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.