Notes from the pandemic: The difficulty of watching church with kids

Jen Bradbury
Aug 10 · 5 min read

As a children and youth minister, I’m often sought as the “expert” on parenting. I lead the classes, refer parents to other professionals in times of crisis, and share parenting stories in my sermons. As much as I try to share parenting failures, for some reason, people still assume that when it comes to parenting, my husband and I have it all figured out.

We don’t.

Here’s a case in point.

The end of last week was ROUGH… not so much for the girls, but for Doug and I. Knowing that nature restores us, we went to our favorite outdoor space, the Morton Arboretum, over the weekend. We hiked, ate a picnic lunch while doing math (at Hope’s insistence, not Doug’s), and then went and fed the fishies in Lake Marmo.

All was well until we started walking back to our car. That’s when Hope asked – as she often does – if she could watch TV on the way home.

We said, “Sure! We’ll watch virtual church!”

In response, Hope let out a full-fledged tantrum, much more akin to that of a toddler than that of a 5-year old. As we walked to our car, Hope kept wailing, “I don’t want to!” over and over again, at the top of her lungs.

So, here’s the truth friends: I’m the minister of youth and family at my congregation. I work hard to make sure virtual worship is as kid-friendly as possible. When this whole pandemic began, I even published tips for live-streaming worship with your kids.

But five months into this, my kid – just like all of yours – HATES virtual worship.  

Despite this, for a while we still forced our whole family to watch virtual worship on Sunday morning.

But that just got too hard.

It became untenable.

So, the last couple of months we haven’t.

Instead, we try to go somewhere to hike on Sundays. We watch church in the car. The kids can listen (or not). Hope ALWAYS watches the children’s sermon (even though she records them with me on Saturdays.) When there’s a song she knows, she sings along.

But mostly, she does her own thing in her car seat while Doug and I watch church from the front.

It’s not a system we love.

Most weeks, it’s not even a system we like.

But it’s the thing that’s allowing at least some of us to watch worship right now.

As much as I value worship, both professionally and personally, right now, this is NOT a battle I’m willing to fight with Hope. It’s just not.

So, I’m learning to give myself – and her – grace about her lack of participation in virtual worship. And I’m trusting that maybe, this tangible demonstration of grace will teach her more about Jesus than virtual worship would anyway.

Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself to make me feel better about not forcing her to watch virtual worship ALL the time.