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If you’re a missionary family just getting started with deputation, trying to figure out what to pack can be a challenge. You won’t think about what you forgot until you’re already on the road, and halfway through your trip, you might realize you packed way too much. There is definitely a learning curve. To help you out, we wanted to share our top ten list of essentials to pack for deputation trips with kids.
Traveling with a large family is a little bit chaotic at times. And after a long car ride, the kids aren’t always presentable for a church meeting. If we are arriving the night before (which we try to do) this isn’t as big of a deal. But, we’ve had a few trips where we leave our house early Sunday morning and travel straight to the church.
No matter when we’re arriving, we’ve learned that there are a few essentials to always have in the van. These can make a big difference in making sure everyone is ready for church when it starts, and on their best behavior.
Here are our ten essential items to bring along on deputation trips with kids.
- Spare church clothes
- Crumb free, low-mess snacks
- Bottled water
- A hairbrush and extra rubber bands
- Plenty of diapers and wipes
- Coloring books and colored pencils
- A favorite small toy (that doesn’t make noise!)(especially for the littles)
- Small notebooks and pencils
- A pack of gum
Here’s a bit more about each item, and why it made our top ten list.
1. Spare Church Clothes
It never fails. We get to church, and realize that someone sat in a chocolate candy that got left in the car seat. Or spilled breakfast on themselves (and made it out of the house with no one noticing before then.)
When we’re on the road, we really try to look our best when we arrive at church. So, we’ve learned to have spare church clothes on hand. We keep these in a zippered under the seat container in the van. Then if we arrive and realize one of the kids needs to change, we can quickly take care of it.
The trick with this one is to remember to put the spare clothes back in the container after they get laundered. Otherwise, they won’t be there when you need them (not that we speak from experience on this one or anything! :D)
What you pack for spares will vary depending on the age and ability of your kids. We always have a spare set for our two toddler boys, and our disabled teenager. We also bring along extras for them in the diaper bag, so if they need new clothes during church we can head to the bathroom. (It happens…)
Older kids may not need a spare – but it’s still a good idea to bring them along anyways if you have room. It’s much better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them.
2. Crumb Free, Low-Mess Snacks
Kids get hungry. And when they get hungry, they start to whine. If they get really hungry, their behavior and ability to reason goes downhill pretty quickly. And you never quite know what the food status will be when you’re visiting a church.
Some churches will have grand potlucks that start fairly soon after the service is over. Others will invite you to someone’s house for a meal, but you typically don’t just leave right away. There’ll be plenty of visiting first, which is wonderful for fellowship – but, can be hard on the kids if it’s already past when you normally eat. There will also be church meetings where you’ll be on your own for lunch.
Since there are so many unknowns, snacks are essential. They can keep the kids happy while you’re waiting. They can also help fill them up a bit if it’s going to be a long wait before you eat.
To help keep hunger at bay, mom and the younger kids often make a quick trip to the car for a snack between Sunday School and Morning Service. This little walk and break does us all good. And it helps make the next service go well.
So what kinds of snacks work best on Sundays? We look for items that are easy to eat, tasty, offer some nutritional value, and don’t leave a mess behind.
Some of our favorites are:
- Beef jerky
- Real fruit fruit snacks
- Dried fruit or fruit leather
- Baby carrots (if we have the cooler)
- String cheese (again with the cooler)
We typically bring along a variety of snacks, so if we end up needing a couple on a Sunday, we have plenty.
3. Bottled Water
This is a fairly recent addition, after the Covid shutdowns. Most churches (and stores and other places) don’t yet have their drinking fountains turned back on. So, we now always make sure we have a package of bottled water in the car. Our disabled son gets really loud if he’s thirsty, so we always want to have a quick way to fill up his cup without using the bathroom sink.
Bottled water doesn’t stain if it spills, which is another bonus.
4. A Hairbrush and Spare Rubber Bands
There have been many times that we’ve worked hard to make our little girls’ hair look pretty before we jump in the car Sunday morning. And then by the time we arrive at church, you would never know that it’d even been brushed.
