Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Ultimate Guide to Keeping Young Children with you at Church

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My husband and I keep our children (currently ages almost 4 and 2) with us during the worship service at church.  We have always kept them with us.  It is not that we are necessarily against Sunday school, but that we are for worshiping together as a family.  Just like everything else in parenting, it is about training.  This post is not going to tackle the why of keeping your children with you at church, but the how.  If you are looking for the why, I can recommend the book Parenting in the Pew and I will also link to some resources on that subject at the end.

Child in Church Archival Photo Poster PrintFirst, you have to evaluate how child friendly your church is.  If your church requires all children to be in the worship service (has no other option for children), then I would guess that they would also have more leeway as far as noise level and wiggling goes =)  Your church may be smaller and understanding of distractions (everything from cell phones ringing to babies babbling).  Maybe your church does not encourage children in the worship service, but also doesn't give you dirty looks when you walk down the isle to your seat with your children it tow.   I hope that you church does not flat out refuse children in the service, if so, I would strongly question their theology on children and have some serious discussions with the pastor.  This post is targeted at parents who want to worship with their children, but need to keep them very quiet out of respect for others listening and the pastor.

Are you ready for the Ultimate Guide to Keeping Young Children with you at Church?

How to prepare:


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  • If your child is struggling to sit quietly still through your church service (and what young child doesn't?),  it is a good idea to practice at home.  This can include: 

    • Simply practicing obedience ("Tommy, quiet while mommy makes this phone call." "Kate, sit still while you eat your dinner") and expecting obedience!
    • Have family worship (devotions) during the week and expect the same the behavior that you are striving for at church.
    • Have a baby/toddler sleep in your arms or sit in their car seat to practice what being still is like (keeping a baby quiet at all times is impossible, but you can work on stillness)
    • Have a preschool/young elementary aged child sit an listen to a sermon during the week to practice correct behavior.

  • It is much easier to train in the comfort of your own home that it is in the midst of a Sunday sermon.  

  • Right before you enter the service make sure everyone has gone to the bathroom and give your kids a peptalk of what you expect from them.  As young as 18 months my kids could answer the question "How do we act at church?" with a "shhhh" or a "quiet" showing me they are beginning to understand. 


Where to sit:


  • Up front.  This may sound like exactly what you don't want to do,  but hear me out!  Sitting up font puts your kids near the action.  There is more for them to look at and pay attention to.  They may feel more important, thinking that the pastor is speaking right to them!  If you do this, make sure you are not coming and going all service long...when we sit up front and have to leave for a minute, we slip in the back after or wait until the end if it's almost over. 

  • In the back.  If you have a small baby who is awake and babbling, fussy, or a child who you know is going to need some extra attention/training, it my be best for your to stick to the back =)  You definitely don't want to be a distraction to others if you don't have to be!  When my children were babies, I liked being able to walk them in the back until they fell asleep and then be able to quickly slip back in the pew with my husband. 

  • The end of a pew.  Generally speaking it is best if you can stick to the end of a row.  If you foresee having to leave at all, it is doing no one a service to have to climb over others in order to 'slip out.' =)  That being said, for a while my daughter was obsessed with stairs.  Where we sat in church was up some stairs, so for a while my family sat on the end of the pew, but we positioned my daughter farthest in so she wouldn't be tempted by the stairs.  So, evaluate your situation, consider others, and pick a good spot!

  • By a door.  If your church is not tiny, try to sit by an easy exit.  This is merely for the consideration of others, your pastor included!  If you can go from your seat to a door with no one noticing, that is fantastic!  In our church, there are even doors up front, so we have the option of sitting just about anywhere.  When my kids were babies, instead of sitting by an EXIT door, we would sit close to the cry room door.  Just think about the layout of your church and pick a spot that makes the most sense and is going to distract your pastor (and others) the least if you have to get up and walk out!

 

What to bring:


  • Something to keep the hands busy.  I do not advocate entertaining your child with many toys because I do not want children to grow up thinking that a church service is something they need to distract themselves from, but I understand that young children get fidgety and keeping their hands busy can help.

