My nearly 11-year marriage to an unbeliever tended to leave me feeling like a single parent as my spouse seldom came to church with me. My shift to officially being a single parent has effected very little change in the way I attend church. I come, my kids come with me, and wrangling them to church and back falls squarely on my shoulders. This is a much bigger job for one set of hands than it is for two.
Different churches handle kids in church in different ways, and this variable typically depends on a tradition’s attitude towards children and the size of a church. I have spent most of the past 14 years attending relatively small churches (fewer than 100 in attendance on most Sundays), and it has been my experience that small churches have fewer options for childcare and struggle to find enough workers for the children’s ministry. Perhaps, in part, because with only one main service running, anyone who volunteers for the children’s ministry will be missing church for the week. At churches with multiple services, childcare workers have the option of working in the children’s ministry for one service, then worshiping at a different service.
My situation has always been complicated by the fact that my daughter has borderline disabilities complete with behavioral problems. I cannot count the number of times I have visited a church and dropped her off with the children’s ministry only to have her returned to me mid-service because, “we’re having a hard time with her.” While I understand why children with special needs put a strain on the volunteer resources of smaller congregations, this does not change the fact that when this happens, I get very little out of the service because I spent my time there managing my child instead of participating, listening, and reflecting. I’ve sometimes left services like this wondering why I bothered to come at all.