Christian Faith Raising Gifted Children in the Christian Faith

Children Who Struggle with Church – An Update

Children Who Struggle with Church - An Update 2

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Over the past several years, I’ve written numerous times about our challenges with parenting and church. But some things have happened over the past few months that made me realize I needed to write an update regarding children who struggle with church and how it has played out in our family. I think it’s especially important because I’m hopeful it will encourage parents who aren’t as far along the parenting path whether they read it now or find it at some point in the future.

By way of background, almost three years ago I wrote a series entitled Raising Gifted Children in the Christian Faith. In that series, I put forth some of the difficulties that parents face when raising a gifted or twice-exceptional (2e) child as it relates to matters of faith. I also wrote about our struggles with our daughter’s desire to avoid church due to being a highly-sensitive person. If you aren’t familiar with them, here is a bit of a run down.

Truth be told, we did not attend church for a number of years despite the fact that our faith is very important to us. There were multiple reasons (including my health), but even if I had been healthy I don’t think it would have changed things a great deal. Church was simply an uncomfortable place for our daughter. It was too loud, too busy visually, had too many people, there were too many people invading her space, etc. We tried different churches off and on, but nothing ever worked well.

Until this past fall.

Finding a Church That Fits

We finally did find a smaller church where we all felt comfortable. It’s in the denomination I grew up in. It’s traditional. It’s fairly quiet. The sanctuary is restful. The pastor preaches the Gospel and is not a screamer. There is no loud rock band. There is no light show. There are down-to-earth people who are friendly, but not overly so. The service is orderly so we all know generally what to expect.

It works.

It works so well that Caroline even asked if she would ever be able to play the piano in church. I told her she would when she was ready because it is the kind of church that wants everyone of all ages to participate, not just the staff or the people deemed worthy.

Getting Up Front

There were a few other things that happened that were truly answers to prayer. Our homeschool co-op has a Christmas program each year and Caroline has never participated. She refused to do anything that meant going up on a stage. This past December she sang with her class. It was the first time I’ve ever seen her participate in anything like this (and she’s eleven). We stayed to watch the middle school play and she loved it.

In fact, she plans on signing up for drama at co-op next year.

And recently her GEMS club did a GEMS service at the church where they have the club (not the church we attend). Caroline passed out bulletins, seated people, and participated in the song/dance that the girls did to help lead the worship service. She looked like a total natural and no one would ever have known it was the first time she’s ever done anything like that. She did not want a speaking part, but that is probably coming with joining drama next year.

I don’t have any pictures to share. I did take a couple at Christmas, but she was so far away they aren’t very clear. For the GEMS Sunday I chose to just sit there and be in the moment, not worrying about video or pictures. (I was also focused on not breaking out sobbing from thankfulness – really.)

(But I do have this picture of us from this fall.)

Sallie and Caroline November 2017

Something Just Clicked

I cannot tell you what has changed over the past year. She has had the same co-op teachers a few times over the past several years and they have commented to us in recent months on how much she has changed. Other people can see it too. I really don’t know what clicked or why it clicked. It could be any combination of things.

All I know is that we gave her time and space. We backed off and did not push her to fit our agenda of life when it was clear our life agenda (such as attending church each week) was not working for her and was, in fact, traumatizing her.

I write this to give parents hope. I don’t know if every scenario will work out like ours has. I can only share our story and tell you that even though we made a lot of decisions that people didn’t understand, we did the right thing for our daughter in this area as well as homeschooling. We have prayed every step of the way and I believe God has guided us even when it seemed like we couldn’t possibly be making the right choices.

I’m in the process of writing an ebook that I’ll be selling on my site. The working title is, “Help! I Don’t Understand My Child!” because that best sums up my mothering experience the first ten years. I’m not done with my parenting journey. I can’t tell you how it will all turn out and I won’t even pretend that I have all the answers for the years ahead. I can say we are in a good place right now. Not perfect because nothing involving human beings is ever perfect. But we’re in a good place and I’m very thankful for that.

If you feel like you are drowning or losing your mind because you just can’t figure it out or you feel like you are making decisions for your child that no one understands or supports and yet deep in your gut you know they are the right ones… I do want to offer support and hope that it can get better. In our case, it has gotten much better and I’m so thankful to be able to say that.

Children Who Struggle with Church - An Update


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  • Church is a big challenge for our daughter too. She has a number of neurological challenges as well as chronic fatigue right now. We had to find a smaller, quieter church setting too. Right now Sunday school doesn’t work for her. She does enjoy a small group we are in, but there were great challenges with that at one point. I still don’t have it all figured out and am trusting God to keep guiding us in putting the pieces together. I am thankful for those who try to understand and support us in our journey.

