Children in church, part 2

A lot of people liked our idea for seating a large family in church and responded with questions about how to keep the children quiet in church.

At the risk of sounding like we have it all together (we sure don’t!) I’ll share our own experiences and thoughts on the matter.

First of all, we don’t just aim to keep them quiet. We want to train them to pay attention and participate in worship to the full extent of their abilities. We don’t let them read or color freely, and even sleeping is discouraged as soon as the morning nap is no longer a necessity. Our 2yo is learning this now.

Babies can be trained from the beginning to sit quietly on a lap. Church is not a time to be entertained and play peek-a-boo. Babbling is shushed, not smiled upon. They pick up on this quickly with very little discipline. Yes, they will fidget and get cranky, and we do sometimes walk them in the back of the room or take them out briefly – but not to play freely. Older ones might even be taken out for correction. But as in every other situation, consistency pays off.

As they get a little older, they learn to stand when we stand, sit when we sit, sing when we sing. They hold a hymnal long before they can read.

The older ones are encouraged to take notes. Young ones can take notes by writing a letter each time they hear a name of God mentioned (L for Lord, G for God, J for Jesus). We know a family that encourages the young ones to draw a picture that relates to the sermon.

I’m very intrigued by the whole family-integrated worship idea. I have never
been part of a church that keeps children with the parents, but it would be so
great to be a part of a church that does. What denomination/s are these
churches? I’m just curious. 🙂

Our particular congregation belongs to the CREC, but a good way to find a family friendly church is the The National Center forFamily-Integrated Churches on the Vision Forum website.

What age do you find the hardest for keeping in church?

When we train consistently from the start, we don’t have much trouble with any particular age. Each stage does present new training needs, though: young babies must learn to be consoled quietly while they wait to be nursed. Older babies learn not to babble in church. Toddlers learn to sit still. Preschoolers learn to look like they are paying attention, while older children actually do pay attention.

There were many times that we spent the entire service training babies and toddlers. For 2-3 years, I don’t think my husband or I heard one sermon in its entirety, but we were still worshipping. Worship is to be focused upon God, not upon “what I get out of the sermon.” I don’t think that missing the sermons made our worship any less pleasing to God.

As with any other worthy goal in child training, this one takes time, patience, discipline, consistency, work. As with any other worthy goal in child training, it’s worth the results.


  1. Spunky

    We have also found family worship at the dining room table is great practice for sitting quietly and potty breaks.

    Also we make sure to get to church early and make the kids go to the bathroom before everything gets started.

  2. Kim,

    Excellent thoughts. We’ve kept our children with us from the start as well.

    One thing I would add is that you don’t just wait until Sunday to do the training. We have little “practice” sessions throughout the week with the children. Short little sessions of sitting quietly at home pay off not only at church, but at the doctor’s office, potty training, and a host of other places where sitting quiet is a necessity.

  3. Dear Kim,

    I’ve been following your blog for a while and, really, I enjoy all your posts. Sometimes they make me think a lot.

    I’m from Spain, a traditional Roman Catholic country and was born and raised in a strong believing family. Thus, since the age of 2.5 I went to church every Sunday, received catechism, and so on… My Grandma was the one who taught me to sit, to be quiet, to listen, to pray, to learn and to enjoy Mass. Thus, I remember that her way to do so was to make me feel the importance of all that was being said and done inside the church. I remember seeing their serious and grave faces and thus, learning that the church was not a place to play, or to make noise, or to talk loudly, etc. But this was made in the most lovely and affectionate way. Thus, what I’m trying to say is that nothing special was done; I just learned how to behave by watching them…

    I’m a grown up women now and, although being quite distanced from Roman Catholic Church I truly admire the capacity of believing and finding God wherever we turn around. Thus, I really like your blog.

  4. If you wouldn’t mind sharing,
    What type of church is a CREC? what do they believe, etc? I have researched some and checked out their website but when learning about their doctrine it was a bit confusing.

  5. I have recently started attending church and I have a 4 year old and a 2 year old. My husband is not interested in going to church and I would like to take my children. But….they aren’t used to sitting quietly for so long and I must admit, I’m a bit daunted. I have taken each of them a couple of times and have ended up in the creche with the 2 year old (who was very unhappy to be left there alone – and since she hadn’t been there before and didn’t know the people, I felt that was fair enough! So I ended up in creche for the entire service too) but I find it really difficult – I only get to attend one service and I really want to learn too……..

    My 4 year old doesn’t like it and isn’t that keen to attend – DH will not be happy to MAKE him go since DH is not interested if you know what I mean.

    Have any other people been in this situation? Any suggestions?


  6. Kili @ Live Each Moment says:

    wonderful tips! thanks for sharing

  7. a suburban housewife says:

    Not on topic at all, but I just wanted to take a moment to bless, salute, thank profusely- take your pick- you for the recommendation about Mayan Chocolate by Haagen-Dazs. I am, as we speak (type), eating my own little pint, spoonful by delicious spoonful. Thank you, thank you, blessed and beloved Kim!!

  8. I am going to check out this book. Since the baby was born I have been sending the 3 year old to “class” and I keep the 5 month old with me. Sadly my husband has to work a lot of Sundays and dd1 needs some attentive parenting to be able to stay in the service.

  9. Thanks for posting on this topic. We go to a family-friendly church (RPCNA), but we are having trouble keeping our daughter quiet during the service. She is 8 months old, and very wiggly. We try to keep her in worship with us until she becomes disruptive, which is usually after about 20 minutes. Our original idea was to extend that time every week, but so far she gets loud at the same point in the service every week.

    My question is, how do you SPECIFICALLY handle a talkative baby in church? For example, if you were holding an 8 month old and she started blowing bubbles loudly or shouted “DADA!!!”, what would you do? Saying “sh” doesn’t seem to help, nor does giving her something to chew.

    I plan to check out the book that was mentioned on your first post, “Parenting in the Pew” – do you have any other suggestions?

    Thank you!!!

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