Generation Cedar

OK, so I’m already second-guessing my announcement from yesterday to do “How to Make Money Blogging” on Fridays…mainly because I know though a fragment of you would be interested in that topic, the majority probably would not, and since it doesn’t really fit the scope of my blog, I’m thinking it may not be the wisest choice of topics.

With that said, I think I will try featuring YOUR questions on Friday. That is, if you have topics you’d like to see addressed, email me and I’ll consider featuring that topic on Fridays. (Get my address from the “contact” button in my sidebar.) It helps me to hear from you about things that are important, and I’m sure others will benefit too.

And recently a reader emailed and asked if I would address the topic of teaching children to sit still in church.

I love this one! About 5 years ago we began attending a family-integrated church (the whole family stays together though the entire service). Not only did we personally experience the benefits/joys/struggles of teaching our children to sit still with us, but we have witnessed numerous families who have been successful with less effort than you may think.

I don’t know that there is a magic bullet, but this has been my observation:

  1. Expect it. Don’t buy the notion that “children can’t sit still for that long” because they can; and whereas sitting for extended periods of time seems unfair to me (classroom?) a few hours is a great exercise in discipline.
  2. Practice at home. Scheduling a family worship time is an excellent time for training. We require our littlest ones to be still for that time and they learn pretty quickly what is expected of them. (If your husband doesn’t lead a family worship time, you can implement the same training reading a book out loud during the day.)
  3. Younger ones learn from the older ones. Much of the training of little ones becomes easier once you have a few older ones who know the rules.
  4. Training at church. I have found that the hardest time is between the age of about 1 and 2. This is the window they don’t seem to “get it”. One thing I have found very helpful is taking them to the back (out into a separate foyer is ideal) and sitting with them there, talking to them and correcting them as needed. With more freedom to talk and correct, they can learn that taking them out doesn’t mean they get to go to the nursery and play. It is time-consuming (we’re child-training remember?) but it doesn’t take many weeks of consistent training to get them there. (I confess though, in the early stages, I often fall to the temptation of going to the “cry room” and letting them play on the floor; but this just prolongs the inevitable training process.)

For most of our younger children, we allow them to draw during the sermon. I guess this is just a personal decision.

And for those wondering, our kids look forward to and even ask “when are we going to church again?” Worshiping as a family has been a tremendous blessing and I would encourage you to try it!

Spread the love

19 Responses

  1. Good post Kelly.

    We have two sessions for our Sunday service.

    The first is worship and communion, where all of the family is together, so our little ones are taught to sit still as well. We do have a mothers room but that is used mostly by mum’s who are feeding their babies. Seeing the change in children going from not being able to sit still for long to being quiet for the entire service is wonderful and not just because it makes it easier for those around them. But because they also begin to take part in the worship. At times when we are singing, the men sing one part and the ladies the other. So the boys learn to join in with the men and the girls with the ladies. That is wonderful to see, the children learning to participate in the service.

    The second part of the service the children have their own classes, an all age Sunday School. Children under 4 or 5 stay with their parents and learn to sit still there as well.

    First part is 75 minutes and the second is about 60.

    I could not imagine going back to a church where children are separated from families for a worship service.


  2. My parents always let us bring paper and pen to church. When we were very little we scribbled. When we could draw pictures we were told to draw something from the sermon, thus helping us to listen to the sermon as well. When we were able to write we had to take notes. Those started with just a list of words we heard such as:

    1. God
    2. Jesus
    3. Love
    4. Amen

    Our notes grew more detailed with our ability to write notes and outlines.

    When we were teenagers we had sermon notebooks where we always took notes. And our parents encouraged us to take notes as if we had to teach the same lesson again.

    Anyway….just some ideas.

  3. Kelly, thanks for this. I agree–we never had trouble with Sophia until she hit about 18 months, and then she just would NOT sit through service. Even though we are very passionate about having our kids in church, she does go to nursery on Sundays for the time being. It was just getting to the point where we were spending so much time disciplining her that we weren’t spending any time with the Lord, and that wasn’t good for anyone. I do take her with me occassionally to daily Mass (which is only about half an hour, as opposed to an hour), and she does fine there. She just can’t handle the hour long Mass right now. But, I agree that the training is soooooo important at this stage, which is why I try to get her into daily Mass so she becomes familiar with the service structure and so I will recognize when she is ready to stop going to the nursery. We’re hoping it will happen in the next couple of months, when she turns 2.

  4. Just I thought I would add one more thing: I am loving the family-integrated church movement! Being Catholic, we have no such thing as “children’s church.” Even nursery is something very new and most Catholic churches will only provide it up through age 3, after which time, the kids are expected (and wanted) to be in service. I can’t even begin to extol all the benefits of worshipping as a family, but it makes me very happy to see other denominations beginning to feel passionate about this, as well.

  5. consider purchasing extra small containers of play dough that the children can only have during church service. Carry it in your handbag or diaper bag.

    Make it especially for church. No other time.

    Or put together small individual zip lock baggies that have items in it that’s only for church time. Not alot of money has to be spent on the items either bought at a dollar store or items from home.

    Paper dolls
    color pencils
    small notebooks
    coloring books
    small religious books
    small etch a sketch
    small dolls
    small stuff animals
    small comb

  6. Good suggestions for things for kids to do during church. Same happens with us. Nosiy toys are not so good however for obvious reasons. Even when they seem to be just drawing they are often taking in what is being said or happening around them.

    I’m not a mum but I have taught Sunday school.(see previous post)And kids do take notice of what is said.


