How to make it through church with children — Guest post by Holly Scheer

bible-in-pew-1140201-mSitting calmly in one spot, standing on cue, holding a hymnal without letting it become a projectile, going for communion without scaling the rail- do these sound like your goals for your little ones for church?

How can an hour (give or take) seem so long sometimes? When your toddler just wants to run and every few seconds you are blocking the latest escape attempt the time crawls. When your preschooler won’t stop asking questions- loud ones, it’s easy to feel like every eye is on you.

When I had one child, I traveled to church will a massive, well stocked bag. Not just stocked with diapers and wipes and spare outfits, but toys and snacks, books, anything and everything to try to occupy my child. It was stressful. I dreaded it some weeks.

It’s not the toys that taught her to sit. It wasn’t the books that helped her walk to communion, not try to vault the rail. Actually, it seemed like the more stuff I brought, the more time I spent keeping things together, trying not to let her items sail at some poor unsuspecting person’s head, rows away.

Now I have four children. My bag is small and mostly holds diapers. I have an emergency snack and treat.

I actually feel like I listen to the whole service and get to participate. Some of it is having some older kids to help- my oldest is almost ten and an enthusiastic participant in the service. Some of it is less stuff. My one year old doesn’t throw things because he has nothing to throw. When I’m really having a hard time keeping them in line, I share small pieces of something- goldfish crackers or tiny neat candies.

The biggest help to having my kids be well behaved (mostly!) in the pew is just having them there. A lot. Weekly. Multiple times a week. They know when we climb into our pew that it’s time to sing what is supposed to be sung, not loud songs about worms. That it’s time to try to look forward. To listen to the Word being read. To be blessed at the rail. To be forgiven. It’s incremental and constant and learned from the time they were sweet sinners, brought forward to baptism. And relearned weekly, as I relearn weekly, that we all fall short, we all mess up, and we are loved by our Lord regardless.


How to make it through church with children — Guest post by Holly Scheer — 11 Comments

  1. I often feel for my wife having to wrangle our three on her own and as a general rule our kids behave fairly well. And it never fails to warm my heart to watch my kids not quite run/walk up to the altar rail when we commune.

  2. Just shared this on my Facebook page. Families worship together, not splitting off to “big people” and “children’s” church.
    Very well stated!

  3. I’d also add the importance of supporting parents in our local congregations. Letting them know that even if their children get loud and unruly, we want them there with us. I’d rather hear a kid screaming or crying then not have them there. Come to think of it there are a few families in my church I should thank and let them know we want them there.

    Thanks for the article.

  4. @Nathan Redman #4
    Agreed. I do make a rule for myself, however, that if my toddler starts screaming during the absolution, scripture readings, sermon, lord’s prayer/words of institution, I remove them promptly – and the toddler finds out it is more comfortable in the pew than outside the sanctuary!

  5. A Tale . . .

    My youngest was (still is at 34) a piss-ant . . .

    I had a rare off-Sunday from my field-work Church in the Fort, back in ’83. We were about 2/3’ds back, left side. Oldest son thumbing through the hymnal – he was always getting “prepared.” His way of doing things, then and now.

    Youngest son? A less -than-2-year-old Piss-ant, as I said. I let him have ONE Hotwheels as a play-toy to keep him occupied. Of course, that was hardly enough. After many warnings, and right in the middle of the sermon by another deserving seminarian, my youngest smacked my oldest in the forehead with the Hotwheels.

    He had been warned.

    I tossed him over my shoulders and walked towrd the rear of the sanctuary to go down to the basement. The boy was gonna get a few butt-whomps through his diaper for his behavior. As I exited the sanctuary, he threw his arms out and begged the 1200 members to –

    “Help me, help me, don’t ‘(s)pank me, Daddy.”

    The giggles were more than audible. Weboth went to the basement, and the appropriate punishment meted out. I re-entered the sanctuary with the young son softly sobbing and sniffling, He never felt a thing but embarrassment through the diapers. The congregation resumed their giggles.

    Never again did I have a “kid problem” in worship – whether or not I was in the pew, or pulpit.

    Jes’ saying . . . Discipline works wonders!


  6. Does not apply to parents of special needs children at all. Especially, if it is a single parent, or a pastor’s wife who is on her own during worship. And if you do not have a special needs child, please do not respond to this comment with your opinion.

  7. Gene, I wrote the article and I am both a pastor’s wife, alone in the pew, and dealing with special needs. I do understand the challenges. Being in church is good and necessary for all our children.

  8. I certainly did not imply that having kid in church isn’t good, even special needs children. We just need to face the reality that not every child is the same, and the needs of children vary greatly. So, what works for you does not mean it will work for every child. There is no cookie cutter program for getting children to behave during worship. And when you have a child with severe autism…sorry, but none of this is applicable.

  9. Sorry, Gene, but I disagree. It is very applicable for severely autistic children! I am the single Mom in church with the child with severe autism. The more we attend, the more he learns expectations. It took over a year to get him to trust the Pastor enough to allow her to bless him. It took a year of going once, twice a week to church, and showing him what was expected. Each time I had to take him out for a while, I heard from other members, cheering us on, telling him how great he was doing, how they liked having him in church, etc. Did he understand everything? Nope! But I hope and pray he felt, in his own way, the love and acceptance of God through our congregation. if you and your special needs child don’t feel loved and accepted in your congregation, you may be in the wrong one. Keep looking!

  10. I agree completely with the author. The biggest way that you teach your children the appropriate behavior for church is to take them to church and practice. I only take a child out if he is loud and disrupting the people around us. I have no problem with a snack or quiet toy but the purpose is to keep the child in church and hearing God’s Word. I will take out a very young child who is incapable of lasting the whole service, often for the sermon and then listen from the cry room. Often, we will then go back in for the end of the service. Even my very young child is engaged by the music of hymns and liturgy.

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