You may know that my husband Byron is in seminary, working on his Master’s of Divinity — on his path to becoming an Army Chaplain. In November, he accepted his first pastoral job at the loveliest little country church in Tiffin, Ohio.
This new dynamic has changed a lot of things in our family: Daddy is now working AND doing school full time. We live in a new town where we don’t really know anyone. And we have a lot of responsibilities that are new to our family.
One of the things that has been a HUGE learning curve for *me* is dealing with church on Sunday mornings all by myself. Byron gets up and leaves the house before the rest of us are even awake, so that means that getting the kids up, dressed, fed and to church on time, as well as making sure they are properly behaved during the service… that’s ALL on me now.
Here are some tips & tricks I’ve adapted the past few months that have really streamlined the process. They definitely work in my situation, but they could work for anyone who is a single parent, or maybe their spouse works on Sundays, or even just a family that has trouble getting all the moving pieces to mesh!
1. Start the night before.
Set up a shower schedule, with half of them happening the night before. In our house, Sophie and Finn (the younger two) shower on Saturday night. Connor and Lia (the older two) shower on Sunday morning. Connor and Lia can handle the whole process with no help from me, so it doesn’t add anything to my Sunday morning plate.
As I tuck each kid into bed on Saturday night, I take a few minutes to lay out an outfit on their floor. Sundays are the only days of the week I choose their clothes, so I want to make sure they have something both weather-appropriate and church-appropriate. All 4 of them can dress themselves in the morning. I also lay out undies, headbands/bows, tights, and any other accessories they’ll be wearing.
2. Set Alarms.
My iPhone is a lifesaver, in more ways than one. I have dozens of alarms set that keep my days on track. I set alarms for the Saturday night showers I mentioned above (because seriously, if I don’t, it won’t happen). The three I have set for Sunday morning are:
Don’t the cute emojis make it more fun? I have about 10 extra minutes of buffer time before each alarm, so I *can* hit snooze one time in case of emergency. If that happens, it has us showing up to church only 5 minutes early, instead of 15 minutes early like I try to be.
3. Make breakfast “Fend-For-Yourself”.
Breakfast in my house is fend-for-yourself every day (except Saturdays, when I cook a big brunch). I have a cabinet in my kitchen with cereals, oatmeal, bowls, & granola bars. There is a shelf in the fridge with yogurt & hard boiled eggs. And there is fresh fruit on the counter. The older 2 kids also know how to cook their own eggs, if so inclined. Even Finn, who is four, can make his own breakfast. He usually chooses an egg, a yogurt, and a banana. Sometimes he’ll pour himself a bowl of cereal (he doesn’t like milk on it). Once in a while he’ll ask for oatmeal, and one of his older siblings will make it for him.
4. Have all of your church stuff in a Go Bag.
Mine is a messenger-style bag that holds my Bible, sermon notes journal, the kids notebooks (see below), pencils and pens, and there’s a pocket for my keys once we arrive.
At the beginning of each month, I divvy out our tithe into our offering envelopes, and put all of them in my Go Bag as well. (I can’t tell you how many times I forgot the tithe before doing this!) We tithe in cash, but you can also prewrite the checks and put them in there, if you write checks.
5. Bring Entertainment.
Okay, now we have everyone dressed, fed, out the door and to church on time. What about once we get there?
Let me tell you something: kids get bored. A lot.
And when they’re the pastor’s kids up at the front being all whiney and antsy, that’s not good. For my kids, I figured out that the solution is to make sure they have something to do during the downtimes.
My older three, who are currently 6, 8, and 10, are expected to stand during the songs. During other downtimes like announcements, the offering, etc — I let them doodle in little notebooks I got from the dollar store. My 4 year old doodles through all the songs as well.
6. Bring some spiritual nourishment for the tweens & teens.
Ideally, an older kid would sit through a sermon patiently, and then have a rousing discussion afterward about the spiritual epiphany they just had, right?
In reality, older kids are in that in-between stage: they are old enough to listen and understand, but still a little too antsy to sit completely still for 20-30 minutes.
I was so excited when I found this little gem. It is perfect for tweens, and my 10-year-old loves this sermon notes journal.
It has very little writing (because we do enough of that in school!) It has fun checklists, and a point system. Connor loves trying to “beat his score” from last week. This week, he even busted out his Bible at the breakfast table so he could get an extra point!
7. Give yourself GRACE.
It’s not going to go perfectly every week, and that’s okay! If you’re late a few times, just laugh it off as you sneak in the back. “Kids, amiright?! hahaha!”
We all love Jesus and we all love each other, and we don’t judge other moms’ crazy, because we know we all have some of our own!