In a multi-church district it seems that where the pastor's wife and children spend their Sabbaths is almost as important to his congregations as where the pastor, himself, preaches each Sabbath. So how do his wife and children keep everyone satisfied without the children dreading Sabbaths as the day they get taxied from church to church?
This was the dilemma we faced when my husband, Dave, assumed the responsibility of a three-church district. Dave's schedule was fairly simple. He would preach every week in the largest of the three at 9:45 a.m. (Church A), and alternate between Church B and C at 11:15 a.m. If the family travelled with him, we would all have to sit through two sermons. Not only would this be a lengthy and difficult assignment for the children, but it could drive their mother over the edge. On the other hand, if we stayed at one church every week, we would miss getting to know the members and visitors at the other two churches.
We finally came up with a plan that has worked for our congregations and our own family as well. The children and I now spend the whole day at Church B the first and third weeks of each month; Church A, the second week; and Church C, the fourth week, The fellowship meals are also held on these weeks. Dave always starts out at Church A but ends up at the church where his family is spending the day, so we all eat Sabbath dinner together.
How does being in a different church every week affect the children? I had children of varying ages—three, six, eight, and nine—and particularly wondered how our toddler would adjust. For the first month or so he was shy about all the new people, as most young children are. I spent several Sabbaths with him in his Cradle Roll division. Once he became acquainted with his teachers and the other children, he made himself at home and has since been observed chatting on a variety of subjects without any symptoms of embarrassment or restraint. The older children ask every week, at least twice, "Where are we going to church this week?" If I say Church A they are happy because they will see their friends from church school. If I say Church B they are pleased because they have a special Sabbath school project they're working on. If I say Church C they look forward to seeing some of their friends that I occasionally babysit. They have learned to enjoy each church and all the different friends they have made.
I try to maintain a positive attitude about our Sabbath schedule, I might mention, "This week we'll be at Church B and you'll see your friends, Adam and Angela," rather than saying, "Since your dad is a pastor you just have to put up with being at a different church every week." It's the same principle I use about certain food items. "After you finish that awful roast I made, I'll give you some wheat germ, bran, and raw oats," is much less inspiring than "if you hurry with your delicious roast, you can have a cookie."
I, too, have gotten a chance to make friends with members from all three churches. Although 1 help out in the different Sabbath Schools, I do not have a permanent assignment in a children's department for the first time in nine years. This has also proved a blessing because I can meet the visitors and get to know the members.
A few weeks ago one of the members at our smallest congregation surprised me after church with a pretty potted plant. "We just want you to know how much we appreciate you and the children coming and taking part in our Sabbath School too," she explained.
Our plan may not work well in your situation, but now we feel we're a real part of the church family in all three congregations, instead of being considered as infrequently seen distant cousins.