Kids in Church

This week, we’re talking about church strategies for kids. As Emily mentioned on Monday, a lot of how you handle where your kids are while you worship depends on the church you’re in. Some church have all-family worship and no nursery, some have a limited nursery, and others will have full children’s church up through a certain age. We have been at churches with all three of these options, and that has taught us a lot about how we want our kids to worship with us.

At our church currently, there is a nursery available until your kids are five or six years old, at which point they are expected to stay in the service. We like this model a lot; it allows us to have our older kids in the service (and their friends in the service as well), but takes the pressure off of us for keeping track of the little ones during worship. We have a one-year-old and a three-year-old that both spend the entire service in the nursery. Our church is small, so they’ve grown to know the regular workers and really enjoy the time in the nursery. I’ve found that not having them allows me to concentrate on worship. Our five-year-old stays with us for the first half of the service. Right before the sermon, I slip out with her and take her to the nursery. She loves going down and seeing her siblings, and it’s helpful for the nursery workers to have her come in half-way through and break up the time for my littlest ones.

Our three oldest children stay with us the entire service. Our oldest, who’s eleven, can follow along in the bulletin, finding the hymns himself in the hymnal and reading along with the responsive readings. Our next two have a harder time doing this independently, so my husband and I keep and eye on them, making sure they’re participating. For the sermon, we have different expectations for each age group. Our oldest is expected to listen and take notes, and be able to tell us some of the main points at home. For our nine-year-old, we don’t ask that she take notes, but that she remember some of the points for us. And our seven-year-old is allowed to doodle on the bulletin. I find that even though she looks like she’s not paying attention, she can usually pick out a couple things to tell us after the service as well.

For us, church is always a bit of a hard parenting situation. We try to train our children both to love church, and that there are some very firm rules about behavior in and at church. This type of instruction is not without it’s grumpy looks and bad attitudes when we give a specific instruction they don’t like (“you may not run and yell in the sanctuary, even after church”). We’re always trying to walk the line between showing where the firm boundaries are, and helping them love being there. In many ways, it seems like a lot of other areas of parenting for me: we’re hopeful, that as we train and teach boundaries with rules that seem strict to some, our kids will learn to love and reverence the church and her people.

Posted in Family Traditions, Parenting | Leave a comment

Training Our Kids for Church

This week, Anna and I are going to share about how we train our kids to behave and participate in church.  I’ll start by saying that our family’s practice has varied depending on what church we attend and the ages of our kids.  Having moved so often, we’ve been a part of many churches with very different ideas about the role of children in the service.  We’ve been in churches where even the babies stay with the parents, but I personally have found that when I’m keeping the under-3 crowd quiet, I just don’t get much out of the service.  Now we take advantage of the nursery for our younger kiddos.

Our goal is to equip our children to sit through, participate, and benefit from a corporate worship service at a reasonable age.  As always, the training for this starts at home at a very young age.  We have family worship time each night before bed, and from age 2 on, our kids learn to sit quietly and listen to a Bible story, share prayer requests (for our family, friends, and the missionaries we support), and listen quietly while everyone takes turns praying.  We read aloud to our children from birth, so by age 4 or 5, the kids are able to sit quietly listening and paying attention for up to an hour without any electronic entertainment.  It’s not just their temperament; it is very much a learned skill.  We work on narration skills–repeating back the main details of what we just read or said to them–and train them to listen for details, particularly when reading the Bible.  We learn and sing hymns and other worship songs as a family during family worship time and in our homeschool.  So by the time the kids are old enough to join us in church, they’ve had practice with sitting still, listening quietly, paying attention, and participating in corporate worship.

Right now, our church actually has an excellent children’s program, and because we’re new to the church and want to build relationships, our kids all attend children’s church unless they are sick (in which case they come to the service with us).  However, at other times and places, we’ll keep the kindergartner and second grader with us in the service.  They enjoy singing and praying with us, but sitting through the sermon can be hard.  The 5 year old has paper and crayons to draw a picture of what she hears, since she isn’t reading or writing yet.  The 7 year old is expected to take some notes and follow the main thread of the sermon in a designated church notebook.  I’ll often help him by jotting down a sentence and having him fill in the blank.  If the pastor provides an outline, my husband or I will help T fill in the outline.  Sometimes I’ll have him copy the key verse out of his Bible.  He also will often draw a picture to illustrate the sermon.  My main goal is for him to learn to follow the gist of the sermon!  Here’s an example out of T’s church notebook from this spring.  As you can see, it’s nothing too fancy:

church notebookAt this point, it seems to be working well for our son, who enjoys children’s church or “big church” and seems to be comfortable in either setting.  Our kids all love going to church, and obviously we want to keep encouraging that!

What was your experience with church services growing up?  What do you do with your kids?

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Hidden Art Friday

These two.


These two are causing me to rethink my long-held desire for twins. Or maybe God is using them to prepare me for the twins I have always wanted. I don’t know. What I do know is this: they are busy, busy, busy.


I think they’re so similar and play off each other like twins would because developmentally, they’re not that different. The baby is now just as mobile as the three-year-old. In my mind, they’re both in the ‘wobbler’ category: they can walk, but it’s unpredictable, and could take a nasty tumble at any time. They can climb, but once they’re up, they’re stuck. They’re mobile with no discernment.

