We didn’t set out thinking that we would train our children to stay in service with us, but in the end that’s what we’ve settled on. In the end, that’s just what works for our family. It’s the answer we’re most comfortable with and the answer that brings us much peace.
I was raised in a church where everyone stayed together for the majority of the service. There was a short class for the children during the main service on Sunday morning, but Sunday evening and Wednesday night prayer meetings (which lasted MUCH longer than Sunday morning services, mind you), the children were expected to sit in the service with everyone else. They were also expected to do so quietly and with respect, listening to the preacher and only occasionally receiving a peppermint for distraction.
My husband on the other hand was raised in youth groups and children’s ministry, and he came to our marriage without any thought as to whether or not we would continue down this same path. It’s what he did, so that’s what we’d do.
He also had similar ideas about children, but has since changed his tune (so have I!). Thank you, Jesus for bringing unity on children.
And oh we’re still divided about whether or not the underwear should drape over the side of the laundry basket or not, but anyway, I digress.
My husband and I have been divided on whether our children will stay in service with us or not since our oldest little boy was born. Until now that is. We’re united now, but it took time. It took prayer. It took trial and error. It took patience and grace on both of our parts to finally come to a solution that works best for both of us.
We’ve talked with countless families who land on both sides of the coin, endured our fair share of criticism on whatever decision we landed on at the time, and have ebbed and flowed with the seasons of our children as we figure out this thing called parenting for the glory of God.
Because we’re often the ones with the children in the service while others put their children downstairs (or wherever children’s ministry is located), it’s as though the very presence of our children invokes a reasoning and justification from other parents who choose differently. They tell us how they could never be like us. They tell us their children would never, ever, never, ever sit still like our children. And they give us kudos and props and only Jesus knows what else as we smile and nod politely.
Then they ask us, “How do you do it? How do you get them to sit still like that? And quiet?”
So this post isn’t a which is right and which is wrong approach. Clearly we’ve been about as fluid as waves crashing on the sand about whether or not we’ll keep our children in or out, upstairs or downstairs, in the pew or in the nursery.
This isn’t a post that says we believe children should always be in the service with you and it’s just sinful to place them down in the children’s church because you believe that’s what is right for your family. I see both sides of the argument for an against, and quite frankly, I think it comes down to your own convictions after you’ve searched scripture and prayed to the One who directs all your steps. I hope He directs your steps at least.
This is a post for those who want to keep their children in the service with them and just need some tips or suggestions for making it a little easier (or rather at least doable!). Because let’s be honest. It’s not easy to keep your children in service with you!
And I don’t care what Susie blogger next door says, my children didn’t come out of the box quiet and gentle and ready to sit in the service quietly because I brought a fancy quiet book with me. No siree, Bob.
My littlest one definitely didn’t get the memo that quiet in church is a good thing. Sometimes I think parents forget how much training goes into getting their children to sit still. At least with the first child. The subsequent children do come by quiet a little easier because they will imitate their older sibling. But what about the oldest? What about the first one who is the only kid in the service? What about how to train THAT one?
Okay, this is the post for THAT Mom and Dad with THAT kid and no one else to ask. I’m the best you’ve got, for which I’m sorry, but at least I can relate, right? Here’s our tips for keeping your children quiet at church that have helped us.
Family Devotions at Home
Implementing family devotions at home has been the single most effective thing at training our children for church service. We do family devotions at the breakfast table and family prayers in the evening before bed.
Both of our children are expected to sit with us during this time. My oldest has to sit and participate the entire time (all of five to ten minutes) and our littlest one (17 months) is being trained to sit and isn’t fully there yet, so there is a lot of grace!
Nevertheless, training our children at home to listen to God’s Word read, sing worship songs together, and praying together has really made a huge difference in our time at church.
Skip Childcare Early
It’s easy to think that you can train your child for church when he’s old enough to sit still. But when is that? When are they old enough to sit still?
However, if your goal is to keep your children in service with you, skip the childcare altogether and start training now.
Yes, you will likely end up in the nursery rocking a crying baby more often than not at the start, but it will get better. You will likely endure a lot of well-meaning people telling you to “just give yourself a break.” But trust me, this break is short lived, which leads me to my next suggestion.
Commit for the Long Haul
Keep a long term perspective about you while you train your children in the early years. “Getting a break now” means you’ll have to invest the time later.
Also don’t give up after the first couple of Sundays. If you’re just getting started, those first few months are incredibly frustrating.
You’re going to walk through a lot of emotions, including “I deserve to listen to the sermon” and “I need a break” and fill in the blank with your own desire. There will be tears from everyone, at least there was for us. BUT I can promise you that it is worth it.
I’m on the other side with one child who rarely interrupts the service for any reason and one that we’re still in the trenches with. There is a light at the end of the tunnel though. So hang in there!
Believe Your Children Can Do It
I think the biggest way I discourage my kids is by my lack of belief in their ability. They will rise to the occasion.
You set the bar, and set it so that it’s challenging enough but not outside of their development. You know your child. You know what will challenge them and what will frustrate them. I can assure you that your children can sit through the service, but they won’t do it right off the bat. Unless you’re one of the lucky ones. I’m not.
Our babies are far more capable of doing hard things than we give them credit for.
Keep it Simple
When it comes to keeping your children occupied, it’s tempting to bring the entire kit and kaboodle with you. But don’t.
I like to keep it simple. If my child knows there’s MORE in the Mary Poppins bag, then he will inevitably want to go through each item I hand him as quickly as he possibly can.
When the snacks are gone, they are gone. When the well runs dry, it’s dry. When the coloring is no fun, so sorry. It’s okay for children to be bored every now and then. I promise. Don’t be afraid of them running out of things to do.
Finally, pray for your children. Pray aloud with them as you drive to church. Ask God (or lead them in doing this for themselves if they are old enough to talk) to help your children have self control. Ask Him to help everyone to listen quietly to the pastor and pray for God to open everyone’s eyes to His truth.
Because the truth is that you all need Jesus. Jesus is the only one who will change your children’s hearts to ones of submission. Jesus is the only one who can help us produce self control and patience for these are fruits of the Spirit in us. It’s all of grace.
So remember as you train your children to be quiet in church, be patient and gentle in your approach. Expect them to do hard things, but also be patient as they grow in their attention and desire to listen to God’s Word being taught. Don’t set out expecting them to sit through the entire service, but when they make it 5, 10, 15 minutes praise them!
Each week, your children will grow in their understanding of your expectations. Then, when they start snickering when the preacher says a funny word or you hear them replaying much of the sermon during afternoon play time, you’ll be freshly reminded of why you set out to do this in the first place. You are after their hearts. You are seeking to disciple your children for the glory of God. You are worshiping together as a family and growing in grace together.
What about you? What tips do you have for keeping your children quiet in church?
Other posts you might be interested in: