Summer Church

I'm going to say something here that's borderline sacrilegious for a second-generation pastor's daughter, but here goes.

I don't like going to church in the summer.

Specifically, I don't like going to church in the summer at this stage of my life. Because it feels like I get up early every Sunday morning and dress three monkeys in nicer-than-normal clothes and then take them to a torture chamber where I whisper "Shhh!" and "Quiet!" and "Don't hit your sister!" and "Stand up while we're singing!" and "No, you can't have candy now" and other threats and directives until I seethe with annoyance.

And then the pastor says, "See you next week!" and we get up, collect our belongings and go home, where everyone immediately wants to change back into normal clothes and eat lunch and go outside and take a nap, and oh, did I mention that the beautiful sunny morning is now a cloudy afternoon and we missed the best chance we had all day to be outside?

This is all because our church, like many others, I suspect, gives our child-care workers the summer off -- which I wholeheartedly agree with. I respect and adore the Sunday school teachers who willingly love and teach my kids each Sunday morning during the school year, and I'm happy to support them while they take a much-deserved rest.

But it also makes me very conflicted about going to church on Sundays during the summer months, because now, the kids have no choice but to attend "big church" with Corey and me. And when I spend more time on crowd control than I do singing songs or listening to the sermon, I wonder why I even bother to show up.

It's left me with a sour taste in my mouth the last couple of years. It's not that every Sunday is a nightmare. But enough are that I wonder why we don't just ditch it and have church at home instead of making everyone grumpy and irritated before lunch.

But. (And it's a big but.) I know that's not the right answer. I know the Bible says, "Let us not give up meeting together." I know God doesn't ask for obedience capriciously. I know church has a purpose -- even summer church.

And my kids are watching.

So the past few weeks, I've begged God to help me with my attitude, if not my outward circumstances. I don't want to see church as a chore. I want to find meaning in my Sunday mornings, even the Sunday mornings that find me doing crowd control.

I can't say that Sundays have gotten easier. But God is working on my perspective. Instead of looking forward to Sunday mornings as a time to renew and recharge my own soul, I look at it as a way to ignite some fire in my 8- and 5-year-old. I try to get them to sing the songs. I ask them if they understand the words. We point out funny things during the videos. I talk to Natalie about the baptism service coming up in a few weeks. I show them the verses being referenced by the pastor.

And yes, I dispense gum, pick up crayons and settle disputes with nothing more than a raised eyebrow.

If Sunday mornings used to be like going to a spa, summer Sundays mornings are like going to the gym.

But -- funny thing -- I'm starting to see how both kinds of Sundays can be an encouragement.


  1. The church we attended when I was a kid didn't have children's church. Sunday School for adults and children was held before the main service, and children were expected to sit quietly through the service itself. And while I'm not going to get into whether that's better or not right here, I will say that thanks to my parents explaining the sermons afterward, and breaking complex matters down into simpler terms, I came to a love for and understanding of theology at a very young age. And that's something that has enhanced my life ever after.

    So kudos to you for making the effort to see to it that your kids "get" what's going on in church, even if it means you are more than ready for a nap when you get home! You never know what seeds might be taking root :)

  2. Our church is too small to have children's church and when you're married to the pastor, it's one against 3 every single Sunday all year long. I SO know how you feel. When we were in MN a couple weeks ago our old church has children's church, I contemplated moving back there :)

    This fall, when your kids workers come back and you get to actually enjoy the sermon, stop and say a little prayer for me.

  3. i don't have a problem going on sundays but wednesdays during the summer get me. i hate going on wed. nights in summer because it interrupts all the fabulous long daylight play time.

  4. My aunt tells me that her church move summer Sunday Services outside from Memorial Day through Labor Day. They meet in a meadow right next door to their church. People bring lawn chairs or a blanket. I'm thinking that a city park would work, too. Isn't that a great way to celebrate summer? But then again, maybe if the kids were outdoors things would really get out of hand...!

  5. We have three hours of church every Sunday - which is to say - I feel your pain. We all meet together for about 70 minutes, then we break into age appropriate groups. It's a lot of church, and there are a lot of Sundays when it's difficult to rally the troops.

  6. Funny. We don't go to church when we're on vacation. Does that make sense? I mean, we work at a church, so it kinda does.

    It's all totally understandable.

  7. I haven't been to church since June, not because I don't want to be, but because we've been gone or sick. I miss it.

    But every Sunday is like a circus to us, mainly because we've been training Anja to sit through the service (insert laughing here), out of necessity more than anything. Our church meets in a high school and the nurseries are across a busy highway in a separate building, at least a 5-7 minute walk/drive. I don't really feel comfortable leaving her that far away with people I don't know (it's a big church)...and I miss my old church, where there was 100 people and I knew them all and I would trust their children with my child no question. What to do, what to do...

    Sorry for my own personal reflection section in your comments, here.

  8. My kids are 8 and 9, they have to sit with us every Sunday (only one SS hour and I teach a class then). There are times I wonder if anything is hitting home between the need to go to the bathroom, the paper airplanes, the fidgeting (and that is just me :). Then there are rare times like last Sunday when they actually were inspired by a passionate young minister planting a new church, and i know it is worth every minute.
    I feel you pain!

  9. Have you read Parenting in the Pew? It made me really excited about having my kids in church with me.

  10. Amen. We've just moved so we're "church shopping."

  11. Our church still has a kids' program during the summer but for some reason I've been finding myself wanting to stay home on Sundays this summer. It isn't like me at all but I think it just has to do with the season of life and being so tired and just wanting a break.

  12. It'd be nice since they let their workers off to tailor the service to families and make it more kid friendly. If I were in your service I'd show a lot more grace to other people's squirming kids, especially since now I have my own!

    By the way, my mom dispensed Tic-Tacs to us and it worked like a charm! :)

  13. Our church just formed a parenting group for exactly this reason ("CHAOS" which is short for children have affected our serenity and/or spirituality and/or sleep and/or sanity). It can be so hard for parents of young ones to get anything meaningful out of church and yet so important to somehow arrange life so that you still experience your own spiritual growth.

    Hang in there!

  14. I am not IN a church right now, which has me feeling pretty gloomy.
    My old church would just cancel services for July, since attendence was so spotty.