The things I share here especially apply if you have small children, but not ONLY in that case. It seems that as we (and I include myself in that for sure) get older we tend to slow down. I phrased many of these tips especially for young families, but they can easily be adapted to more mature families as well.
As a pastor’s wife and the church organist it is imperative that I be at church on time. At least they won’t start without me, but if I’m late everyone in the congregation will know it and be inconvenienced.
We have 5 children and until less than a year ago we only had one car, so not only would I be late personally, but if I was late, the pastor wasn’t on time either. Though the children are now generally able to get themselves ready for church, there was a time when their ages were 0, 2, 3, 5, and 7. While I cannot say that I was always totally focused and worshipful when we left our house, I can honestly say I never held up the service starting because I made us late or allowed a little one to make us late.
So let me share some of the things I learned in those hectic years. Some I learned by doing it right, and some I learned by doing it wrong for a while. Maybe I can help you do more of the former and less of the latter.
1. Determine when you need to leave to be exactly on time. Then add at least 15 minutes to get there early. Then add 5-15 minutes for hitting all the lights red. You’ll get there early, but that’s okay. You can pray a little, visit with friends, greet visitors, and the kids (and you) will have time to use the bathroom before church starts. When service starts you’ll be focused and able to concentrate on worshipping while contributing to and gaining from the entire service.
2. Get everyone’s clothes out the night before. This will cut down on the search for a clean pair of dress socks or that stray shoe hiding under the couch. Yes, the baby will occasionally spit up on somebody or otherwise create a wardrobe problem, (how babies poop upwards is a mystery to me, but it happens, doesn’t it?) but this makes that hectic-rushing-around the exception and not the rule.
4. Pack the diaper bag or other bags for the kids the night before. Have a spot where you always put anything you plan to take to church. My spot is the front right corner of the living room desk. My husband’s spot is the front hall table.
5. On Sunday morning, get yourself ready first and keep it simple. Get up early enough to get yourself totally ready before you get anyone else up. This way you can concentrate on getting the little ones ready without worrying about having time to finish your hair. Lose the complicated hair-dos of your youth. If all else fails, wear a hat. (I’m half kidding about the hat, but only half.)
6. Cut down your expectations of Sunday breakfast. The kids need to be fed, for sure, but it needs to be something easy. It’s best if they can get it for themselves or at least not spill easily. No red punch or purple grape juice for Sunday breakfast. A piece of fruit will do nicely, or some cheese and crackers. Yes, cheese and crackers for breakfast. Think out of the box. Your kids won’t care. If you’re a breastfeeding mom, put in plenty of time for that as well.
7. Focus on the main thing, which is getting to church on time and in one piece (and in peace). It’s so easy to try to squeeze in extra things before church. There’s always that load of wash you want to get started or the dishwasher that needs loaded. The house always needs tidied up. RESIST! The only thing that matters on Sunday morning is getting to church on time. The rest will wait. Our appointment with the King of Kings is more important than those chores.
Why is this so important? Maybe you’re not the church organist or the pastor’s wife. Maybe you can slip in and nobody will even notice. But is that the best thing for you? I need all the help in life I can get, and I find that each part of the service contributes something to me. And I hope that I contribute something to each part of the service as well, whether it be shaking the hand of a discouraged brother or greeting a visitor with a smile. And we will probably never know the impact of those prayers we pray when we’re focused on what is important, and that’s not whether the dishwasher got loaded or not.