The other day while waiting to spring my daughter L.E. from Sunday School someone cut in line. I saw him out of the corner of my eye. He was doing that thing my three year old does when we play hide and seek. She thinks that if she’s got her eyes closed you can’t see her either. So this guy was refusing to make eye contact with me and was instead just sliding over with an, “I don’t see you. If I pretend there’s not a well established line in the hallway and don’t look at anyone you won’t be able to see what I’m doing.”
But I did, I did. So I started to think to myself, “Which does God hate more? People that cut in line when you’re picking up your kid from Sunday school or people that think hateful thoughts about line cutters 19 seconds after they’ve listened to a sermon about loving their neighbor? On the one hand I am assuming this guy has gone to a fast food restaurant, bank, movie theater, sporting event or elementary school and is well aware of how a line works. On the other hand, I’m a jerk. Dang it. Be cool Jon. Be cool. The longer you wait in line the more time L.E. has to hoard goldfish for the ride home. It’s going to be OK.”
And it was. The whole thing was perfectly fine. No big deal. I moved passed my grumpy moment with relative ease, but there’s one Sunday School situation I have a harder time forgiving – the poorly executed drop off.
If you’ve got a kid, then you know exactly what I am talking about. If you don’t have kids, you should print this out and put it somewhere safe. If you ever volunteer for Sunday School, you should hang this on your door in the hall. It’s really win, win, win.
It’s fun to laugh at this problem, but when you dig deep, when you really explore this issue with the degree of scientific analysis I have, you realize just how dire it is. Because when a parent bombs the Sunday School drop off, their kid cries and starts a chain reaction of tears in other kids. As soon as one class is crying other classes in the hall get on board and start screaming, too. Now a few dozen parents are late to church because they’re calming their kids down. The worship leader notices that church feels a little empty and can’t get a good clap going and feels downhearted. The pastor, trying to bring his A game, gets constantly interrupted as parents walk in late. He can’t focus and ends up delivering a C level sermon that concludes with “So yeah, God loves. You should check into that.” The offering suffers so the church can’t pay their bills that month, which scares all the staff into looking for other jobs and the church has to shut down.
That’s what’s at stake when you blow a Sunday School drop off. Is that what you want, to close the church because you poorly executed what should be a simple church move? Not me, which is why I came up with three rules we all need to remember when dropping our kids off for Sunday School:
1. Don’t break the plane.
Whenever I see a dad about to break the seal and enter a classroom I want to scream like I would at someone about to go into a dark room in a horror movie, “Don’t go in there!” That’s the worst mistake you can make. Pretend there’s an invisible force field that only accepts children and remain in the hall. You’ll want to go in and help your kid take his coat off or get comfortable for the first few minutes or show him where the toys are. Resist those temptations. If you stay out of the room, then your kid will see that space as, “A room I play in.” If you go into the room, your kid will see that space as “A room I used to play in with my dad.” Waaaaaaa.
2. Don’t linger.
The Cranberries once asked in a song, “Do you have to, do you have to, do you have to let it linger?” The answer is no, no you don’t. Especially once you’ve already made the drop off. Get out of there as fast as you can. You’ll be tempted to watch your kid play or mingle with other kids but you can do that when you’re waiting in line to pick them back up. Right now, focus on your exit strategy. Don’t sprint, because then you’re the guy that runs in the halls at church, but speed walk away as fast as you can.
3. Don’t look back.
Resist the urge to turn back as you walk away and give your daughter one more wistful look. You’ll want to look over your shoulder and wave goodbye, or give them a “you can do it buddy, mommy will be back soon” smile, but don’t. That’s only going to make your kid sad all over again. I find it’s best to either walk in a direction that can’t be seen from the classroom or fade into a crowd like the good guy that shot the bad guy at the ferry scene in the movie Pelican Brief starring Hollywood’s Julia Roberts. No one ever saw that guy and my kids don’t see me either. I’m like a church chameleon.
I hope these rules will serve you well although I violated them tremendously yesterday. My wife and I agreed to help out in our three year old’s class. We had a great time, but I promise you next week she is going to say, “Are you staying in my class today daddy?” And then I’ll have to show her this essay only she can’t read yet, so I’ll probably just play her that Cranberries song and hope she understands.