Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Worshipping as a family in church- reality check

By now you know that I LOVE the idea of a family-integrated church. I love the reliance on the sufficiency of Scripture. I love the multi-generational emphasis. I love the committment to hospitality and relational ministry. I love the equipping of parents to lead family worship at home. I love kissing youth group good-bye. And I love in theory worshipping with my kids in church. But... And here it comes. I've encountered a few difficulties along the way. I'm not completely incompetent, so I can't help but wonder if some other parents have encountered similar difficulties. I welcome your hints and advice, for I need all the help I can get.

My reality of worshipping with my kids in church has not lived up to the theory of it. Let me explain. Our four oldest children (10, 8, 6, 3) are really getting it. I try to prepare them for worship before we go to church and we discuss the sermon afterwards. I love worshipping with them. It's the 15 month old that has derailed my theory. She was fine in church while she took a bottle and would fall asleep. Then she became vocal and mobile and for the last 3 months has not cooperated in church. Let me say right here that we have a small church and I do not feel comfortable letting her stay in church if she's going to be noisy. Her dad is the one preaching and he would not like it. Last Sunday as a deacon stood up behind the pulpit and announced the reading of God's Word, Baby Lu punctuated his remark with one of her own. She's quite vocal and does not like to be shushed. Now I realize that it probably is possible to train her to sit quietly through church, but I'm wondering if it's worth it. She is not going to understand anything from the sermon. She is not going to be harmed by going to the toddler class for half an hour (I keep her with me through hymn time and meet and greet). I mean, does that make me a bad mother because I would much rather leave her in the toddler class for 30 minutes so I can focus on the sermon and on helping my 3 year old to sit nicely and listen for himself? I've seriously struggled with this.

I have this image in my mind of ALL of us sitting together in church. I LOVE that thought. But, I'd rather have most of us sitting together in church and me participating in worship than all of us sitting together and me up and down and up and down and in and out of the sanctuary trying to shush Baby Lu. Am I the only one who has encountered this frustration? Please tell me I'm not. She does great at home in family worship sitting on her blanket, but she's not completely quiet. I'm able to handle more noise at home because it's just us. I've been trying to shush her and teach her to stay quiet and sometimes have more luck than others, but Sunday mornings she thinks she's the star, which she is, and there's no stopping her. During the Christmas eve candlelight service she toddled around the back of the sanctuary and then down one of the middle rows greeting everyone she passed. Yes, I realize she's a wee bit spoiled. And as somone at church was telling me last week, she's not just our baby, but all of theirs, too. But, my predicament remains. So, until one of you convinces me otherwise, I'm just going to plan on taking her to her class during the last half of worship for the forseeable future.

What do you do with your 1 yr olds in church? Can you have a semi- or mostly-family-integrated church?


  1. Must be something about the church air, because being there inspires my 2 year old to dance in the aisle that is when she is not standing on the seat and yelling across the sanctuary! I was hoping you'd have some advice, because all I find myself doing is the getting up and going dance that you do!

  2. I dont have any great advice Celee, because as you know, at the moment my youngest is 6, and he does supurb at church (praise the Lord!). But what I can say is "drop the guilt!". Pray about it and seek the Lords guidence, but I dont think for one second you should feel bad or "not family integrated ENOUGH" if you put your toddler in the toddler class for thirty minutes. Your not quitting on the integration aspect. In my opinion your just giving her more time to get out of her noisy faze. :)
    If it were my daughter (and I know she is not) I would try (as you have) to help her comply in church and see if she could do it. If it was continually an issue and I had other children to train at the moment, I would have NO PROBLEM leaving her in the nursery for a little while. just my opinion though. :) Ask God, he is always so good to answer. Either way you are such a good mommy with such a good heart. They will all turn out well I am sure. :)

  3. I agree with the previous posters...time to pray about it, and if the answer is putting her in class then ditch the guilt! The only reason our 2 yo comes into church with us (and this is what started our entire FIC journey) is he HATES to go to his classroom. He hates to be parted from us. Most Sundays he falls asleep in someone's arms and sleeps during the entire sermon. If he were wide awake and chatty, we'd be out in a heartbeat. I take the baby (9 mos old) to the nursery sometimes, and I think that even in the book Parenting in the Pew she assumes that's where babies will go. Our church is larger though, so the noises aren't noticeable all over. We also have a generous sized lobby that was designed as an area for "louder" parishioners to sit and partake of the service. :) So we have found ourselves sitting out there with our noisiest children from time to time. We have a lot to learn, especially getting from the point of not "counting bricks" to actually really listening. We're taking it one Sunday at a time. :)

  4. Thanks guys. That makes me feel much better about it. I know the main thing is that I focus on the Lord Sunday, not baby training. I'll continue working with her during the week so hopefully she'll be able to stay with us throughout the worship service soon. Today she sat on my lap while I got my hair done for 30 minutes or so and never said a word. Strange. I think she just wanted to make a liar out of me.

