5 Great After Church Options for Pastor’s Kids
The moment church ends, I am surrounded by people.
You see, I’m the pastor’s wife.
People have questions and they think I have answers. Sometimes I do, and a lot of times I don’t.
And for many years, I dreaded the social onslaught that occurred every Sunday morning as soon as church was over.
I’d get myself all worked up, sometimes before I even got to church that morning. I’d rant and rave about it to my husband.
Don’t people know that I’m not on staff?
How am I supposed to know when the money for XYZ is due?
I’m not being paid to answer these questions!
I justified my outrage by explaining that I am an introvert and social interactions stress me out. And while that’s totally true, the real reason for my dislike of the post-service social hour was my kids.
Related Post: To the Introverted Pastor’s Wife: How to Rock Your Role
See, while I was answering questions and talking to church members, my kids were running wild.
And despite my best efforts to explain to them that they needed to not act crazy after church, they’d forget what I said and I’d forget about them until they were up on stage banging on the piano or playing tag in the balcony.
And then, the whole church was staring at me, and I wanted to melt into the floor Wicked Witch of the West style.
So I reacted in anger, threatened my kids within an inch of their lives, and left the church as quickly as possible with very upset kids.
Here’s the thing about my kids being on stage and messing with the microphones or running through the sanctuary – they weren’t the only kids doing it.
There were lots of other kids on stage with them and playing tag with them, but my kids are recognized by everyone in the church. So when the story is retold later about the wild kids crawling under the pews tickling ankles (I can’t make this stuff up), it goes, “The pastor’s kids were…”
Unfair as that may be, it is true.
And while being a pastor’s kid is hard, it is our life.
God has called us to this life so there’s no reason to lament the difficulties.
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And while my embarrassment and emotions were making my decisions for me, I wasn’t acknowledging how great my kids had done for the majority of the day.
They’d all done great in Sunday school.
They’d sat still during the entire worship service.
And now, after 3+ hours of being on their best behavior, they’re letting their energy out and acting like the other kids.
But guys, they can’t.
My kids can’t run around the sanctuary.
That’s not okay with me.
The sanctuary is a sacred place for many people. I don’t want my kids running wild in there.
And I get the whole “the church is the people, not the building” argument, but it really doesn’t matter unless I want to spend the next couple of decades debating people.
That’s not what Jesus would do.
I don’t want my kids to run wild in Walmart, so of course, they can’t act like hooligans in church. I don’t want them to have a bad reputation. I don’t want their dad and me to have that reputation.
So we had to do something different.
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We started by talking to other people in leadership.
At our first church, my husband explained to our deacons that he didn’t want his kids to distract us from caring for the church during that important hour. He asked their blessing to use a Sunday School room to corral our kids. They agreed and some even volunteered to help watch our kids.
While there was no policy that required us to ask permission to use a Sunday School room or the sacristy to watch our kids, getting the buy-in from other leaders was useful.
One time a nursery worker complained to a deacon that we weren’t following the nursery policy by sending a teenager to get the kids.
The deacon listened to her. Then he explained that allowing that teenager to serve the pastor’s family allowed the pastor to better serve the church family. He then wrote a line into the nursery policy that allowed a teenager to pick kids up from the nursery with the pastor’s approval.
Getting buy-in is a great place to start, but how can you actually perform the important duties you need to while handling your kids after church?
Here are five great options for the pastor’s kids after church.
1. Get Help
This was the best option for our family when our kids were younger.
We paid a sweet girl from the youth group to take our kids to a room to play. Over the years we have asked a handful of people to fill this role for us. Our kids have been taken to play in the nursery or the playground if the weather was nice. Our current church has a large playroom filled with toys, but the location is much less important.
Knowing that my kids were being cared for by a responsible human has freed me up to focus on what the people around me needed.
When my kids were in the sanctuary with me, I was never actually giving anyone my undivided attention. I was constantly counting kids, monitoring their activity, and trying to redirect using hand gestures and “the mom look.”
An unexpected result is that my kids have grown to love the time right after church so much.
They are removed from the pressures of “acting right” in the sanctuary and they get to run out some of their energy before lunch. This made it where we could actually go out to eat after church (although we typically still just eat at home because it’s easier and cheaper).
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A side benefit is that my kids have developed relationships with some wonderful young people.
We have gotten to deliberately choose a primary social influence over our kids. We have gotten to see them act more like Riley, Dani, and Kaylee. We have heard their stories about how awesome Garrison is.
Also, we helped these young people serve.
We explained to the teenagers and young adults who have watched them that doing so enables us to minister to the church, and at the same time this is a huge ministry to us. Most of them have even refused payment, in which case we slipped them gift cards on a regular basis.
2. Use Electronics
We’ve had pretty great success with this method, too.
