Let’s just get right to it. We’re encouraged to have every member of our family in church, but is there really any purpose in taking your baby to church? It’s not like they are studying the original Greek or learning the books of the Bible, right? Maybe it makes more sense to keep them in the security of their own home until they’re old enough to get something out of being there. And if we’re being honest, don’t a lot of moms feel a little guilty dropping their babies off for someone else to take care of…when they’re at the most high-maintenance point of their lives? Is it selfish?
In short, you should be taking your baby to church, they are getting something out of it, and it’s a lot of things, but selfish isn’t one of them.
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Why It’s Good for Your Baby
I really can’t overemphasize the importance of association for infants. They lack verbal skills and life experience, but they are very sensitive to things like touch, smell, security, and routine. If you regularly use bath products with lavender, your baby will associate bath time with that smell, and probably approach it with a sense of relaxation. If you sing the same song every night before you put your baby to bed, he’ll associate that song with falling asleep. It’s the same reason babies feel differently when they smell their mothers. As you can imagine, there are also plenty of examples of negative associations, too.
Your baby is learning that being at church makes her feel safe and loved.
In light of that, you can see that there are some important things happening when you take your baby to church. Your baby is learning that being at church makes her feel safe and loved. As she gets a little older and more social, she’ll associate church with friends, and even fun. When a caregiver at church is building these things into your baby while also telling the baby that God made them, and that Jesus loves them, these messages become part of the association. When he can understand what those messages mean, he’ll associate all the feelings of security and love with those messages.
Another good reason to take your baby to church is that he’ll start early to form relationships that will be important as he gets older. Have you ever been at a church where the high school seniors thanked the teachers who looked after them their whole lives? There were sweet ladies who rocked my babies, who also watched them grow up. They continued to speak words of encouragement and love into their lives. Even when my kids didn’t remember those ladies, the fact that the ladies remembered them was significant. I mean, there were people who loved them, that they didn’t even remember!
Outside of family, there are few opportunities for your child to develop relationship from infancy.
Then you have the teachers who come alongside your kids in elementary school, and all the way through high school. It’s a steady stream of loving teachers that your teenager can trace all the way back to infancy, before they even remembered individual people. But they know that women loved on them when they were getting nothing back, and the reason? God’s love. God loved them and called them to shower God’s love on babies. Why wouldn’t you want your baby to get in on that?
Outside of family, there are few opportunities for your child to develop friendships from infancy. But when kids stay in a church, that’s what they have. And that’s an incredibly secure feeling. Knowing that you have known these people since before you could talk, and have come to know and love the Lord together, is a gift.
The last reason to have your baby in church is that if you decide to wait until your baby can “get something out of it,” it will be hard to know when the right time is. Kindergarten? Toddler years? Middle school? And by the time your child is old enough to be learning solid facts and stories, she’s also old enough that you’ll be forming a new habit. When they’ve always gone to church on Sunday mornings, they expect it. Put a pin in that idea because we’re going to come back to it.
Why It’s Good for You
First, let’s agree that whatever is really good for you as a parent is going to benefit your child. The better off you are, the better a parent you’re going to be. That’s just true.
As the parent of a baby, there are several reasons you should be in church, and not feel guilty about the time away from your baby. And if the separation is a real issue for you (a conviction, an attachment parenting commitment, etc.), then find a church where you can keep your baby with you. But before you go that route, go back and consider the reasons above that being at church is good for your baby.
The Best Break Ever
One reason it’s good for you to be at church is that you probably need a break. And it’s okay to take one, especially if it’s a break you’re spending with God and His people. It gives you a chance to talk about something that’s not baby related, and to be around other adults. It gives you a chance to worship and learn. You were made for those things, and they keep you connected to God.
It’s also really good for you to be around other parents, whether they’re in the same season as you or they’re ahead of you. You can read all the books you want, but there’s no reason not to call on the wisdom and encouragement of other parents. If I had relied totally on my own resources, I would have made a lot of different decisions, and not for the better. Finding some great mentor moms was key for me. And having other Christian moms making their way through the baby years with me was also key. I knew I wasn’t alone, and I felt like I was in community.
Remember when I said to put a pin in the idea that your child will be used to going to church every Sunday? Here’s where that circles back to benefit you. Yes, you get to avoid a lot of push-back, but you would also be surprised at how often children are incredible accountability partners! Not by request, of course, but when your child expects that you’re all going to church, you’ll be a lot more consistent.
The last reason it’s good for you to have your baby in church is that it gives you a safe place to “practice” being separated from your baby. I can’t imagine how hard it would have been to be with my babies all the time until Mother’s Day Out. I probably wouldn’t have done it, and then I would have been a mess when kindergarten came. The last thing I’d want to do when my kids start school is to carry a sense of loss, dread, fear, or sadness into it. Instead, I was able to help them be excited about it. And instead of calming my nerves (which were definitely there!), I could focus on being there for them.
I know it can seem like an indulgence for the parents to take their babies to church. But I hope you see that there’s so much more going on, and it’s important. There are very real benefits to your baby, in the short term and the long term. And it’s great for you, too. True confession: With my first baby, I used to go in between services and check on her. Not where she could see me, but just to make myself feel better. It did, and after a while, I didn’t need to do it anymore. Hey, you do what you gotta do!
There are very real benefits to your baby, in the short term and the long term. And it’s great for you, too.
You Really Need This Book!
One last thing. I can’t recommend this book enough. I want to fill a little red wagon with copies of this book and walk around giving them to every parent I see! It takes you from age 0 to age 12, telling you what kids can learn at each stage and what you can teach them and do to encourage their spiritual growth. It’s a quick read since you’re only reading the section on your kid’s age, but don’t forget to return to it as your kid gets older. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given this at baby showers!
Without names, what mistakes have you seen parents make in this area? We can learn a lot from those “cautionary tales,” so please share in the comments.