So, having a hairbrush and some spare rubber bands can help a lot. It’s much easier to use those than to try to do something with just your fingers.
A little hairspray might also be a good addition, depending on your hair type. We just toss these items into the diaper bag, but you could also get a cute toiletry bag for them if you prefer. (Here’s a cute one on Amazon that isn’t too expensive – and is a color that won’t get misplaced easily!)
5. Plenty of Diapers and Wipes
If you have kids in diapers, please don’t forget to pack those. Otherwise, you might be making an emergency trip to the store because of a blow-out. If you have a disabled child who is older and wears special sizes, this is especially important. Those diapers at the store aren’t cheap. So have an emergency stash somewhere in your car, so if you forget to restock the diaper bag you still have what you need.
And even if all of your kids are potty trained, it’s a good idea to keep a pack of wipes on hand. That way you can quickly wipe sticky fingers or messy faces.
6. Coloring Books and Colored Pencils
We’re working hard with our kids to help them sit quietly through church. But sometimes, the service can seem a bit long to a younger child. If they start to get wiggly, a coloring book and a couple of colored pencils can really help keep them calm.
For these, we typically stock up at the Dollar Store when we visit one. This way we have a variety on hand. Plenty of churches have also graciously provided coloring materials for the kids. This has been a huge blessing.
Note: We have tried many different types of coloring supplies with the kids over the years. We keep coming back to colored pencils. Crayons can’t be left in the car in the summer since they tend to melt. And markers are a disaster in the hands of a toddler. Colored pencils work well. Just keep a small pencil sharpener on hand as well. Or give one of your kids the job of sharpening them all the night before.
7. A Favorite Toy (Especially for the Littles)
Most churches we’ve visited have nursery. Except during Covid, when most nurseries were off limits. During these times, we’ve discovered that a small toy or two can make a difference in the toddlers successfully staying quiet in the pew or not.
When selecting a toy, make sure it is:
- Highly engaging
- Quiet (no noisy toys or ones with batteries)
- Small (not so small that it’s a choking hazard, but small enough that they aren’t as likely to start hitting their sister with it…)’
- Doesn’t have a lot of parts that could get lost
A few of ideas for toys that are perfect:
- Wooden cars and other vehicles (like these)
- A cloth book with bright pictures and engaging pages (here’s one)
- A stuffed animal to snuggle with
- Water Wow coloring book
Yes, we have arrived at church before and realized half the kids left their Bibles behind. Make it a point to check before you leave to make sure they arrive. We typically have our kids put them in their backpacks that they bring along for a fun bag in the car. That way we make sure everyone has one.
We’ve also gone with a Bible that stays in the car all the time. This can be quickly grabbed if it’s needed, and then returned to the car when it’s done. Depending on your family and your preferences, it might be a good idea to have a box of Bibles that stay in the car, so your kids can keep their personal study Bibles at home, so if any get left in the church (yes, we’ve done that too…), they aren’t the ones with their notes or anything personal.
9. Small Notebooks and Pencils
Our middle kids listen better if they can take notes or doodle during church. So by having a few small notebooks, and some pencils on hand, we can make this easy for them to do. You can pick up a pack of three or four small notebooks at the Dollar Store that work well. It’s also a good idea to use mechanical pencils for this purpose, so you don’t have to remember to sharpen the pencils.
When you’re on the road, the less you have to do each week, the better.
10. A Pack of Gum
Some meals leave your breath smelling less than pleasant. By having a pack of gum on hand, you can help to alleviate potentially embarrassing situations for fellowship that occurs after eating. A pack of gum in a purse or diaper bag can be handy so you can quickly pull out a piece and pop it in your mouth.
If you prefer, mints are another option. You just want to have a way to quickly freshen your breath.
Gum can also be handy for older kids, who know how to chew it safely. A new flavor of gum can be a big hit if passed out right before service. (Just make sure you’ve taught your kids not to play with their gum, or take it out of their mouths to stick under the pew or anything…)
What Do You Bring Along for Deputation Meetings with Kids?
We’re still learning, so if you have any items that have made a difference in making sure things go smoothly for deputation meetings with kids, we’d love for you to share in the comments below.