Christy's question

Christy writes:

I have a question. A while back you blogged about keeping your kids in church. Did you ever get any of your children to sit through the entire sermon quietly when they were between 18 months and 2 years old? We're keeping our 18 month old with us. She does well during worship and about half way through the sermon. We're training her at home to sit during Bible reading time, but that time is a lot shorter than a sermon at church. We're hoping eventually she'll get used to staying quiet the whole time, but I thought you might be able to confirm our hopes since you've been doing it awhile. We've tried books, coloring, etc, but those tend to make her want to talk more. I'm leaning toward not bringing anything extra to church other than her sippy cup and stuffed animal, but is that unrealistic?

Thanks for any pointers!


[the post Christy referred to is this one.]

My response:

To answer your question, we have had Isaias (our youngest) with us in church since he's been home from Guatemala, so... from 9 months of age to the present (he'll be 3 in March).

It sounds like you're doing exactly the right thing-- starting with training her at home during your family worship times.

Every week (with few exceptions at this point), Isaias sits through the entire service quietly (1 hour and 15 minutes including worship). We bring children's Bibles, blank notebooks (ie- not coloring books with characters in them) and crayons. (I take a notebook and Bible to church each week so I figure the notebooks/crayons are good practice for their own note-taking!) We also bring them a sippy cup of milk or water. They are allowed to sit in our laps or on their seats. After worship they can have their drinks and then their options are to sit quietly and listen, look through their Bibles quietly, or color in their notebooks quietly. (See the pattern? "Quietly.")

Obviously when he was littler he wasn't so much into the crayons. And for a season we did bring cheerios or raisins but now that we don't do that anymore I'm really thankful (dropped crayons are one thing, dropped cheerios or raisins (especially when they get stepped on!) are another.

But boy, Christy, it did NOT come without many battles. For several months we set forth that expectation to him but he fought it. We [usually Mark] had to take him to the bathroom for discipline MANY times. Every week during the service, sometimes more than once per service, he would get noisy. We would remind him to be quiet, he would disobey, and we would take him out. Then we would remind him again to be quiet, carry him back into the service, and if he acted out again, back out we would go. I am quite certain our entire church body is rejoicing that that season is over! But over it is. And now he is regularly quiet and well-behaved throughout the entire sermon. Of course we still offer many reminders: "Isaias, sit on your bum. No wiggling. Shh.... " (etc), but it's a rare occasion that we have to take him out of the service.


***

Christy agreed to let me post her question here so that any of you could chime in with your thoughts. I know many of you have had more experience than we have in this department, so would you be willing to share some of your ideas or encouragement?

12 comments:

  1. Um, encouragement. Yes, it will happen some day! And you'll stand back in wonderment. But it does take some work to get there. :) Our oldest was very obedient but still it was difficult. I thought she was too young until we went to a church where (probably exaggerating here but it seemed like it) EVERY child was younger than her and sitting (those old enough to sit) quietly in church. I was amazed. I decided she could do it too! We started her at 18 months and she's been in church since then. However, we follow a different approach (but one I saw at that other church) - NOTHING is allowed but sippy (only if it doesn't cause a problem) and absolute favorite (can't leave home without it) small stuffed animal (only if she didn't shake it, it has a rattle). We would take her out and bring her back in. It didn't take long.

    Second child we brought in at age 2. She's been pretty good but more ancy and less obedient than our first. We haven't brought our 3rd child in yet (almost 2 1/2) because my husband's been traveling some and I'm nursing our 4th. I'd like us to be able to hold the 3rd and have hubby available for discipline. HTH

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  2. I just want to add what an amazing blessing it has been for our family to have our kids in worship with us.

    They have learned more than they ever could have in "children's church." And we learn too.

    Most of all it is consistant with our theology that kids are not second class citizens in the kingdom of God. His Word is for them too, He wants their worship too. When we first started, I had no idea just how great it would be.


    So my encouragment: keep working at it, the payoff is huge.

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  3. Yeah, and I second the motion that you don't need to bring "stuff" beyond Bible, paper and pen. I'd always given the kids a piece of gum during the sermon. After a while of that that, the sermon transformed from "the time to hear from God's Word" to "the time where you get to have some gum". So I explained to the kids that we didn't want to cause ourselves to consumed with thoughts about our strawberry-watermelon-flavored idol, but be focused on the teaching. They completely understood. Although my 3 year old still asks for gum on occasion, so I may need to explain it to him.

    But I think the biggest thing is model the kind of person you want them to be like. If you are frantic and stressed and busy all during Church (as is the case if you're constantly fetching this thing for him and that for her) then your kids will see that you are there to serve them and not to worship God. They will respond and behave accordingly. Zero tolerance means you'll take a few trips to the bathroom in the beginning, but it shouldn't take long.

    As far as age goes, if they are vocal kids, then the right age would be when they are able to understand/appriciate that the consequences of making noise is more undesirable than the joy of making noise. It won't be the same for every kid. Our second wanted to be like his brother and really never spent any time in the nursery. Our 3rd is very active and doesn't have the same kind of brother-worship at the same age, so he was almost 2 when we brought him in.

    And like the extremely intelligent (and beautiful) poster above me, it's definitely worth it.

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  4. I still feel like we have a lot of battles- weekly- over this one. It's encouraging that it won't always be this way! Our service is on the longer side, and the sermon is sandwiched in the middle, but it's usually not more than 10-15 minutes. Also, since we're part of a liturgical tradition, the congregation is actively involved in most of the service, and most of it is spent standing up, so the kids don't have to be in their seats. You'd think that would make it easier for them, but I don't think it does! There is a part in the liturgy where we sing "Let us lay aside all earthly cares, that we may receive the King of all." I'm often tempted to think of my children as "earthly cares" by this point, and yet I'm reminded that they are not, and I wouldn't want them to be anywhere but in the service with us. We do let them go to Sunday school, but it's only after communion, and lasts only about the last 15 minutes of the service. Anyway, thanks for the encouragement to press on! I need it, and I'm sure others do as well!
    Blessings,
    Rebeca

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  5. Thanks for sharing, all!

    Mike,

    I am just relieved for you that someone else didn't squeeze their comment in between yours and Amy's. Some girl would have been like, "Who's this Mike guy that's calling me beautiful?"

    ~Stacy

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  6. My finding has been that offering stimulation breeds needing stimulation. And especially with these “two and under’s”, their little attention spans don’t hold to one activity longer than a few minutes at a time. So once they get bored with one stimulant, what do they want next? Some other stimulant.

    My son is an incredibly energetic little boy, and my husband and I found it most realistic to ease him into sitting through service. We started bringing him in for everything up until the sermon, at which point we’d take him to Sunday School. He’s three now and just recently sat quietly through an entire service for the first time.

    However, I also have to say (because it played a large part in our decision) that Jack has an absolutely wonderful Sunday School teacher. She’s an older woman and is one of the wisest and most godly women I've known. While I’m not attempting to compare the value of putting Jack in her Sunday School class with the value of having him sit in service with us, I do still count it a privilege that he gets to be in her class.

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  7. After being in a church for many years that didn't ALLOW children in the service, we are just venturing into this arena. We think it's really important to have the kids with us in the service and I am attempting it thus far alone (husband works Sunday mornings right now). It's rough, but worth it. It helps to have a friend in the next row that can keep an eye on the other kid while I take one out for correction. I've been blessed to see in this new church people are encouraging and supportive about the kid issue - the guy sitting in the foyer just smiles an approving smile, knowing exactly where and for what reason you are walking out AGAIN with your kids, the man down the row reminds your son to sit back when he's trying to pick at someone in front of him and you're out correcting your daughter, the woman behind you taps you on the shoulder after service and says "You're doing a great job... stick with it! In about 16 weeks, they'll catch on!" While most people may not consider the 16 weeks comment encouraging, our kids can be difficult, and I much prefer an estimate like that than hearing "a few weeks" and wondering what's wrong with me and my children when it takes longer!
    We have chosen to not bring anything along, though I am considering getting the kids Bible covers and allowing them that one item (Their Childrens' Bibles) during the service. I have been encouraged also, on the ride home to hear that both kids (4 and 6) have gleaned something significant out of each sermon so far!

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  8. Thanks for all the comments. To update, our 18 month old has been sitting with us during the ENTIRE service for the past couple of weeks. We're amazed. I ditched the crayons and other books, and we only bring her little Bible, sippy cup, (and cherios~ smile). We bring the same Bible she uses during our family Bible reading time at home. She has to be quiet during that time too, so bringing the same Bible to church has really helped her to make the connection that "we do the same thing here as at home." She has now learned how to WHISPER too. If she does start talking, I'll say, "Be quiet, okay?" and she'll whisper back "OKAY" in her cute voice. We just moved to a larger church, so we didn't feel comfortable putting her in nursery with people we don't know. But looks like we'll be keeping her with us for quite some time!
    Thanks again!
    Christy

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  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  10. Hi Stacy,
    I don't know what I did, but, I lost your comment on my blog! I'm sorry! (I think that was your comment?) Anyways, Have a wonderful day, Stacy, with your sweet family.
    Carrie.

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  11. I don't have any advice - but in a few months we will be entering the same situation, so I am so content to learn from all of you! What a blessing!!

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