4 Moms make their 37 children sit still in church

Welcome back, compadres.  If you have 37 children and would like them to be still and quiet in church, we understand.  We can help, because some of our 37 children have been known to sit quietly in church some of the time.

How’s that for street credit?  You expected better?  I’m just pulling your leg.  It may feel this way sometimes but honestly, you can teach and expect your children – even toddlers and older babies – to still in church without being disruptive to the people around you.

As usual, a certain amount of preparation is very helpful:

  1. Give a pep talk before you arrive.  Remind the children of the standard, and let them know exactly what you expect and require from them.  Of course this only works for children old enough to understand what you’re talking about, but doing this allows you to focus more on keeping the younger ones in line.
  2. Arrive early enough to take care of bathroom trips before the service starts, then make it clear that all but the very youngest are expected to wait until after the service for subsequent bathroom trips.
  3. Decide if you are going to allow scribbling, quiet toys, etc. and have the materials ready for distribution with a minimum of whispers, fuss and fidgeting.  We allow babies to have one quiet toy, and younger ones may have a pen to write on their bulletins.  This is phased into taking notes as they get older.  4yo Perry likes to copy words from the hymnal or bulletin, and this is fine by us if he can do it without asking a lot of questions.

Choose your seating carefully. We tried several arrangements when all the children were young and hit upon a plan that worked beautifully for us.  Now that we have 4 teens, we do things a little differently but we still use 2 rows whenever possible.  I can’t say enough about placing your challenging children directly in front of Dad.  🙂

Plan for training. Don’t expect to hear every word of the sermon while you have little ones.  If you invest time in training now, you will reap bountiful harvests later.  Our worship is our service to God, and He is pleased when we train little ones to serve Him as well.  He won’t mind if you missed part of the sermon yet again.

Have high standards and realistic expectations. Even babies and toddlers can learn to behave well in church, but they’re still going to make some noise now and then.  My husband’s standard is higher than mine, and he constantly shows me that they can do better than I expect.  On the other hand, they do occasionally make some noise.  We invariably find that our disruptions passed unnoticed by most of the people around us.

Don’t sweat it. Do your best, but don’t let the process stress you out.  Most people expect children to make a little noise, and chances are the people in the next row are totally unaware of the fidgeting and quiet battles of will happening in your row.

It’s a process, remember?  You and your children will have good days and bad ones, and someday you’ll all laugh over the time your 5yo got her legs tangled in a front row folding metal chair and fell in a deafening clatter right in the middle of prayer.

The other moms:

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    1. Stephanie says:

      I’m a mom of 4 children and pregnant with #5. And its just me raising the kids. My husband is not in the picture right now and it will be several years before he is again. He made some bad decisions that landed him in prison. I want my kids to grow to love God and KNOW God. I was raised in a church where the children always sat with their parents during the service. And I feel(my opinion) is that its my responsibility on what goes into my children’s ears. You don’t always know what they are teaching in children’s church. Now days at least in the area I live (Piedmont of North Carolina) it is very difficult to find a church that does not look at you crazy if you would rather your children sit with you during service instead of taking them and dropping them off in children’s church. I want to worship and hear the Word if God WITH my kids. Their ages are 7, 5, 3, and 1-1/2 years old. For the most part they are quiet but it seems like at least 10-15 minutes before the service ends they get fidgety. Especially the youngest and he tries to sneak by and run out of the pew where we are sitting. Then my 3 yr old tries to climb under the pews and then my 7 and 5 yr old start quietly but noticeably squabbling over something. I do have pep talks with them before we even get to the church but it always seems to end like that. Please pray for me that things get better and that I can find a really good church that does not find me strange because I want my children to stay with me during service.

    2. Thankfully, a large portion of the people in our church are under ten, so we are used to little ones walking up and down the aisles (it’s a relatively small church). We allow a fidget item for the little kids and paper&pen for the older ones so they can draw/write/take notes. 5yo doesn’t like to sit still and our solution for this is to tell her what she CAN move. For example, she can tap her feet quietly, rock back and forth or move her eyes everywhere. Counting is a popular thing for the older ones; how many people are wearing red etc. There are lots of supportive people who are willing to hold babies, and would love to do so while you give attention to which ever other child is fidgety. One (teenage) daughter has sensory stuff so she is allowed to chew gum discreetly (without smacking or blowing bubbles) as it helps her sit still/deal with the loud music. Let’s face it though, I am unlikely to get my 1yo to sit through a whole service, even if it is a short one and he’s tired. DH or I will take him outside for a moment (we almost always sit near the back), get some water and go back in more calmly. Any advice on what to do when someone who has clear signs of illness (coughing, sneezing etc.) wants to hold your young child and is offering to help?

