!" And now the song is in your head, too! hah!!


  1. im sorry you havent been loving your church visits. have you tried exploring other churches in your area? its important to feel a connection to the community at the church. ! Have a happy Tuesday and be sure to enter to win a custom made shot glass! .

    1. Thank you! That is a good point. I'm somewhat "attached" to our church, but it's not the kid-friendliest.

  2. Things were okay when the kids were little, but the past two years, we've been struggling with the very same thing. It's exhausting, so we took a summer break. Our mindset is now back to going regularly and just dealing with it because it's really important that we're all there. Do you go to St. Coleman's by chance? Fr. Foudy intermittently praises parents and the noises the children make. He loves it and encourages it because they're the future of the Church. Only one time have I had a cranky couple give me looks, but everyone else understands - they've been there, too! On a normal day, I would have leaned over and suggested that my son could be their priest one day, but I uncharacteristically cried instead. But we were back the next week!

    I look forward to seeing what your other readers have experienced and if they have any good advice!

    P.S. Religious story books, colored pencils, and paper to keep them occupied just seem to make it worse. We're leaving them at home for the next few weeks, so I'll let you know how it goes.

    1. Right?!!? The stuff just seems to create a whole other out-of-hand situation. We've been going to Saint John's which is where I've always gone (and love) but I may start trying some other parishes. "Uncharacteristically cried!" hah!! Been there :-/

  3. Ohhh Jen. We make it most Sundays and have since the girls were born. We have spent many an hour planning how to make it easier. Ultimately we hinge on coloring books and kids separated by a minimum of one parent. This is our best strategy to date. I get frustrated at times, walking out thinking "all I did was scream under my breath for an hour for my kids to PUT THE HYMNAL DOWN".
    Ultimately, the bigger picture out weighs the aggravation. We have several 'loud' families with kids in our congregation which helps. As a kid who only went to church with my mom, I try hard to lead by example. Our kids have adapted to the church drill, although the "I have to go potty" seems to spring up more than I'd like.
    I do my best to enjoy it. Most Sundays we go to lunch afterwards. It's one of the few times in a week that we can spend a couple hours together. Keep it up!

    1. Andrew!!! I think you are my first non-husband male blog commenter. You win a prize. How about a McDonalds Arch Deluxe? This is great advice. It is the big picture. Crying/laughing over PUT THE HYMNAL DOWN.

  4. I wish I had better advice, but my kids have never even been inside a church!!

  5. My 2 cents: I think you need to find a parish that has Sunday school/nursery for the girls! They teach them the message, but on a child-level, and you and Chuck can actually listen to the sermon. Kenny and I have been going alot lately. Delaney goes to "Kids Church" where they do a kid version of church, Lucy is in the Sunday School, and Finn just plays in the nursery. I think the kids get the most out of it this way. When we moved, we looked for a church that had great kids programs from babies to highschool age...and the one we found is NOT Catholic (GASP!!). But that doesn't matter to me anymore. All 3 were Baptized Catholic, but our Catholic churches here didn't have much for them. Hope that helps! When we lived in Lauderdale, we went to Rio Vista Community.

  6. I don't know how I happened upon this post, it was linked to your current post. it is quite old, so chances are you have already figured this out... but yes, sunday school is where the magic happens. My Kids Love it so much that they beg to go on other days. scott and I also love it because it is a break from the chaos of mornings at home. It's a chance to sit together for an hour in peace and really hear the message. the kids when they are in first grade begin "sit together sundays" once a month. this gives them a chance to experience the grown up church. we also, discuss what everyone learned in " church school" as my kids call it. I am terribly sad to leave our church and sunday school, but i'm hoping we find something that compares when we move!!