When We Struggle in Church with Young Children

I find it very difficult to let things go and not bother me.  I usually hang on to the hurt and review the play by play in my head long after.  This past Sunday, when we visited a local Byzantine Catholic Church, an old lady was visibly annoyed with us.  During the sermon, little Eric was unable to stay still.

Christ Blesses the Children

I was holding John on my lap because he was a bit overwhelmed in a new place, and Nathaniel was dealing with Gregory and David.  So, Eric slipped away and decided to spin around in a circle right in the middle of church.  Then he looked up and smiled at everyone.  He was as sweet as can be, but he was a disruption.

Then I heard a loud “humph” from the back and looked up to see the woman staring daggers at me.   In a parish as small as that one, Eric’s distraction could go unnoticed.  Nathaniel quickly grabbed him and placed the wild little man on his lap.  Just a bit after that, another child was being incredibly defiant, so I picked up Eric while I was pulling the other child by his arm and left the church.  What a great first impression we had made.

Needless to say, I was incredibly discouraged by the time we drove out of the parking lot.  At our parish in Kentucky, we had a system that worked for us.  That doesn’t mean it was easy; dealing with five young children in church is never easy, but we did have their godparents and friends who would help out.  I rarely felt completely alone, even if I did feel overwhelmed.

Recently, Sarah wrote a good post called “How to Encourage that Young Mother at Church.”  I recommend this for everyone, whether you have children or not.  It is so important to encourage those who are struggling.  And I guarantee that, at one time or another, every parent is struggling in church.  Thankfully, in the end, the struggle is worth it. IMG_20150823_112238

9 thoughts on “When We Struggle in Church with Young Children

  1. Mat. Anna

    I’m so sorry you had a rough day. I have been shot daggers at before myself, and I am not someone who lets children go wild in church. But they ARE children and are unpredictable at times. A church without children is dying. Fr. Stephen Freeman said it well recently: “About half my congregation on Sundays is young children. It’s often quite chaotic. But, I think it’s how Church is supposed to look. There is only one place in the universe without children: hell. Why would we want the Divine Liturgy to mirror hell?”

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  2. Melissa Trimble

    This struggle is REAL! Thank you for being honest and bringing this to light. My family is often in worship settings where people prefer to leave their kids somewhere else, but we are not of that mind. We desire to teach and train our kids to pray, worship, love God and His people, and we truly believe that they matter to God now, not just when they are older or are ready to sit quietly and predictably. It is hard! So thanks. And thanks for referencing the other blog article, as well. It was well written! Grace and Peace on your new journey.

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  3. Emily H.

    I have been in your shoes before so I know how terribly awful it feels. However, try not to take all the harrump-ing and glaring personally (and I point that out mainly because it is my own biggest weakness!). After having our own run-ins with such people I’ve come to realize that their attitude has much less to do with whatever my (or your) kids could ever do in church and it really has more to do with their own inner turmoil. Now when I come across such people I try to remember that the Church truly is a place for un-well people, myself being one of them. I think, too, that we have the opportunity to be near abrasive people so that we can see where our own rough spots can be smoothed out – which is sometimes a sore enough endeavor even without someone poking at it. Thank God for all of it and remember that you’re doing an excellent job as a mother! We haven’t had the blessing to meet in person but even just from reading your blog I can tell what a wonderful mother you are, and what a loving and caring person you are!

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  4. Emmie

    Michelle,
    I was just thinking of this very topic. Having just one young one at home now but who has sensory processing disorder is a challenge. Just the lead up to going to church is a huge challenge. Lots and lots and lots of whining. Our system is that if she can be in the service for 15-20 minutes she can take a 5 minute break. She doesn’t always need to, but often she does.
    So after Liturgy yesterday I was told by another parishioner that “in other Orthodox churches” things like leaving Liturgy after it had started wouldn’t be allowed. I sort of felt like “So would you rather we didn’t come at all?” We really are all doing the very best we can leading our children toward the kingdom.

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