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    • Keep it simple.  A Bible (children's or adult), a piece of paper and pencil, a shoestring, hair tie, or pipe cleaner, a quiet chew toy for a baby, etc.  Do not bring a whole bag of toys or a whole pack of crayons. 
    • Keep it quiet.  Lauri toys or stickers are good options.  A simple busy bag might do the trick.  Be careful of loose papers for drawing on and books with thin pages as they can be loud (think crinkling and constant flipping).

  • Something to keep the mouth quiet.  This should be reserved for very young children.  Once you child is preschool age, they should understand that they need to be quiet.  This should also not be brought out at the beginning, but reserved for times they need to be extra quiet or for near the end when they are needing help for the last little bit of the service.

    • Keep it clean.  Avoid things that can make a mess on their hands or the floor (I avoid suckers/fruit/etc. and crackers/pretzles/cereal/etc.) My favorites are gummy bears (not so healthy) or dried fruit because they are in small pieces that can be put right into the mouth.
    • Keep it quiet.  If a food is going to be noisy, don't bring it!  My son likes to bite hard candy, so we don't let him have it.  Crackers/cereal/pretzles/etc. are also noisy when crunched, so that is another reason we do not do them.  We bring a sippy cup for each of our children and have found that certain cups are noisier than others.  As a side note, we also do not offer the drink until the very end, and only if they need it to help during the last few minutes because drinking inevitably leads to bathroom breaks =)

  • Something to aid in learning.   This will vary with different ages, but the ultimate goal is helping your child to learn, so always be thinking to that end.  

    • A preschooler can trace over relevant words you have written on a paper or circle pictures that they have heard the pastor say (ex. Bible, Jesus, etc.)  A beginning writer can copy a verse from the text or write down a few words they hear the pastor say.  They can look for the passage in their Bible or read the number of the chapter in the Bible.

  • Some great ideas from other ladies.


  What to train:


  • General Concepts

    • Consider others better than yourself. We are not teaching our children to be quiet for the sake of being quiet.  If we consider others better than ourselves, we will not keep them form being able to pay attention and learn.  We will also not be a distraction (think running up and down the isle for multiple bathroom breaks) to the pastor because that would hinder him being able to share his sermon with us as he had practiced.

    • Self control This is a worth wile thing for any child to learn.  If we control our hands, they will not be waving in the air or poking our sister =)  If we control our mouths, we will sing at the appropriate time and be quiet at the appropriate time.

    • What the body of Christ looks like.  A child partaking in a church service gets to see what communion looks like, what a group of people praying looks like, what their father singing to the Lord looks like!  They see their parents (and others!) valuing the work of the church by tithing and the entire congregation supporting new believers in baptism and membership.  These types of activities and experiences are not and cannot be replicated in a children's church.

  • Here are what some other ladies have to share about this...

    What to expect: 

     

    • Baby (0-6months)  - Sleep, nursing/bottle, pacifier.  Begin to associate the church service with being calm.  Take your baby to the back or out of the room if needed, but do not take them to play (this will associate inappropriate behavior with a reward.)

    • Toddler (7months-2 years) - Sleep (encourage napping if the child still would normally take a nap at this time, which should be easy if they have been trained in this since day one), sitting on parents lap (do not let them walk back and forth in the row, but model stillness), folding hands during prayer, bathroom break for early potty trainers, not making it through a long sermon (if my toddler does a good job, but starts to get fussy at the end, I don't mind taking him/her out early and telling him/her that they did a great job!)

    • Preschooler (3-4 years) - Standing and sitting along with the rest of the congregation, folding hands/closing eyes during prayer, looking at a Bible, filling out a page about the sermon (coloring page, copying /tracing words, etc.), one bathroom break tops.

    • Young Elementary (5-7 years) - Full participation in the service, no bathroom breaks, no toys only a paper to write notes or draw a pertinent picture.  


    Other Great Ideas (or posts that cover more than one of these topics)


    I hope that this has either given you some ideas if you keep your children with you in your church's worship service, or has encouraged you to at least think about this subject (or even give it a try!)  If you have any questions or other ideas, please let me know!  If you have written a blog post on this subject and would like me to like to it above, let me know and I will most likely add it (I'll have to make sure it is on topic, in line with the point of this post, family friendly, etc.)

