May 27, 2011

(Single) Parenting in the Pew

A friend described the experience of sitting through worship with her active daughter: “like wrestling an octopus!” Boy, can I relate! Two boys, actually, aged 3 and 4. And when I step into the ring—um, pew—I go it alone. Like many Sunday Women, I’m a single mom on Sundays.

Sunday by Sunday, I’ve implemented strategies that make worship a better experience for everyone (me, my kids, and the saintly people who have to sit nearby). Maybe one of these will work in your pew.

Strategies for (Single) Parenting in the Pew:

1. Dad can help. I may feel like I’m a single mom, but I’m not. My husband is amazingly effective with his pre-service “this is what I expect” talk. (And I hope for true single moms, another man in the church could fill this role.)

2. Wiggle before worship. Five minutes before church starts, I take the kids outside and tell them to “get their wiggles out.” They chase each other around, run up and down stairs, and make some noise. The resulting calm is worth a few grass stains!

3. Make a friend. Carla is my backup. She comes to church alone, anyway, and kindly sits nearby in case I need to rush out with one child, leaving another child in her care.

4. You drop it, it’s gone. Along with “sit down” and “be quiet,” this is my rule for church time. It encourages my boys to stop fiddling with their pencils or bulletins, and saves me from crawling under the pews mid-sermon to retrieve lost objects.

5. Stay. . .or pay. I invented this after my oldest was first toilet-trained as a way to discourage frivolous trips to the bathroom during worship. Before church, I take them to the bathroom, then the boys know they each have two candies waiting for them at home. If they leave worship, they forfeit one candy. If they have an accident in their pants, they forfeit both candies.

6. Something sweet. According to a friend, there is a Dutch tradition of giving children candy in church so they experience the Word as “sweeter than honey” (Psalm 19:10.) This is a tradition I'm happy to borrow, and every week, I bring a little sweet to our pew.

I’m still working on preventing chaos during the post-worship fellowship time, so if anyone has a suggestion. . . .

Are you a ministry mom? Starting next week, I’ll begin posting a 3-part series: “Raising Ministry Kids who Love the Church.” There are no magic formulas; every child, parent, and church is different.  But in my life, as first a ministry kid and now a ministry mom, I've learned a few things that I'll share.  Check back Friday for the first part: Ministry Kids are Sinners Who Need a Savior.


  1. When your brother was three and we sat through a worship service together, I felt like I was holding a boa constrictor on my lap while trying to hide the fact from people around me.

    These are practical hints.

  2. Mine are 8, 7, 4, 18 months and 18 months. Over the years we have tried multiple methods for training kids to sit through worship and found everything lacking except worship training at home. Our churches have been tiny enough that there was no nursery and our current church is family-integrated, so this has been a necessary learning for us early on. Pretty much all their worship training comes from family worship training. When they are old enough to sit alone in a chair for family worship we sit them in a chair and train them to sit in the chair quietly, as they grow we expect them to participate more and more in the chair. It is not unlike "blanket-training" a child...except they aren't given toys in the chair like you might on a blanket. It isn't perfect and I am often helped by one of the young ladies in the church, but the twins do a lot better in worship than my first born did. The ladies up in Tchula and Yazoo City seem to have baby training mastered. The kids in those churches are silent and participate.

  3. Yes, I totally agree that family worship is very useful for helping kids to get used to church worship. We bought a pew for our living room, partly so that we could have more realistic practice in family worship!

  4. But we're never quite as strict with worship at home as I am in church---thanks for reminding me that what we do (or don't do) at home sets the precedent for church.


Join the conversation!
All comments become the property of Sunday Women.

COMMENTING HINTS: If you are baffled by the "Comment As_____" choices, you can simply select "Anonymous" and include your name in the comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...