    • We haven’t even attempted Sunday School again after the bad experience we had a few years that I wrote about in one of the other posts. If we make it to church, I am satisfied at this point.

      I keep reminding myself that God loves her far more than I do and He’s working in her life whether I can see it or not.

  • You said…”It’s traditional. It’s fairly quiet. The sanctuary is restful. The pastor preaches the Gospel and is not a screamer. There is no loud rock band. There is no light show. There are down-to-earth people who are friendly, but not overly so. The service is orderly so we all know generally what to expect.”

    Can you clone one for us, please? This is the exact description of what we are looking for. Please email me with the denomination if you are okay with that.

    The last church we went to with our son was so loud that I felt sick; literally. The lady I knew that invited us told me some of the “older” congregation sits toward the back because of the speakers. Really? And that is okay?

    The Sunday School teacher, a woman, moved him from the room we usually had him in without my knowledge and I panicked when I went to get him after the service and there was nobody there except some man I had never seen before!

    The services we attended were disjointed in that they were given by whomever was filling in that week for the pastor, and consisted of mostly anecdotal opinion and a call for donations to the missionaries once again. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the commission to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, but the way they were doing it seemed more like a field trip to build housing in poor reaches of the planet. Perhaps the motivation was to feed the masses and then give the gospel, but I never got the impression that was what was going on.


    I’m so happy your Caroline is feeling like she is welcome there. Her stress level is down!

    AS for acting…my son had to get up on stage at his prior school and he HATED it. He said he felt silly. He told me that he’s not one to be someone he isn’t. (He acted in presentations through Missoula Children’s Theater) The last presentation, he was a wise man…that forgot to bring baby Jesus the gold (prop). He was so humiliated and started to cry before he had to go on. He went up on stage anyway and mimed giving the gold.

    So, good for Caroline in passing out bulletins and smiling.

    Authenticity of hospitality beats acting any day.

    • Michele,

      I don’t think there is a denominational magic bullet. I know for a fact that there are other churches in this same denomination that would not work because they would be more contemporary and all that goes with that. Have you looked at country churches? I don’t know where you are, but they tend to be more traditional. Not always, but often. The church we settled on is a country church with a lot of gray hair. It works.

      • Looking for gray hair is a great idea. 🙂

        We live in a very small rural town. Perhaps we should stay close to home and visit a few. The prior churches were located in the larger town over.

        A friend of our son has a dad that is a pastor of a church. We think it’s a matter of time before we are invited to visit. But I’ve had some experience in that denomination as a child and I know I won’t want to expose him to it. Hubby and I are wondering if that will be the end of the friendship when we turn them down. I hope not.

        During that conversation, our son asked us what denomination we consider ourselves, and I honestly couldn’t pinpoint any one in particular. I told him I knew what we WEREN’T.

      • Our church is a country church as well. After visiting a dozen churches, it was the only one we could find whose music wasn’t really loud yet also had strong teaching. Our daughter loves music, and I cannot imagine keeping her in a church where she couldn’t participate in that aspect of worship.

        • Our son likes good music as well. He hates what he calls “lively” music. (Anything too loud)

          But I think there’s something a bit disrespectful to God when the music and the musicians skill becomes the focus more than the worship. I suppose that’s why I like the old-time hymn books.

  • I am sure the calm orderly church has something to do with it . I cannot find peace in the rock and roll ! lights ! camera ! action ! churches either . Something to keep at the back of your mind maybe (see if it fits) is the role that hormones begin to make at the beginnings of this stage of life are remarkable in some children. My younger brother , who was always slow ,barely could read, everything he wrote was backwards , suddenly at about age 11-12 , sat down and read the World Books we had , got my Grandmothers college level algebra books from the attic and devoured them, and went on to be a nuclear physicist. I saw a flowering of artistic talent in my youngest daughter . And some become awkward and uncomfortable in their own skin for awhile !. Just an idea .

    • Hi Karen!

      I do think hormones had something to do with the changes we’ve seen. That’s an amazing story about your younger brother. It also fits with why most kids aren’t ready to learn formal math, etc. until they are around ten or eleven. (And yet we force them to start at age five. Grrr….) I keep hoping the math switch will turn on as well! LOL!

  • I am also struggling with a 2e child and church.  We are now in past the ‘children’s church’ phase and he is struggling to adapt to being in church for the entire span of time.  I’ve thought of asking for an exception, but I know  that this transition has to happen at some time.


Sallie-Schaaf-Borrink-060313-B-250x250I’m Sallie and I help people create a cozy life that surrounds them and their loved ones with peace, understanding, and joy. By cultivating a cozy home, we create a haven of rest and growth for every area – parenting, education, marriage, and faith. Welcome! ♥

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