They have their own secret language, too.

They seem to have some sort of unspoken ‘you watch my back, I’ll watch yours’ agreement. The baby sorts through the trash, picking up bits of lunch that still look perfectly edible, while the three-year-old stands guard. “If Mom comes, I’ll let you know!” They go through our beautiful drawers of art supplies with glee. I find the baby sucking on a paintbrush, while the three-year-old colors on the floor with sharpies. They open the ink pads and chew on the crayons. They get into the game closet and rearrange all the little pieces, and the three-year-old is just savvy enough to try to put the lid back on to cover up the evidence. They sneak up to the big girls’ room and scatter the legos. They especially delight in pulling out books.


And they fight. One drops a sippy, and the other decides it’s theirs. In the middle of a heist, the three-year-old decides her conscience is bothering her and comes to tell. The baby grabs her ponytail and hangs on for dear life, while she is powerless to make him stop. He steals her baby doll and makes a break for it.

Yesterday, I went in the big girls’ room to find the baby causing destruction. I let go of the three-year-old’s hand to fix the problem, and when I turned around, she was gone. Next door, in the bathroom, she was painting with toothpaste. I put the baby down to clean her up, and when I turned back around, he had unwound the toilet paper.

I think, because I’ve had toddlers before, it’s not quite as troublesome to me as it might have been five years ago. I have a little bit of perspective. When the baby chases his sister out of the bathroom with the plunger, it’s pretty funny. But I’m human, too. After stunts like the one above, I’m ready to sit down with a girly movie and a bowl of ice cream. One day at a time.

On that note, have a wonderful weekend, everyone! May your toilet paper remain on the roll!

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When Mom Leaves: Attachment, Part 2

Last week, we looked a little at what mother/baby attachment is and how it happens. To continue that theme today, I want to look at what happens when that attachment process is interrupted.

We Americans tend to be very aware of attachment problems when it comes to children who don’t have parents. If we look at foreign orphans, for example, there are many resources for potential adoptive parents about the nature of attachment disorder and the types of work that will need to be done to help these children. We view these children as traumatized, and for good reason. These children have not received the crucial emotional love that they need to grow and thrive, and the consequences of this deprivation are devastating.  In extreme cases, children who do not receive human affection suffer physical consequences, to the point of death.

At home, though, we tend to think of children as being much more resilient.  The reality, though, is this: children who do not attach to a primary caregiver through time and physical touch will suffer emotionally.

With respect to children under two years of age, the evidence of researchers is unanimous; being separated from parents, and especially mothers, for an extended period of time on a regular basis seriously weakens the child’s attachment to his mother, and this weakened attachment results in damage to a child’s emotional and intellectual development. Children deprived of parental care in early childhood are likely to be withdrawn, disruptive, insecure, or even intellectually stunted. (Schwartz, 277)

Putting a baby under one year old in full or even part-time day care weakens their attachment to their mothers.

Group care at an early age dilutes or interrupts bonding to the parent without offering the possibility of an attachment to a surrogate parent. It is very likely that for infants and toddlers the interruption of this early process results on a long-standing emotional deficit. (Dreskin, 24)

If, as we saw last week, the attachment process happens only through a large quantity of time, it makes complete sense that children placed in regular daycare will have less of an attachment to their mothers. If attachment is about learning to trust another human being, that will not be achieved by maternal absence.  While some may argue that daycare providers can still instill trust in a child, the reality is that children are wired to attach to one single person in these early years, and being transferred from mother to any number of daycare providers will only undermine the trust that the mother/baby pair established in their first month or so together.

Most psychologists and psychoanalysts agree that a nonattached child or a child who has formed only a casual or diluted attachment with an adult is in serious danger. Rather than making the child stronger, this can lead to emotional disturbances and may decrease the child’s ability to form close or lasting relationships with other people throughout adult life. (Dreskin, 25)

In the modern day-care debate, I find that this information is almost never discussed. There are studies on the effects of weak attachments in infants, and yet the media does not ever reference this information. It is sad to me that when we’re dealing with something as important as the nurture of the next generation, some of the biggest facts are left out of the case. The debate over whether women can have it all never involves a discussion of whether children can have it all, or need it all. In fact, the needs of the children are never brought into the discussion except as a passing, “Oh, children are resilient.”

Though it has become politically correct to suggest that young children are infinitely resilient, the data do not support this. The fact remains that babies thrive when they have sensitive, responsive, and consistent mothering. And they fail to develop their full potential when they are deprived of maternal love. They need their mothers during their earliest years more than they need toys, socializing with other children, or the material comforts a second income will buy .(Hunter, 64)

The job we mothers have, in the early years of our children’s lives, absolutely cannot be farmed out. We are essential to their growth and development, and we must not let any political agenda ever tell us otherwise.


Part 1 I Part 2


Works Cited:

Schlafly, Phyllis, Ed. Who Will Rock the Cradle. Dallas: Word Publishing, 1990.
Schwartz, Michael. “Do We Want Government To Be Our Baby-Sitter?” Schlafly 269-288.
Dreskin, William and Wendy. The Day Care Decision. New York: M. Evans and Company, Inc., 1983.
Hunter, Brenda. Home by Choice. Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 1991.

Posted in For New Moms, Having It All, Importance of Mothers, Using Our Minds | Leave a comment
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