Sitting Still in Church

Each Thursday, I will do my best to answer your questions. I don't pretend to be an expert, but I know it's not easy being a wife and mother. It can be frustrating and discouraging, yet very rewarding. I'd be glad to listen to you, pray for you, and share some of my thoughts with you.

So, ask me something... anything...

Dear Vonnie,

How old should a child be before they can still in church? What do you think about children's church?

Wiggle's Mother

This is a touchy subject and there are many different opinions about it. I have some strong convictions on the matter. I feel that main goal of a parent is to teach their child about God. This will happen mostly at home, but it extends to the church.
A child will watch his parents and see how they participate in the worship services.

First of all, worshiping begins early Sunday morning, as you are getting ready to go to church. Put on some soothing music. Have the clothes ready the night before. Let the older ones help you dress the younger ones. Start your day peacefully, even before you get to church.

When a child is very young (birth-6 months), they can often sleep through the meetings. If they fuss, the mother might take them out, nurse them, change them, and bring them back.

From 6 months to 18 months, it's hard to teach them to be quiet. This is the age when an infant nursery is very helpful. The little ones just don't understand how to control their voices, but it's a good time to train them at home. Each day, make a quiet time for them to learn to sit quietly and not speak above a whisper. If you have a family Bible time, that would be the best opportunity. Once they learn to whisper, they are ready to sit through church.

You may have to take them out for a bathroom break or a firm reminder to be quiet. The nursery should be viewed as a place for babies who haven't yet learned to be quiet. Say, "You're a big boy now. You know how to sit upstairs in church with Daddy and Mama."

Our children attended their own various Sunday School classes, but we never sent them to junior church. Once they could sit still quietly, they had the privilege of joining the family for all the services. At times, there is a place for children's church. If there are youngsters who haven't grown up attending church and haven't learned to be quiet, they may need a separate, more informal class. But, I feel, that it should be an exception and not the norm.

Bring a bag of quiet goodies; raisins, Cheerios, coloring books, picture books, little cars, felt or magnet boards, etc. Refresh the contents with new surprises occasionally. Let them explore the bag only after the sermon begins, when they have to be their quietest.

When our children were growing up, I often let the toddler choose a few quiet toys himself on Sunday mornings, with an older child checking to make sure everything was acceptable. One week, my three year old son eagerly dug into his bag when the sermon started. Suddenly, the pastor looked at him and started laughing. I wondered what my boy had done! We all laughed, for he was contentedly peering up at the pastor through his toy binoculars! My older daughter said, "Mama, I didn't think those would matter. They're quiet!"

Many times, our younger children would fall asleep in church. That was fine. They were being quiet and with us. Also, they knew they ought to use the restroom and get a drink before the service, because only an emergency would be allowed once it started. If a child can sit through a two-hour movie, they can definitely sit through a one-hour church service.

You may say, "They can't understand what's being taught!" No, they don't understand all of it, but you'd be surprised at what they pick up. They are hearing Biblical terms being used, and as they mature, they will learn what they mean. They are seeing you and other adults listening attentively to the preaching and realize that it is something important. Little by little, it becomes a part of their life.

Let them have some money to put in the offering plate. Teach them to tithe any money that they have acquired as they get old enough to understand the value of it. Let them see you giving. Participate in special missionary offerings. Teach them to be cheerful givers.

As your child learns to read (ages 5 and up) let him learn to find the pages of the hymns and follow along the words of the songs. Run your finger along in your own book, so he can easily see where he should be looking. It can be tricky for them to learn how to read the different stanzas.

Large print Bibles are great for younger children. Teach them the Books of the Bible and help them find at least the main passage of the sermon. As they mature, (ages 8-10) they should be able to understand quite a bit and follow along in their Bibles.

They learn quickly when the pastor is closing the message, and they tend to get a bit noisier, putting toys away or zipping their Bible case. That is the time they should be the quietest. It is when they pastor may be giving an invitation or emphasizing something. Disturbing noises might distract someone from listening to what God is speaking to their hearts. Teach your child to wait until after the last prayer to put things away.

As they grow into young adults, they should become more involved in serving; cleaning, mowing the lawns, working in the nursery, being an usher, singing in the choir, playing the piano, teaching in VBS, etc.

Worhipping at church should be a family activity. It should be something a child will look forward to each week. They should be able to say, "I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go unto the house of the Lord."

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