  5. Dear friend,

    It's good to know there isn't a formula. If there was, we wouldn't need the Holy Spirit, eh?

    So here's my two cents.
    Try to decide what you want to achieve with "going to church".

    I know that for us, a Sunday gathering is often a time of training because it isn't easy to worship without interruption or distraction (the family in the pew behind me have enough to keep their hands full without my two-year-old turned around chatting with their children), and by the time the service is over we are ALL spent. Fellowship is more of a passing courtesy at this point.
    We do want our children to enjoy and grow up with corporate worship though, and a desire to meet with fellow Believers, so we take them and we run the gauntlet.

    I find that fellowship is often much more rich and rewarding in the midst of our daily lives, sharing just these kinds of issues (granted the internet is a poor substitute for in-the-flesh!).
    And we can worship the Lord in our daily lives as well - every act of service can be offered up for His glorification! "Yay!" - because I change a lot of diapers;-)

    As for the struggling of other mothers in this area, a family integrated church may have a happy little "buzz" in the atmosphere because of several or so tiny talkers who are being trained.
    I find this a lot less distracting than a very quiet room in which one outspoken toddler steals the show (so to speak).

    It's wonderful to think of Jesus teaching to some very large and mixed crowds - full of children!
    And we know that the Holy Spirit will touch hearts regardless of outward circumstances or manipulation.

    May the Lord richly bless your endeavors and lead you as He would have you honor Him - HOWEVER that is!

    He is wonderfully gracious:-)


  6. Thank you Analene! He is gracious and I'm so grateful!

  7. Honest post, I find that training the littles to sit thru church is the TOUGHEST between 12mo-18mo. That is when they are most vocal, it seems easier for me to work on the wiggles than the mouth. So, I do take them out to the back of the church during this time. Just getting up and walking with them makes them change their vocal play. My other kids know the policy about what they should be doing when I am gone. My hubby preaches a fair amount, so I am on my own on Sundays. Which is another point, I dont' feel like I have had a "sermon" or been able to focus and have something to take into my week. So, I try to listen to something online during the week to help me continue to grow during this time:)

  8. Just my thoughts about this. I have had all 5 of my children in church worship services with us since birth, because our church does not provide a staffed nursery. There is no option. We have a "nursery", which is just a room outfitted with rocking chairs and a changing table. It has a speaker in there so when you are in there you can hear the service. This is what I have always done. Train at home. I require my children to sit quietly during our family Bible study each morning. They may sit in my lap or at the table in their booster chair. I provide colors and paper. I discipline if they try to get down or are loud. When we get to church service, I either hold them or let them sit beside me on the pew. I provide paper and crayons (or soft books and a toy or two that is only played with at church service...for toddlers). If they are disruptive, I take them to the nursery (where I can still hear). I tell them that this is a church service and they have to be quiet, still, whatever. I will rock them for a little while and then go back into the service. I do not let them get down and play in the nursery....then they would be rewarded for acting up in the auditorium. It seems like I am back and forth for several months in the nursery/auditorium, but the training at home really works. I also have "sit still on the couch" time each day for toddlers. Start with 5 minutes and build up. I will give them what I would give them in church service....colors, paper,soft books, etc. They just must sit still and quietly.
    Hope this helps!

  9. Here is a link to a product by a Titus 2 woman that is very Pro- FIC. No guilt necessary but she has a lot of wisdom that may help you help your toddler if not for now maybe later!

    God Bless!

  10. Thanks Roan! I think a big part of it is that my husband is preaching and I'm very self-conscious of the noise level. I don't want us to be a distraction to him or an embarrassment. She sits on her blanket at home during worship for up to 30 minutes. But, she is not completely silent. Since I'm the only one in our church who takes her 1 yr old into church I'm very self-conscious about her babblings. Maybe no one else thinks anything of it. Maybe I should just relax a little. We do have a nursery that is unstaffed with a speaker. But, my husband is up front and I don't want to leave my parents with all 4 of my other kids. You know the old saying when the cat's away the mice will play. I will continue working with her at home and see if I can't get her to be more quiet, but also maybe I need to relax my standards of complete silence, too.

    Thanks, Theresa for the link. I'll check it out.

  11. I am late commenting on this one, but I wanted to say that some of my kids have been able to be quiet and sit in church better than others. My one boy could not whisper when he was a toddler to save his life. Couldn't do it. And we practiced a lot. He is just a loud kid. He was not able to sit quietly through church. Other kids have been very quiet and would just fall to sleep and I hardly knew they were there. So some of it might be that personality of each child as well. My current 18 month old is loud and he goes to the nursery so I can help the other children worship and follow along in their bibles to get the most out of the sermon. This works for us!



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I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.