Top Ten: Surviving Church

I don’t know about you, but Mass is sometimes my purgatory.  No offense, God.  [none taken, I hope He replied].

With littles underfoot – and bigs who pester them – making it through the hour-long Mass, all while gleaning some bit of divine knowledge is tough to do.  In the last decade or so of “surviving”, as well as surrounding ourselves with other awesome families, we’ve generated our own top ten.  It’s my hope these tricks and creative parenting techniques will allow you to not just survive Mass, but enjoy it.


1.  Avoid going during naptime.  Let’s face, sometimes you just can’t.  But, on the weekends that you can, do it.  You’ll thank yourself an hour later.  It’s important to note that your baby won’t be taking a morning nap forever, so the morning times may be easier to attend.  The name of the game is avoiding as many pitfalls for meltdown as possible.

2.  Sit at the front.  Or the back.  Or somewhere in the middle.  I have some parents that swear by each one of those.  Bottom line?  Do what works for your family and stick with it.  Sometimes even those “front rowers” beeline to the back with a *terrific 3yo*.

3.  Snacks should be your last resort.  I’m all for having a few cheerios or goldfish on hand.  But seriously, people?  A lunchsack packed with oreos, oranges and a juice box?  That’s a meal.  I kid you not, I see it every Sunday morning at our parish.  Drives me bananas.  Mass should not be a mealtime.  And, just remember that when you bring it for the baby, all the older ones will want their share.  We usually just leave them at home.

4.  Toys and books should be used with caution.  Our last parish had a book bin of religious books that the kids could read during Mass.  In theory, that sounds really lovely.  In practice, they all wanted the other one’s book about 3-milliseconds into the service.  And, if not handed over immediately a large scream, followed by, “That’s MY book!” ensued.  Having the entire row in front of you turn and stare was just awesome.

5.  Know that every age has its Mass season.  Itty bitties can be nursed (discreetly) or left in the carseat.  This is where you falsely believe you have the best child on the planet.  Toddlers just enjoy running in the narthex trying out their new-found walking feet.  Eh, at least you made it to the homily, right?  Pre-Kers make you want to pluck out your nosehairs.  They scream, move, push and cannot be contained.  You’re lucky to make it through the opening prayer with them.  School-age kids, if not accompanied by younger siblings, typically ‘turn the corner’ and you again, falsely believe you have the best children on the planet.  I can’t adequately and honestly write about teenagers, as we’re not there yet.  But, I suspect things like suspending car and cell phone privileges might make for decent behavior.  Just know that some Masses you will boast with pride and others you will look for the nearest black hole.

6.  Divide ’em up.  Scott and I usually flank the ends, with one of us holding the baby.  If we see a scuffle, we can easily flick the back of someone’s head 🙂

7.  Give them an incentive.  At our last parish, there was a beautiful rose garden that the kids adored.  They earned a walk through the garden if they made an “A” or better during Mass.  Whatever you do, make it reasonable and free.  No need to give them money or earn a toy.  I suggest making it an activity they love.

8.  Consider making different arrangements for “special” Masses.  Like the next person, I really love the Easter Triduum or the Confirmation Mass, but taking small children to those you’re just asking for it.  Really, I think you just have to be realistic.  A few years ago, my sister-in-law joined the church and Will was barely 13 months.  Scott went to the first half of the Easter Vigil and then we swapped and I went to the last half.  Sometimes compromise is the way to go.

9.  Give yourself an attainable goal.  Yes, YOU.  Each week, we strive to make it to a specific point in the Mass – say, the first reading or the homily – before heading to the narthex for some fresh air.  Some weeks we surpass the goal and other weeks, notsomuch.

10. Don’t make other people miserable.  Yes, I do keep my children in Mass if they’re having a small scuttlebutt.  I might get some head turns, but I don’t believe jerking your kids out of the church at every little thing teaches them anything.  Having said that, if you’ve got an inconsolable child on your hands, duck for the nearest exit.  Get them calmed down and then come back.


11.  Make it a teachable moment.  There are lots of things that happen during the Mass that kids will find fascinating.  We try our hardest to point them out while keeping the kids engaged in what’s going on around them.  We purchased a MagnifiKid subscription for Will during his Sacramental prep year and he luh-uved it.


  1. Meggan on November 17, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    These are awesome tips! My hubby and I have had this conversation before about what we think we want our plan to be once we have Baby B with us, so thanks! I even passed it along to him. Church "snacks" are a HUGE pet peeve of mine. Like you, I have no problem with Cheerios and goldfish, but I once saw a mom bust out a banana and a sippy cup during Mass. Really? A banana?

  2. Michelle on November 19, 2010 at 3:39 am

    Excellent tips. Here's my #1: Remember God loves all of us, and meets us, where we are. That 9-year-old "fidgeting" might be having a really bad day with his Tourette's, that school-age child with a snack might be staving off a diabetic crisis, and that 8-year-old with no sense of personal space in the communion line might just be your friend's autistic child anxious to see Jesus (true examples from families in our own parish). It's very true sometimes the Mass manners aren't there…for no good reason. However, one thing being a special-needs Mom has taught my stubborn self is that we never really know what a family is managing in Mass. What we do know is they've managed to get there.

  3. The Tuckers on November 22, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    We offer gum at the end of Mass. We let Ebeth hold the package. No toys or books…. only a chewy for Henry.
    We always divide them up and we always can flick or grab an ear!! :}
    Remember- we receive Grace just by being there!! God knows and smiles as we sweat through it!!!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.