  7. Kelly,
    We are in a family-integrated church also and my children are older (the youngest is 12). We help families in training by spreading out to help larger families who might need someone to sit amongst their little ones and encouraging, encouraging! I think a parent always thinks that everyone hears their children’s every noise and it’s not true. I always tell Moms who are “taking a child out” to hang in there, this is just a season and tell dads that I love to see a man with a spanker in his back pocket!

  8. I have two daughters and they always seemed to sit still.. ( even at 2-3 years old) people at our church were always amazed. I think we expected them to be good so they were? They wanted people to say how good they were and they glowed!

    I can’t imagine having children that didn’t care about their behavior….even at 2 they care:)


  9. We attend a country parish in rural oklahoma. we have no cry room or nursery, all the children stay with their families. Children are expected to behave. I am having trouble with Alexandra as she is 15 months, and wants to go as soon as we hit the pew.

    Even with older children, I am finding it hard to stand with her the entire service,as Christian(3) begins to fuss for me also. I really am praying that my husbands work schedule will change someday to allow him sundays off.

    We allow the little ones to draw or look at religous books. This is just a tough age, and it isn’t called training because it is easy.

    I look out at church and can see the heads of my older children,and tell myself you have survived this before, you can do it again. The only complication is mama isn’t as young as she used to be, and on somedays I can really feel the effects of RA and fibromialgia.
    Gods’ Blessings to you and your readers

  10. All of these are good comments.

    The only thing I’d add is to not make church the ONLY thing kids have to sit still for–go to concerts and plays, and even ball games and movies.

    Otherwise church can seem like sort of a punishment which is so sad.

  11. Training children to worship (and I think that encompasses much more than just sitting still), is made more difficult for those of us who do not attend family-integrated churches. Though most families in the congregation choose to send their children to Sunday school during the worship service, there are a few of us who keep our children with us. We are looked upon as something akin to saints (NOT!), because ‘normal’ children can’t manage an entire worship service. It never occurs to them that it is something they could do as well, even though I’m fairly vocal in encouraging them to try.

    But church cultures can change, and for the past three months we have experimented with an family integrated service. I think people were surprised that it was a positive experience.

    I’m including a link to an article I wrote for our church’s newsletter (which I then posted to my blog) to help prepare families for the transition.

  12. I like to take a bag of cheerios or goldfish and divvy them out ONE at a time to my 16 month old. This keeps her from yelling out, for the most part, but she is SO wiggly! LoL By the time we leave church, my clothes feel twisted and my hair barrette is hanging loose. 😉

    We do not attend a church that encourages us to worship as a family and we have struggled with that many times. We are constantly reminded that childcare is available. A few times, as soon as we sat down (we have 5 kids), a couple will get up and move. Oh well. We’ve tried to look at those times when others are irritated by us and we’re irritated by their attitude as an opportunity to pray for them and show love. Not always easy. It’s very humbling.

    On the other hand, we have been blessed by many who have come up to us after the service and said things like, “What a lovely family!” Or “Your kids are so well-behaved!” Or “It’s so good to see a family worshiping together.” Those people have no idea how they encourage us.

  13. So what is your advice on a 5…almost 6 year old who can’t sit still for more than 5 minutes? It gets very embarasing to have him being noisy, bumping the seats, trying to crawl under the pews, picking fights with his brother. I can’t figure out how to get him to sit still. I have no problem with my 9yr. old or my 19mo. old. We only have family all together during communion and singing and some prayer. So only about 30 minutes, but it seems like an eternity with my little guy!

  14. I struggle with this I have a 9 month old a a 3 year old and the 9 month old won’t sit still she grabs the bible, song book, wants to crawl etc. I also sit by myself because I’m a ministers wife.

  15. Karrie,

    Keeping in mind that some children are a little more active than others, I would really concentrate on the “practicing” at home, but then I would also discipline him for disobedience. Once he knows what is expected, and is given some time to adjust and get familiar with those expectations, from then on I would treat his disturbance as disobedience, and would remove him from the service for discipline as many times as necessary–it will finally not be worth it to him. This is where consistence becomes key.

    Any I think 30 minutes is a very reasonable time to ask any child to sit still, so I don’t think it’s something he *can’t do*.

  16. Mrs. Reverend Dr.

    You are in the stage I talked about that was helpful for me to sit in the back, or even in a foyer slightly away from the service so I could do some training without as much disturbance.

    Although she is still a baby, she can be taught to understand voice commands of “be still” and “no”. One thing I’ll do with the little ones in my “training spot” is hold them tightly so they know they can’t get down. And just keep repeating the commands…again, it’s really consistency.

  17. Thank You so much Mrs. Kelly! Your post and the comments were very encouraging. I have 3 children age 5 and under and have one on the way. I constantly pray every Sunday that I will see that my Children are “getting it” with each passing sermon,and music service. With all the training I am having to do, I feel sometimes that I am the one being trained not them! 🙂 Each training stage I feel like I am feeling the pains of structure and disappline more than my kiddos! (giggle)
    Carmen in Tn

  18. This is what we do too! We had to search high and low to find Family Integrated one. We’re so glad we finally did!

    We had to stop letting the 2 y.o. draw because he was drawing on the pews, his clothes, etc. Now he just sits in Daddy’s lap while I hold the baby. Our 6 y.o. has learned to follow along in his Bible with us quietly. He isn’t reading everything yet, but he tries!

  19. “Parenting in the Pew” by Robbie Castleman was a very helpful and practical book in this area.

    husband, father-1 Peter 2:9

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *