Thriving in church with an under 5!

Since having a baby, going to church can feel more like surviving than thriving. Sometimes it can feel like a battle to get my daughter to nap in the buggy or to stop her rifling through some unsuspecting person’s handbag.

I can feel like I don’t really get to connect with the worship because I’m too busy chasing her around the hall. And I remember how when she was very young, I would be on such high alert throughout the sermon in case she woke screaming, that I barely focused on what was being taught.

I’m very fortunate to be in a church with a baby area at the back of the hall, as well as a crèche. Yet sometimes, even with these wonderful provisions, it can still be a challenge to get through church on a Sunday. Especially when my daughter doesn’t want to stay in crèche without me, cries through the whole service, or when I’m simply exhausted from a sleepless night or dealing with a tired and tetchy two year-old.

It can be so hard to adjust to what a church service looks like with a child. I’ve often felt as though I’m not really connecting with God because my attention is focused elsewhere.

When my daughter was a few weeks old, a lovely lady told me how some of the challenges I was facing would only be for a season and that it wouldn’t last forever. It was true and it helped me to embrace the moment. The night time feeds I was finding so hard eventually stopped. Then came the next season, then the next, and they have all brought their own challenges and joys.

I’ve begun to think of this season in church in the same way and to find ways to embrace it. I’ve found that setting realistic expectations for a Sunday morning really helps.

My daughter loves to be on the move, so taking a ball or wind-up toy for her to chase occupies her and allows me some breathing space! Also the wonder of snacks has become apparent to me. As long as I have a large supply of food, most catastrophic situations can be avoided or a melt down quickly calmed down.

I also have a few friends from church with young children and we regularly get together to let our children play, while we drink tea, laugh and sometimes cry with each other. We text each other to talk about what we are reading in the Bible – sometimes we even read the same thing and encourage each other to make time to do so. Or if I miss listening to the message, because I have been called into crèche, I listen to a podcast in the week.

Finding different ways of bringing what I used to receive on a Sunday into my week, and finding ways to connect with other parents, has really helped me to feel connected to my church community and to God.

As a family, being part of our local church is so important to us and even though a Sunday service might be challenging right now, the reality is I want my daughter to grow up in our church community and so embracing this season is as much for her as for me.

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