That plan is to go to church. There are several facets to this plan.
Church is a priority. If you are a Christian, you should really be part of a church family and attend weekly. Our calendar is always empty Sunday mornings. Sundays are not the time to go to the zoo or see a movie or go grocery shopping or hang out with friends or get a hair cut. Don't even get me started about kid's sports on Sunday. Our priority on Sunday mornings is going to church. Every week. Don't just go to church when you have nothing else to do. Don't just go to church when you feel like it. When you don't feel like going is when you probably need it most!
We are never surprised by the fact that it's Sunday morning. We have planned on it, and looked forward to it, all week. Our family enjoys going to church; we hate to miss. If it's not possible for everyone to go we usually try to split up and send one parent with whoever is able. If one parent is out of town the other still takes everyone to church. Is it a bit harder on those days? Yes. Is it still worth it? Also, yes. It wasn't always this way for me personally - for many years, I looked for any little excuse to skip church. Don't be like that.
Our church has a weekly potluck, so we have an extra bit of planning in regards to that. We love our church family enough to put a little thought into what we bring each week. It may not be gourmet, but our goal is usually to bring enough to feed our family if no one else was there. This usually means a main dish, some fruit, a dessert, and a pitcher of iced tea. That's what we'd eat here at home anyway. When we lived in Wisconsin we tried to plan ahead and use the crockpot for a warm lunch to eat when we got home. Before we started that we had many afternoons ruined by grouchy, hungry people (mainly me).
How many times can I use the word plan in this post? Plan. Plan. Plan.
Listen, we are not parenting experts. We are not perfect. However, we can get this larger-than-average family fed, dressed, and out the door to church on time every single week. And it's not just now that the kids are older either - we've done it with a newborn, newborn twins(!), toddlers, toddler twins(!) and teens (although not yet with twin teens)! We've done it with one kid and with seven. I can't think of one time we've been late in the 17+ years we've been going to church. If we can do it, so can you!
Our kids don't give us trouble getting to church on Sunday mornings because 1) we wouldn't let them get away with that and 2) they like to go to church too. If you are a perpetually late person, may I respectfully suggest you make a special effort to get to church on time. God deserves your best. Work on being on time in general, but make a special effort where church is concerned.
I understand there are emergencies. Emergencies are: puke (in which case you wouldn't be late because you shouldn't go to church sick), a flat tire, or power lines across the road. Things that shouldn't be considered emergencies: kids being kids, cooking, eating, showering, laundry, dressing, or driving. Those things are NOT emergencies. Do they need to get done before you arrive at church? Yes, they do - plan for them. If you know your kids move slowly in the morning, then start earlier. If finding clothes and shoes slows you down, then lay them out on Saturday evening. If breakfast takes forever, eat cereal (maybe even the junky sugary kind). And, please, make sure they get to bed at a decent time on Saturday. I may have to write a separate post about kids and bedtime because that's another issue!
We talk about character qualities in school - usually one quality per week. Punctuality is one of them. Punctual people are dependable, trustworthy, reliable, and show respect for others. I want my kids to be all these things - now and as adults. If being punctual shows good character then what does being late show?
Being habitually late to church is just plain rude and there really is no excuse for it. Remember, someone has put time and effort into every part of the service from opening prayer to benediction (and beyond). You wouldn't go into a theater halfway through a movie, would you? So, why would you go into church halfway through a sermon?
I came across this quote (from a book written by an atheist) on the internet awhile back and found it interesting.
Speaking of those who walk into church late, I want to know why they do so. Not everyone gets stuck in traffic. If church is so important, there is no reason to walk in late. In fact, if going somewhere to worship God is important, then people should arrive early. It seems completely disrespectful to me when people walk into the auditorium five or ten minutes into the service. And what’s worse is when parents come in with their children, who learn by example that walking in late is not a big deal. It’s just church, right? No need to get there on time. Is that what Christians want to teach their children?
That is a pretty interesting observation, isn't it? The old saying "actions speak louder than words" comes to mind. If you say God is a priority - and if you're a Christian He should be - then prove it with your actions. Don't let church be an after thought, make it a priority and plan for it!
*Note: If you are one of my midwestern friends you might wonder why I even wrote this. Arizona has a problem - not everyone, of course, but quite a few. I don't know if it's the laid back western culture or if they just aren't embarrassed by stuff, but people here are flaky. They aren't nearly as dependable as midwesterners - they have no problem not showing up for things or canceling plans at the last minute. And they are late. A lot. Even for church. And it drives me crazy!