I remember when I first had my twin daughters and I started taking them to church. My husband was working an odd shift at work and couldn’t be with me. My wonderful sister-in-law would come to Sacrament meeting and help me with my girls. I was so tired during those days that I barely remember them. In some ways, it was even a miracle that I was at church at all. At that moment in my life, the only thing getting me to church was obedience and determination. I don’t remember the talks or lessons, and I remember feeling lonely without my husband at my side.
As my daughters grew, I remember feeling exhausted during church, especially once they became mobile. I didn’t have enough hands to take care of everything, and often left feeling like I had not learned one thing. I remember my back and shoulders aching from the heaviness of the diaper bag alone!
And there were moments that my spirit ached as well. Could I do it again next Sunday? I often wondered.
There was one Sunday where I finally felt I had my girls settled in their classes, and I sat down (late to class as usual) to try to get something out of the lesson, and I was called out of class because my daughter had thrown up all over the Primary room. Or, there was another time when my daughter, who is allergic to nuts, accidentally got exposed to them and we rushed home where she threw up again and again and again and was covered with hives through the night. And again, I thought, is it worth it all?
But, when I hear my daughters singing a Primary song, or say a simple prayer, I remember that it is worth it. This last week, my youngest was over at a friend’s house and was afraid to come home because there was a dog in the neighborhood. She told me, “So I said a prayer, mommy. And words came into my mind that told me to stay right where I was a be very quiet.” And my heart skipped a beat. Yes, it is worth it.
Now, as my daughters are getting older, we are moving past the phase of just “getting through the meeting”. I want my children to have a meaningful experience. I want them to feel the Spirit and understand that church isn’t about just going to a nice building for three hours every Sunday. Attending church is about renewing your spirit, and serving and helping others. Church is about developing a relationship with God and then having that relationship change your heart and your behavior in your daily interaction with others. That is part of what reverence means.
So, how do I teach that to 7-year-olds?
Suddenly, I feel overwhelmed once again.
I have been really thinking about this and after some research and pondering, here are a few ideas to help children understand reverence and get a meaningful experience out of church.
1. Have a family meeting about the purpose of church meetings.
We sat down with our daughters earlier this year and started talking about the purpose of church and the sacrament. We talked about what reverence means. It is more than being quiet, it is about showing love to God. We also talked about how we can show reverence during the sacrament, and asked them what they could think about during that time. One of my daughters suggested that she could think of a Primary song during the sacrament to help her be more reverent. Another suggested that she could think of her favorite scripture story. We also talked about what rules we should have, and then agreed to these rules as a family. One of the rules we made was that during the Sacrament they should put away their toys and coloring so they could practice reverence. After the Sacrament was over, they could get out quiet activities for the remainder of the meeting.
2. Go the church with a purpose and be an example to your children.
2016 has been a difficult year for us. As I talk to more and more people, I see that we are not alone. There are so many people who are struggling. I have found that when I go to church with a purpose and prayer in my heart, I am more able and focused on feeling the spirit. I am listening and looking for answers to the questions in my heart. I also find, that when I share that focus with my children, they are more prayerful and reverent during the meeting. I have started to share some of those things with my daughters on our drive to church, so they can think about them and pray about them too during the meetings.
During the meeting, I try to be an example of reverence to them by listening to the speakers and focusing on the meeting. I put my phone away during the Sacrament, and if I get my phone out later, we only read scriptures, church lessons, or The Friend online. I find that when I am focused on the meeting and showing my children by example, that they sometimes will follow suit.
3. Have some gospel-oriented activities for them in a “church bag”.
I always try to have a church bag ready to go for church meetings. The bag is filled with crayons and coloring books, The Friend magazine, and other quiet time activities. I have found that when I bring gospel related materials, my girls will read and focus on those things instead of other activities. Last Sunday, my daughter was so proud because she read The Friend the entire meeting.
One of the gospel related materials that I was recently exposed to are these LDS Temple Cards. Aren’t they beautiful?
Brynn from Card Creations sent me two of these sets! My daughters have been so excited to look through them, and were particularly happy to see our own temple there: The Brigham City Temple. I will add this set to our church bag. Each card has two pictures of each of the temples in the U.S. on them. On the back has some information about each temple. They would be perfect for a church bag, a Family Home Evening Activity, or even a Primary lesson.
You can enter to win a set of these beautiful cards at the end of this post! You can find and purchase these cards here.
4. Follow up with questions after church.
At family dinner after church, talk about what you learned during your classes. Ask your children what they learned. Be sure to share something that you learned as well. If there needs to be some reprimands or changes made, talk about those. But also, make it a positive time. I remember my family dinners growing up, and there was a lot of laughter and joking. Those positive memories are reminders of the love that was in our home.
5. Take a mulligan.
For those moments when your child acts out, or you lose your temper, or you feel exhausted and overwhelmed after church, take a mulligan. I think we all need to understand that not every church meeting is going to have “the best talks ever” and not every child is going to sit still and think of Jesus reverently every week. There are going to be weeks when you may have wished you stayed home because the baby had a diaper blowout and the toddler ran out of the meeting yelling “I hate you, mommy!” or maybe your child threw up in Primary. We all have those moments. We all need a little more loving-kindness for those moments when reverence goes running out the chapel doors with your screaming 2-year-old.
As President Uchtdorf has said: “The Church is not an automobile showroom—a place to put ourselves on display so that others can admire our spirituality, capacity, or prosperity. It is more like a service center, where vehicles in need of repair come for maintenance and rehabilitation. And are we not, all of us, in need of repair, maintenance, and rehabilitation? We come to church not to hide our problems but to heal them.”
We all need a second chance. Take the mulligan. And go back next week and try again.
So, here we go! Enter to win a set of these beautiful LDS Temple Cards. We will keep the giveaway open for 7 days, then announce a winner. If you are interested in finding out more about Card Creations, you can find them on Facebook or Instagram. Thank you, Brynn, for sharing these with us.