Going to church with little kids is hard.
It’s hard to arrive on time (diaper blow outs seem to be reserved for Sunday mornings). It’s hard to stay focused during sermons (did I get any sleep last night?). It’s hard to participate in church activities (the rule of the nap schedule is absolute). My family moved and we had to find a new church home when both of my girls were under two. We were shocked at how often churches weren’t very family friendly. But upon further reflection, I realized that I never thought about what it really meant for a church to be family friendly until I had my own children. So here are ten simple ways your church can be more family friendly.
1.) Embrace distraction
Children in a church service can be distracting. But it’s a beautiful thing to see families worshiping together. A family-friendly church knows this and embraces children and their antics in the service. Visitors especially want to feel welcome in church. If new parents catch one curt glance because their kids weren’t perfectly silent during church, you can bet they aren’t coming for a second visit.
2.) Create a space nearby for mothers of newborns
Being a mother of a newborn is hard. Don’t make them go to a dank room on the other side of the church to feed their baby. A family-friendly church sets up a comfortable place NEAR the sanctuary for these moms. Comfortable seating, a screen streaming the sermon, and any other amenities you can think of, will go a long way to making these wonderful women feel loved by the church.
3.) Be mindful of the physical distances
Your church may not have control over this issue but if possible, keep the children’s ministry area close to or at least easily and obviously accessible from the main sanctuary. When given a choice, parents always prefer to have their children close by.
4.) Go nuts with security
You can never be too safe with other people’s children. Are there additional safety features your church can adopt? It’s probably a good idea to do it. A family-friendly church also knows to make safety very visible. Name tags, volunteer shirts, or even having safety and security volunteers will go a long way to helping parents feel confident in the church.
5.) Find ways to serve parents
Parents often come to church exhausted. A family-friendly church knows this and tries to serve parents anyway they can. A children’s pastor I know made a rule that every child in the nursery on Sunday would get a diaper change before leaving church. This small gesture says a lot to parents about how their church family loves them and their children.
6.) No child left behind
Peek into any church nursery on Sunday morning and you’ll find one baby who needs to be held the entire time. What about a child who never cries? Sometimes they get zero attention. Every child in the nursery should get some one-on-one time with a volunteer. The message we give them is this: we’re so glad you are here. We see you and we love you.
7.) Communicate with parents during and after service
My family once visited a church and during the service the children’s ministry volunteer texted my wife a selfie of her holding our daughter with the text, “We’re doing great!” That one gesture put my wife at ease and she was able to better engage with the sermon and service. This is just one example but the point is that parents can’t be reassured too much.
8.) Get inter-generational with Mentor Moms
Do you know what every young mom needs? Someone who’s already been there and can support and reassure her as a mother. Do you know who’s perfect for this role? Women in the church whose children are already grown. Family-friendly churches find a way to connect these women.
9.) Show love with parking
Here’s a scene: a frazzled family arrives to church late on a rainy Sunday morning only to find the only remaining parking spots are in the back of the parking lot. Strollers, car seats, and a big parking lot equal unhappy parents who will have difficulty focusing on the sermon. Reserving a few prime spots for families with small children tells them, “Welcome, we love your family.”
10.) Technology is your friend
Technology can add another layer of safety and reassurance. This can be as simple as upgrading from checking in with a pen and notebook to using one of the many church check in soft/hardware packages. Or it could be a special area with multiple screens so parents can see what’s happening in the room their child is in.
There are lots of other ways to make a church more family friendly. If you have suggestions please share. Whatever the method, the main point is this, family-friendly churches send a message to families that is loud and clear.
“Welcome! We love you. We want to worship with you. Your children are well taken care of.”
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” - Matthew 19:14