Confession: I was THAT kid at church. Restless. Slightly disruptive no matter how interested. I had to keep busy.
15 years later I come to church and I see my boys, among other kids, and I get it. We can have the most dynamic worship team and the funniest Pastor, it is very hard for us ADHDers to do nothing during the service.
What are you saying Maria?! You don’t sit at church and do nothing! You pray! You listen! You worship!
Fair enough, let me expand. Yes, we actively worship, and provided we can sing along at the top of our lungs you still have our attention. But sitting still and listening during a sermon is NOT our forte! Even with our best intentions, our minds wander. And we get restless. As in, grab another cup of coffee, go pee, and remember to send that email kind of restless.
True story: I either pray out loud or pray in writing. Bowing our heads and closing our eyes is how I take a power nap while out in public.
Which is why we seem to do better as a family in churches that are more ADHD friendly; a much more casual atmosphere, where we can laugh along with the distractions that inevitably happen without offense being taken. And where the sermons get to the point (sorry I had to be honest and say it).
What denomination is that?
I don’t know! I don’t think you’ll find it reading the church bylaws or ministry website. It’s an exclusively organic feel the congregation as a whole creates when they love your family and accept you- quirks and all. It’s a kid-friendly environment where they are not a distraction but the mission. It’s a place where you’re invited to plug in so you’re NOT asked to sit still for two hours week after week.
Before you find this blog post disappointing (seeing as I didn’t solve your problems or gave you solid answers) I’d like to share that there are things YOU can do to make church work better for your family regardless of how differently-abled your family is:
- Be honest and open about the disability. You’ll find most ministers are compassionate. The majority of church folk want to believe that your boy isn’t acting like hell on wheels because he’s rebellious. A lot of times, they’ve just never met anyone quite like y’all. So speak up (the Bible tells Christians we can’t be psychic)!
- Try to make church enjoyable for the kids: they deserve something to look forward to! Reward incentives work great. Allow them to wiggle a bit and make friends. Mainly, lighten up your attitude! Do you ever wonder why some adults only come to church for funerals and weddings? If you’re relaxed and enjoying yourself, and your kid can be himself, you’ll find everyone has a better time.
- Minimize the uncomfortableness: is it hard to sit still? Bring crayons and paper to draw during service. Or take a Rubik’s cube. Or a fidget cube. And don’t fear the electronics: an iPad with the youversion app open to write notes is ok! A bag of gold fishes has saved many moms with toddlers. Flags to wave during worship and tambourines for kids are great too (except at my church, my pastor friends kindly asked me to pass on tambourines).
- Have an “end goal” in mind: our family normally doesn’t eat out during the week so Sunday lunch is often looked forward to. Also, MY boys bring Pokémon cards to church (Sacrilege!). Provided the actively participate during service, they can trade with friends afterwards.
- Most importantly, make church about the people and the Lord, not the building. Our God is very relationship-minded and we should be too. Church for our family is the people we love! The quiet prayers, the worship music, and the listening is a daily part of our lives at home, so when it happens at church it’s no biggie! Instead, church is where we get to pray with our friends – and that’s what makes it even more special.
Have any tips to share with that Mom that doesn’t feel like she can relax at Church? What encouragement would you offer her?