Escaping Sunday School…Why We Do Family Integrated Church

Anyone who knows me probably knows that I don’t let hardly anyone watch my kids. It wasn’t always this way. I stopped letting my son go to Sunday school when he escaped the room three times in one Sunday. I stopped letting other people watch him because I knew I couldn’t trust anyone else with his safety except myself and his dad. This probably sounds crazy, but after a few incidents that could have easily killed him, I’ll take my chances with being called crazy.

Turbo was two when we started attending the mega church nearby. I loved everything about it. I loved that worship felt like a rock concert where everyone was praising Jesus instead of getting stoned secretly in the audience. I loved the pastor who read from the Bible and was encouraging and entertaining. I loved seeing so many people who loved God in one room every week and feeling like I was a part of something bigger than myself. I felt a deep sense of peace and bubbling joy fall over me when I closed my eyes, raised my hands to God, and sang as loud as I wanted because no one would hear me singing off key.

But I had a little one, and they were expressly not invited to “grown up church”. So, we checked out the nursery/Sunday school and decided to let Turbo go there while we went to church in the main building. They background check all their volunteers and the room was full of fun and engaging toys. There weren’t too many kids per adult and I walked away feeling like we were doing something good for our son. In fact, after a few visits, we would come to pick him up and he would be sad to leave. He loved that place.

Then one Sunday when we picked him up, I was told by the volunteer running the pick up/drop off that I needed to have a talk with my son. Apparently, he figured out how to open the door to the classroom and got out all by himself. Not once. Not twice. Three times he got out. He got out because they were watching a movie and he didn’t want to sit still for it. So, I needed to have a talk with him about listening better and not opening the door to try to leave. She seemed truly irritated that he couldn’t just sit still for a movie. I calmly left with my son and my husband but I was incredulous. I should lecture my two year old? Was is not their job to tell him no at the moment the “crime” was committed and then watch him to make sure that he didn’t get out again? Why were they watching a movie with babies to begin with?

The more I thought about it, the more it troubled me. Whoever was supposed to be watching my son was not paying attention to him. There is only one exit to the room. Would you not watch the door after the first time? Or lock it, perhaps? Maybe that’s not allowed, but neither is allowing a toddler to escape into traffic. You see, the classroom my son was in was only a few doors away from the main exit to the church. Hundreds of cars drive through that parking lot every service, and not everyone is watching for a tiny little person to run out in front of their car. I feel sick to my stomach thinking about it. Praise God that didn’t end a different way.

When I approached the head pastor at the church with what happened, he referred me to the person in charge of childcare and told me that it “wasn’t his problem.” When I talked to the person in charge of childcare, they offered no apology or assurance that it wouldn’t happen again. They just told me that the volunteers switch out every so often and they are not all trained to handle certain situations. There was no resolution. I gave up on them.

Then, we tried bringing our son into service with us. I would take him out if he even let out a happy peep. He was not a disturbance at all. However, I was ushered out and asked to take him to Sunday school or told I could sit in the hall and listen to the service from there. That was the last day we ever attended that church.

Now, I don’t tell this story to bash on this, or any other church. That church was not for for us though. I still think about it fondly sometimes, until I remember what could have happened to Turbo while he was so tiny. He was so full of curiosity, and he could not be contained. He was, and still is, a challenge but I feel confident of my own abilities with him. I don’t trust many others though. This is but one example of reasons why I hold so tight to my little children. A few months later, a friend told me a story of a pastor’s son she knew who was killed in a church parking lot. Talk about freaking me out.

We now attend a family-integrated church. This basically just means that the children’s lesson and adult lesson are rolled into one service and the kids sit in with us. They still have time to learn their own things, and they are learning what it is like to be an adult and worship God and study the Bible. It’s not fun and games all the time, but they are learning how to function in a church, not a play room. I appreciate the experience is has brought us as a family. I don’t know if we would have gone down this path were we not led to it, but I do think it’s what’s best for us now.

I provide this cautionary tale not to lead you in fear, but to hopefully make you think about where your kids are staying if they are not with you. How well do you actually know what is going one? How well do you know the people who are watching your kids? What kind of training has been provided? What happens in an emergency? I wish I had known more in the beginning. Live and learn, I suppose.

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