    35 comments:

    1. We've had such a soother time with our second being quiet during services. Our first didn't "get" volume control period until she was almost three. :)

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      1. I have definitely seen how different kids can be, well, different with this =) My son and daughter have much different sitting still abilities!

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    2. Very thoughtful post! Up front works well with us as does sitting in the same section where our children get to see the same people from week to week. They appreciate the familiarity they've developed.

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      1. We've been trying to sit up front when we actually get to the service early =) We like it too!

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    3. We have always kept our kids with us in church, and really love that. We used to be a different denomination, and people were a little less pleased with us having the kids with us. (They weren't even making noise.) But, once we converted, we now go to a church where children are expected to be in church and there is no other option.

      We love sitting up front. It keeps the kids engaged.

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      1. Would you share which denominations you were and now are? I know each church is different, so I won't judge based on just your experience...but I'm curious! We go to a baptist church and they do not give us dirty looks (well, most people don't =) but we are also about the only family who keeps out kids with us (in a 1500 person church!)

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    4. We keep our children with us in church most of the time, too. I LOVE this resource!

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    5. Great job on this "ultimate guide." Although I saw some of it in action, it does require a lot of "behind the scenes" training and you really spell it out very nicely here!

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      1. Tracie!!!! I'm always so happy to hear from you =) It's neat to see how the kids have grown in this area since you have last been in church with them. Hope all is well! We think of you guys often.

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    6. We keep our six children in church with us -- ages 18 months to 12 years -- and love the togetherness of family worship. Your ultimate guide is terrific! I have found so many of these to be true (discovered the hard way), and I wish I had had this information when we started this ten years ago.

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      1. Thank you for your kids words! I love the togetherness too. As hard as parenting is, it just doesn't feel right when my kids are not with me =)

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    7. It look like you have a lot of great ideas. I am sure these will be helpful to families with small children! Just stopping by from Trivium Tuesdays!

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      1. Thanks for reading, Rachel! I've enjoyed your participation in Trivium Tuesdays!

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    8. I really appreciate your list of expectations too. Our children are the only young children in a family integrated church start up. I have no other model to look to as to what is acceptable. I do have a specific question and would love if you emailed me a response. My oldest children do great in church. (Ages 8 & 6) My almost 3 year old plays in the floor with a toy car at the end of our aisle. (It's a very casual church.) He is quiet 90% of the time. Then we have an 18 month old that runs circles around our aisle the whole time, is fairly quiet, but will not sit still.

      Who do I work on first? The almost 3 year old or the 18 month old? I have a baby due in October. My thinking is that if I can reign in great behavior out of the almost 3 year old that the 18 month old will then have 3 older siblings to follow. He would also require the least amount of work to train. OR do I concentrate on the little 18 month old to get him to the point of where the 3 year old currently is.

      I sure hope you can make sense of all that. Maybe you should call me. Want my phone number? lol

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      1. You're funny, Blair =) I'm going to look for an email address for you right now...if I don't find one, I'll write a response here and hope you see it!

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    9. Thank you for this! What great suggestions. The church my family attended when I was little had a "cry room," where families could sit behind muffling glass. It had a speaker where the sermon could be heard. But these sort of rooms seem uncommon now. And yet, they still seem so needed! I have been to a few churches recently with serious issues with disruptive kids. I wish these sort of ideas were taught to the parents of those kids...
      I think attending church as a family is a wonderful opportunity to teach discipline and expose the kids to the gospel from a young age, but I also feel that it is a privilege reserved to the families who are willing to make the effort to maintain a reverent atmosphere.

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      1. We have a cry room at my church and I am so thankful! We do not use it anymore, but when my kids were babies, I spent a lot of time in there =)

        I completely agree that we need to be respectful of others who are also worshiping God and trying to learn! I think that parents need teaching in this area in many cases, so they can instruct their children well.

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    10. Thank you for this encouraging post! My daughter is 14 months and we try to keep her in the service as much as possible. It's been challenging and exhausting in some aspects. I will have to check out the other links when I have time! :)

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      1. I know what you mean because I have been there! Let me encourage you that soon enough it will get better and you will be listening to the sermon well again =) Your work is worth it. Press on, faithful mama!