      • Depending on how well I knew the person I might answer very frankly: “Thanks, but I heard you coughing, and this would be a bad week for us to catch a bug!”
        This could give them the chance to tell me if it’s just allergies, in which case I might reconsider.
        If I didn’t know them well enough, I would simply decline with a cheerful “Thank you so much but I think we have things under control!”

    3. Elizabeth M. says:

      Thank you for this post! And everyone’s ensuing comments! 🙂 Right now, I have one little one and another on the way, and I am a pastor’s wife, so this is something I have been thinking about a lot. My current thought has been to go to church whenever I normally would and bring E with me and expect her to sit quietly (with the help of a book or quiet toy). Her current favorite thing is flipping through the hymnal, and it keeps her entertained for quite some time! 🙂 So far so good.
      My question for you all is: I feel the necessity of sitting close to the front of church, because E can see Dad and what’s going on better, and not as distracted by those around us…but when #2 comes along, will it be discreet for me to nurse at the front of church with a cover-up? We have very few young families in our churches and I don’t know of anyone else in our churches (we have two wonderful congregations) who breastfeeds. And any other advice for PW’s, military wives, or other “single” moms? 🙂

    4. My older children sit through part of Church until their age group goes out to kids church. The younger children go into their group right before Church begins. My littlest one comes into Church with us rather than the nursery. She is fairly good, but even so, I could not have her sit and be still and quiet throughout the whole sermon. It is a long time for a small child to be still. Usually what sets her off is another little one making noise or running in the aisle. When she was even smaller, I would nurse during the service and this would keep her quiet but as she gets older and more curious/determined I find it harder. Usually either myself or my husband ends up having to go to the back of the Church towards the end of the sermon so that others around us may continue to listen without interuption.

    5. We have had our children in church with us since our oldest was a baby. She is 14 now. We have seven children ranging in age from 14 to 1. I think the key for us is to sit near the front, if not right in front. They are more likely to whisper and fidget if they are near the back where no one can see them. When the pastor is right in front of them they do much better.

    6. Thanks for this!

      I know sometimes it is looked down upon when you don’t put your kids in the church nursery. I don’t, and even though I have had some people (at our old church) comment to me about how “distracting” children are in service, I am now secure enough to say something nice back and just go on.

      We have had training sessions, and sometimes I have wondered if it would be easier to stay home from the time the child is 15-30 months and send my husband and others, I know that is not what God would want, so I grin and bear it!

    7. Elizabeth says:

      DHM, how sweet to include those little guys too! And here I was thinking it was Kim’s way of announcing she was expecting twins and I was the only one to pick up on it. Aren’t I smart? They say pride goes before a fall which is why I am pretty much always on my face..

    8. Last night my husband (the pastor) “whoo-hooed” about something and his whoo-hoo was promptly echoed by our 2 yr old. Hey, at least she was listening : ).

    9. Elizabeth, I think our unofficial foster sons Blynken and Nod get counted in the mix. They definitely get counted on Sundays, as we pretty much always have them on weekends and often many days in between.

    10. Elizabeth says:

      First of all Perry, thank you for chiming in. It is so nice to hear a daddy that is involved in the church training work!
      And second what is this moms of 37 that you speak of? Did I miss some important announcements??? I thought there were only 35. 🙂
      Seriously a very good post thank you!

    11. I think a Dad’s , when available, must be involved in this whole process.

      I have seen far too many dad’s who think their child-rearing responsibilities end at the church door and they sit in the service oblivious to either the absolute pandemonium their family was causing because they were too busy listening to the sermon to control their kids OR they sat peacefully by while their wife was run ragged during the sermon.


      There are many things that Dad’s can do that will allow both Mom and the rest of the congregation to worship God and not worry about HIS kids.

      I sit the 3 or 4 most likely to cause trouble right in front of me so I can observe them and I take them out as often as I can for discipline – since Kim is already doing much of the baby duty.

      When you look at church as a SPIRITUAL training opportunity – you are or should be actively training your kids to worship while they are young so that they will know how to reverence God when they are grown it puts a lot more weight on the whole idea

      I know I’ve repeated lots of what Kim said but I think it’s important to remember that these are eternal matters not just matters of manner and courtesy

    12. Andrea, depending on the baby, I have nursed mine in the midst of services. One baby nursed while snorting like a pig- her, I took out. But she was my first so I didn’t have to worry about anybody else.
      As a military wife whose husband worked swing shift when he was home, I have spent a lot of time in church without my husband. I enlisted the help of other military moms- we sat near each other and promised to help keep on eye on one another’s children as needed. Currently, my older girls have provided this service for some of our young mothers at church.
      And sometimes we just all trooped out of services like a noisy flock of ducklings if that’s what I needed to do.=)

    13. Wow, I never thought that nursing would be so widely practiced (even if less than ten ladies admitted to it here) — I find this encouraging! (Maybe I would consider moving to the States after all?)

