I am so excited about today’s guest post. This topic has been on my mind for a few years and I am so glad Candace agreed to write it for me. Thanks Candace!
Guest post from Candace at Sacred Mommyhood
After posting the article, Dear Parents with Young Children in Church, to my Facebook page, there was some discussion as to how to begin training your little ones to sit still during a worship service. There was also some discussion about children’s church, and how that may be more age appropriate and beneficial for young ones.
There is not much more I can add to encourage parents to include their children in worship, as the author did a beautiful job explaining the importance of having your children in the worship service, and encouraging moms who are already doing this.
I would only add that by including our young children in worship, we’re setting the tone for life-long worshiping. Google “statistics of young adults leaving the church”, and you’ll get article after article citing statistics as high as 91%, with many differing opinions as to why they are leaving. My personal theory is this: If we’re continually keeping them out of worship through infancy, adolescence, and teen years, why would we expect them in worship service when they’re adults. We’ve already sent the message that a worship service is not important, or just boring at best. After all, they’ve had “fun” all these years in nursery, Sunday school, and youth group. We must remember that worship is not about us! It’s about HIM!
In addition, families should worship together. There is no biblical model where families separated into age-segregated groups to learn how to worship. It was learned by being present. So often, family members are going in all different directions throughout the week. Then on Sunday, the children are placed in the nursery or sent off to children’s church, separating the family again. With the cultural breakdown in families today, I can’t think of a more meaningful way to bind the family unit than to share in worship, together.
I am in no way saying that children’s church, nursery, or any other age-segregated group activity is wrong. My heart feels for the tired, weary momma who just needs to worship and not train. I’ve been there! I just feel strongly that we’re sending a counter-productive message to our children about worship when Sunday after Sunday we’re ushering them out of it. But this is definitely something each family has to think and pray about on their own. And I know many churches these days are quite hostile to small children in service, making this decision even more difficult.
So for those of you considering including your small children in the worship service, here are some tips to help you in the training process.
You Are Training
This is the most important aspect to keep in mind. It is so easy to get frazzled and discouraged when your little ones are learning to sit still quietly. Your Sundays will most likely feel like a chore rather than worship, but even this is an offer of worship to God. Investing this time into your children is a sacrifice of praise! This has been my life for many years! I am perpetually in “training” mode. But I’ve had the joy of seeing fruit. My little ones can sit through an hour and a half service without being a distraction.
Try a Booster Seat
This may be more difficult in a pew seating arrangement (no place to secure the straps), but if your church seating consists of chairs, bring a booster seat for your older babies and toddlers. Not only does this help them to stay put, it provides a flat surface (tray) on which to draw or rest books. It’s also perfect for giving them Cheerios (or other snacks) to keep hunger at bay.
Provide Books, Crayons, and Paper
I know some families who feel strongly about not giving their children anything during worship, and prefer to train them without things to keep them busy. I respect that and understand that each family will need to approach this according to their standards.
We, however, don’t have a problem with allowing our little ones to look at books or doodle while learning to be still and quiet. Kids absorb more than we think when their little hands are busy.
Our church floor is hardwood, so we try to be selective about what we give them. We only give our toddlers soft books since they tend to drop them more often. And crayons make less noise on a hard surface than pens and pencils do. So just be aware of those potential noisemakers.
Be Courteous to Those Around You
We attend a family integrated church, so all our children are with us through service. We all expect a certain amount of noise every now and then…a baby getting fussy, something dropping, or the low murmur of a child asking mom or dad a question. These types of noises are not distracting to us. In fact, our pastor loves those sounds. He understands the importance of children being present from the beginning and welcomes those sweet sounds.
But obviously, there is a point when noise will become distracting, so try to be aware of those around you and quickly remove a crying baby or noisy toddler.
If you do not attend a church where children are welcome in the worship service, you may need to be a little more vigilant when it comes to noise, but don’t let that deter you. Try to sit closer to an exit so that you can get out quickly if necessary without distracting others.
If you are pulling your child(ren) out of nursery or children’s church, ease them into worship service. If you’re concerned about the length of your service, try starting with smaller chunks of time. Twenty to thirty minutes may be all you and the child can handle at first. Each Sunday, add five minutes or so according to the child’s ability. If it’s an older child who has really loved children’s church, and is upset about missing out, perhaps allowing them to attend one Children’s Church a month would help ease the transition.
A Word on Babies in Worship
I have had a baby in my lap during service for the past twelve years. Of course, I’ve had the help of my husband and older children, but essentially, my babies are with me. I’ll often glance around while the congregation is singing, and notice the moms with babies on one hip and the hymnal in their opposite hand, and it makes me smile. Not because I think they’re better for keeping their babies with them, or because they look cute. But because they’re making a sacrifice. They’re forgoing a little freedom and ease to instill something bigger from the very beginning.
Babies hear the sounds and take in the sights of “church”. As they grow, so does their understanding of what’s happening around them. Those babies grow into toddlers, who in most cases, already have an inherent knowledge of what to do. It’s been modeled for them since birth! They can sit through worship, and for the most part, be quiet. I have seen this in my own children and those around me. Are they perfect? Of course not. Do they require discipline from time to time. Absolutely! But the transition is much smoother than that of a toddler who has been used to happily and noisily playing in the nursery.
So whether you’re contemplating bringing your children into worship service with you, or you’re just getting started, I hope you have found encouragement here. I understand that this can certainly be a touchy issue within the church body, but one that I pray would never cause division among believers.