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    11. These are great suggestions not just for church services, but can be tweaked and applied for a myriad of other places where families go: doctor's offices, visiting elderly relatives, library programs, classical music concerts, etc. Good ideas!

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    12. Amy,
      I would like to feature your wonderful post next Wednesday on the link-up. would you consider linking it up on the 'EOA' Wednesday link-up just out? We also have practiced this and I love your suggestions! Thank you for such a thorough posting! May God bless you!

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      1. Absolutely! I'll go link up right now. I'm tickled pink that you enjoyed my post =) We did spend a lot of time on these "Ultimate" posts so that they would be thorough.

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    13. Thanks for these helpful tips! Our church welcomes kids during worship to be relatively free to dance/play instruments, etc., which I love, but I will be taking your tips for the time when my baby could be sitting through the sermon. (Right now she goes back with my husband and I to meet with the youth.) Love the links too. You've really got this topic covered!

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      1. That is wonderful that you church encourages the children to praise God too! Thank you for your kind words!

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    14. I know this is an older artice, but I'm looking up things on keeping children with me in church. More to the point, our church has just started a hospitality team for greeting, ushering and such and my husband and I want to be involved... while keeping our five month old with us. I don't know whether I should give the director a head's up as to our intentions, or just wait and see what happens... but I feel and fear that this isn't going to be accepted very well. Nursery and children's church are a HUGE "selling point" (as much as I hate hate hate such a term) in our congregation and they are very proud of it. No one quite seems to understand our intentions to keep our baby with us, but haven't had a problem. I'm deathly afraid that our desires to serve and be involved in the ministry on sunday mornings are going to be met with some serious opposition. So... if you have any thoughts, or any experience-or if any of your readers do- that'd be awesome!

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      1. Sometimes serving can be difficult when you want your children with you. I think it's a matter of finding the right opportunity where your baby can fit right in! Do you wear your baby in a sling/wrap? If so, it seems like greeting could be a great fit! There's nothing like having a baby with you for a great conversation starter =)

        I probably would let the person in charge know your intention of wanting your child with you. You don't want to be a distraction in whatever venue you are serving. I'm sure there is a perfect spot for you, but that doesn't mean that every serving position would be suitable for having a baby with you (if that makes sense).

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      2. I asked your question on facebook and got a few good answers! Here's the link if you want to read them... https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=641466942563144&id=214600495249793

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      3. Thanks so much, Amy. As I posted on Facebook, this Sunday is week one on our greeting team. It's helpful that we're doing this as couples, so my husband will be with us and baby just seems the natural addition to that! The other position not so great for serving in is the kitchen. I'm taking over our potlucks and have no delusions about baby not fitting in there... I won't even have him in MY kitchen sometimes! But he'll stay with daddy during those Sundays.

        I always thought it was obvious the baby stays with me. I'm the momma sitting in the foyer with the baby playing on the blanket at my feet if he fusses too much in service!! And always questioned about why I don't just drop him in the nursery instead of sitting out there. I do intend to talk to the woman organizing all of this before it starts on Sunday.

        Thanks for the thoughts and response.

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      4. You're doing a great job! Take heart that it gets easier as time goes on =) I always encouraged my little ones to sleep if at all possible. THen I would try to just make it through the music time...then music and the Scripture reading...and on from there. You'll get there!

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    15. Wonderful post! My children are grown though still at home, graduated our homeschool and we have been married 25 years, so as an "older" woman, I am commenting to encourage you and all the other wonderful mothers and fathers who choose to keep their children in church, you are doing wonderful. Keep up the good and Godly work, and you will grow and train your children to "love the Lord their God, with all their heart, soul, and mind."

      Always Experiencing Him,
      Jody

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      1. Thank you so much for taking the time to write an encouraging comment! It means more than you know to me and other young moms who read this.

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    16. While going church with the kids most of them used to play and some of them were sleep. We don’t allow them to sleep on that time.

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      1. I have always been fine with really little ones napping in my arms. I figure that they are still learning that service time is a time to be quiet =) With playing, the trick is finding things for them to keep their hands busy that don't make noise!

        Thanks for the comment!

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