      What I neglected to mention at the top, now that my five are well behaved and know the expectations as well as follow them, I allow the two oldest (11 and 14 — both girls) the *freedom* to have a look out where they can serve a mother of young children who might need extra assistance.

      It is wonderful blessing of diligent work done years in advance to see my girls gladly serve in this capacity.

    14. We have 3 boys, 6, 4, and 2. We attend a small church (20 or so). We let our boys attend Sunday school (they are usually the only kids there!), while my husband teaches the adult Sunday School. I usually keep our 2yo with me for this. Worship service is when it gets complicated! My husband is the song-leader, and I play the piano, which leaves our crew without parental supervision! I usually turn our 2yo over to one of the older ladies to be kept in service or taken to nursery, whichever they prefer. As for the older ones, it is a matter of instructing them on how they are expected to behave during the song service, with a reminder of the consequences for disobedience. If the 4 yo is especially distracted, he may color or draw quietly, but we like the six yo to participate as much as he can. This works fairly well, but both my hubby and I have become masters of the “look”! We also employ the sign language for “stop”, which our children learned very early! This has also helped with discreet correction in other situations as well! As was already mentioned…it’s a process! 🙂

    15. Sound advice. We also use 2 pews. The kids were fighting over who got to sit next to my dh and I …. no one sits between us. So….some sit on either side of us and the rest are in the pew in front of us. I can reach and touch each child from where I sit except the one next to dad. Oh….and we sit in the front 2 pews. So much less distraction for the kids and they know they are in direct view of Pastor’s eyes as well. We get comments all the time about how well behaved our kids are. We do allow drawing/coloring when under age 5/6. Naps are OK for 4 and under. Otherwise they are expected to sit still and pay attention. They each know the consequences afterwards if they don’t 🙂

    16. Melissa G says:

      Love it! Especially the training, I’m very big on starting young and sacrificing a little of MY learning time to teach them. Many other families in our church opt for the opposite, ignoring their child’s behavior so they may focus on the service, and now they have 8/9/10 yos that still cannot sit through service. Even worse, it provides a constant temptation for my children.

      Now, we do allow notebooks and pens for the kids, and they can write what they want, but we do have special awards for those who have illustrated or copied the day’s readings. No food or drink in the sanctuary, except I do store a DumDum in my pocket as a little distraction for my 2yo, since our service is two hours long and hard for his little active body to sit through.

      Oh! I do nurse the baby in the church, I’m very modest and it’s actually more distracting and obvious if I leave the service to nurse than to just do it in the pew. If I MUST leave, then automatically each older child is in charge of a younger one (our typical system, we follow this everywhere, and they are paired up based on personality)

    17. I would say by all means nurse during service. These days people have large coverups which make it no problem though I always did it without such contraptions.

      I have taken little ones out with me, but many in our church without a daad there for some reason will ask a person without their own little oens to step in if they need to take some kids out and leave others. That is, they ask before service for that person to sit near tham and be prepared. If you don’t know anyone who can do this, you should! Church members are there to help each other.

      We have done snacks in church. At one point my daughter with type 1 diabetes had to eat her lunch during service. I would advocate fewer snacks these days.

    18. Excellent comments about training. I’ve seen two different results of that in my current congregation – one family does not discipline their children. Consequently, their 8-year-old still does things like leap over a pew or run laughing through the chapel during church. It’s amazing when the mother just sits there coloring and another parent has to intervene. On the other hand, we have friends who have focused very hard from the beginning to instill expectations. Their 3-year-old child is mostly well-behaved with an occasional bad day, and they are helping her learn to sing by whispering each phrase of words during the hymn. Now she’s certainly not a naturally quiet child. She loves to talk and throw tantrums, etc., but they are very clear on what is okay and what’s not, and it’s made all the difference.

      Andrea: It really varies by the area, I think. That’s true in my congregation, but my sister once lived somewhere where the women had an informal competition – who could nurse their baby to sleep the fastest during worship service, without leaving.

    19. Just yesterday I was going over this topic rather intensely in my mind.

      In our current church (where the youngest child I took with me was already over 2 years of age), I notice some parents bringing sweets, throw-away drink packages, and other snacks.

      I have some issues with this on many levels, as most kids should be able to handle an hour without food (sometimes our services can go up to two hours, even that a child should be able to handle, in my opinion).

      I would love to hear from you and your readers: what about nursing or actually having to leave the service with a young one (what do you do with the other wee kids? Cart them out as well? Leave them indefinitly and pray they behave? — I am thinking of the “single” mom — regardless of why she is single: traveling, preaching or otherwise absent father. (Obviously with present hubby –and teens– this might be less of a challenge.)

      Would I be correct to assume that in North America a woman would rather be caught dead than to publicly nurse her child in the sanctuary during service?

      • I nurse babies in church, too, unless the baby is already too distraught to get started quickly and quietly. In most cases I think it’s more obvious and more disruptive to leave the service than to feed the baby right where we are.

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