In the past, we’ve let our kids go into a room adjacent to the sanctuary and watch a show together using a Kindle Fire kid’s version and an iPad. Since there are four of them, they had to share with a sibling, but it always worked out pretty well that the older two watched a show together and the younger two watched a show together.
I think the reason this works so well for us is that our kids have VERY limited use of technology at home.
I mean they never play on any electronic device (iPad, Kindle Fire, Gameboy, game system, phone, etc.), and we turn on the TV for a couple of hours 2-3 days a week. So telling them that they get to watch a show after church if they obey and behave well during church is incredibly motivating for them.
At our current church, my husband has a television with Netflix in his office. So as soon as church is over, my kids clean up their area (how do they make such a mess during church!?!?) and walk like little ducks to his office. The children’s church workers bring my youngest to my husband’s office when children’s church is over, and all four of our kids just watch TV for 30-45 minutes after church.
Now, this may not work for you if your kids are younger. My oldest is 11 and thinks she’s 24, so she is quick to boss everybody around and tattle if they act crazy. That combination (plus the TV) keeps them in line pretty well.
And for a while, I felt really guilty for just abandoning them and letting the TV babysit.
But when I asked them how they felt about our after church arrangement, they told me they love it.
My son said that it’s really hard to be on his best behavior all morning, but he knows that if he does, he gets to relax and watch TV and “just be a kid.”
So I don’t feel too bad about it anymore.
3. Use Toys
If you don’t think that electronics will work or you just don’t want to resort to that, I get it.
You can use the same technique with toys.
Our experience has shown the best results come by using new toys that they are only allowed to play with after being on their best behavior in church. When we buy a new toy, it begins its life as an after church toy. We want them as engaged with these toys as possible, so we leverage newness every chance we get.
We will also pull toys out of the bag and hide them for a while to keep the toys in the bag fresh for our kids.
You can bring a bag with special toys or set them up in advance in the after-church space.
All kids have different preferences but here are a few great ones!.
And be sure to look on Facebook Marketplace, resale shops, or Swap.com to find some great deals on some used toys. My kids love Legos and Swap.com sells them by the pound and runs free shipping promos on the regular.
4. Give them a Job
One of my kids loves to help.
He’s three and he wakes up, gets himself dressed, and comes into our bedroom every morning ready to “werk with Daddy.”
When not given specific tasks, he comes up with his own and the result is usually destructive.
We didn’t actually want the baseboard to be painted with mascara, but you did a thorough job.
If we were to give him a job to complete after the church service, he’d be totally happy.
Some ideas are to sweep the foyer, clean up all the trash left on the pews or chairs, gather up all the used bulletins, vacuum the sanctuary, straighten the rows, and lock all the doors.
Obviously, the jobs should be age-appropriate, although the idea of my three-year-old walking around with a giant key ring trying to lock up kills me.
A bonus of doing this is that it casts your children in a very favorable light. And while I don’t think you should care overly much what others think of your kids, it never hurts to let people see how awesome they are.
And nothing says awesome like a well-mannered pastor’s kid cleaning the sanctuary cheerfully.
Let me know if you figure out how to get your kid to do all those things simultaneously.
The Anthonys aren’t quite there yet.
5. Ask What They Want
The last option is to simply ask your kids what they want to do after church, and if it’s reasonable, let them do it.
Their answers may surprise you.
For example, my eleven-year-old daughter wants to stand and greet people as they leave. She wants to be right beside her dad shaking hands as people head out the door.
I would have never thought to suggest that she do this because just thinking about greeting hundreds of people as they exit a building makes me get that nervous introvert sweaty feeling.
But that is the desire of her heart every Sunday after church and sometimes we let her.
(Most of the time she’s forced to go watch TV and siblings. And yes, we’ve heard how unfair that is. She’s a preteen and she’s quick to let us know how unfair EVERYTHING is.)
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So far, none of my other kids have wanted to do anything after church that was even remotely close to being okay.
No, you can’t just start walking the two miles home by yourself.
No, you can’t play hide and seek in the senior adult wing.
No, you can’t go to the kitchen and eat whatever candy you find.
But one day, they may have a really great idea for entertaining themselves after church, so we keep that dialogue going.
In conclusion, it is tough to corral your kids after church while also meeting the needs of the church members.
And while booking it home as soon as the last “Amen” is said is probably the easiest thing, it’s also probably not the best.
You are a key part of your husband’s ministry and the relationships you build with people matter greatly. Small talk with Lucy and Ethel may not seem like great kingdom work, but it may mean the world to them. You will probably never know the impact that weekly chit-chat has on people.
Here’s a truth that is hard to remember while you’re in the messy middle of parenting – your children will grow up one day.
The difficulties that you are facing in your ministry right now will not be the struggles you have in ten years. This is just a season, so find a solution for this particular season and love on the people God has placed in your life.
What are some other after church options for the pastor’s kids? Tell us in the comments!
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