One Year Olds And Church

If you have read my blog for more than a week or have known me for about as long, you know that we are a regular church attending family. In general it takes a lot to keep all of us home.

One thing I have never talked about here, but have pretty strong feelings about nonetheless is kids and behavior in church. Since I have another point to my post (which I'll get to in a minute) I will only summarize how I feel about these topics, but I think you will get the general idea. I believe kids belong in church with their parents, learning as a part of the community. Along those lines, I do not believe kids should be entertained with toys and food, I believe they should be paying attention and learning the liturgies, hymns, & prayers.

This can be a lofty goal when almost every church has those convenient little bags of fun things to do and almost all of the other small (and not so small) children in church are spending church sitting on the floor playing with said convenient little bags. Or having a snack. Or something else that doesn't look like paying attention. I have nothing against those things if it is what other parents choose to use, but it is not for us. It does not line up with what I want my children to be learning from the relatively short amount of time we spend in church each week. We are not there to be entertained, we are there to worship and to learn.

I think we've done a decent job of this with our boys. They know we aren't going to get one of the special bags and have stopped asking. We don't bring food or our own books (other than a Children's Bible if they would like). They are expected to sit quietly on the pew (not the floor) and either follow along with the service, or draw quietly on the back of a bulletin or complete a children's bulletin. Although we have occasional regressions (especially if we have missed more than 1 week of church or someone isn't feeling well or is overtired), for the most part the boys do fairly well with this.

There is a flaw in my thinking, however.   One year olds.  Any quiet toy is made into a noisy toy. Every  book needs to be read.  Too distracted to nurse that long.   Church no longer lines up with nap time.  Not to mention, sitting still for an hour is really pushing their limits.  If I'm being honest, with both of the boys, I tried it for awhile and eventually gave up and put them in the nursery until they were 2 and more trainable (for lack of a better word).

After church today, and seeing the regression in the boys' behavior that comes with mom and dad being distracted by Kylee, I'm leaning towards the nursery again.  (By the way, Tim says I'm not leaning...if the nursery is staffed again next week she's going!)  Tim and I have not both sat through a sermon in the last month.  With Kylee climbing around and chattering away, Caleb just can't resist doing the same thing.  At three, I understand that its hard for him to focus when someone else isn't.  I really don't fault him for it, but it doesn't change my expectation and that is creating some tension between him and me during church, which isn't good either.

It's one year of a flaw in my plan.  I still wish I had another solution.  SO since I'm fairly certain that 99.99% of people who read this blog have children and most (if not all) of those same readers attend church or worship of another variety with their families, I expect a lot of comments on this post! 

I need ideas, encouragement, suggestions, anything really.   

What are/were your expectations for little ones?  What do you do to initially train your children to sit in church?  Do you use the church nursery?  If so, when and how much?  Have you ever had a child who didn't agree to go to the nursery (Kylee is not used to separating from us)?  How do you continue to meet your own worship needs?

Most of all, what would you do with this innocent little face?


Rachel said...

We agree wholeheartedly that children should be kept with their parents in the church service, and yet, I'm the nursery coordinator and the person who organizes those fun little bags. (It was a ministry that I felt I could handle when I took it on, not necessarily one I believe in completely as I don't like to force my child to separate from me if he doesn't want to). Our church bulletin states every week that children are welcome in the worship service and there is a nursery for those under the age of two. So, with that stated, I don't feel like I need to haul my kid out of the service for the slightest noise, but at times, it's necessary and definitely in the 1-2 year range. We allow Elijah to get a "fun bag" for the service, but Ethan has been told he is too old. We encourage him to bring a composition book and write or draw a picture about the sermon/service. During the difficult age of 1-2 I usually end up moving around just outside the sanctuary or going to the nursery with my child (both places I can still hear the sermon, though I admit it's much harder to get everything out of it.) At about 18 months we start working on sitting still, usually just outside the sanctuary on a bench. This involves doing whatever (toys, snacks) to just concentrate on sitting still during the sermon. Once that is accomplished then we stop snacks and bring the child into service with us. This has worked fairly well so far. My only complaint is that thus far, the majority of the parenting falls on me during church. We'll have to work on that this next baby!

The Sunshine Crew said...

We give into the bags concept, but I do at least make them a religious theme...we bring things related to bible stories, such as Jonah and the Whale, Noah's Ark, or simple board books with prayers or the like...
The bags mostly contain books, although if I have a finger puppet that ties in with the them of the bag, I throw those in too.
No food or drinks, though.
My older son is old enough to attend Sunday School class and my little one is the right age for the nursery, but they are both shy and so it just works better for them and for us to have them come and participate as much as they can and then, if they need a little something that is more concrete, they pull something out of the bag.
One of the other things we have is a little is to remind them to be as quiet as a little mouse.
I used to use the mice when I taught school and now, I use them in our homeschool and for church.
the mouse thing works well, as it is a nice reminder without having to go beyond that.
Truth be told though, we often went as tag teams when ours were younger, as it just got to be such a challenge, but now that they are a little older, (3 and 5), it is easier.
Best wishes that things will get better for you with your little sweetie at church!

Rachel said...

FYI - I have been trying to watch the video you made in your last post, but haven't been successful with it yet, but I keep trying. First time it wouldn't start and this time, it's not even showing up.

Heidi said...

I just wanted to add/clarify that I don't have a problem with the bags. They just aren't for us. I had a coworker back in the day who wouldn't take her child to church at all because he couldn't sit still. I would much rather kids be in church and playing than not there at all!

Mommy Missionary said...

My husband is a pastor and we have 5 kids. I've had a lot of bad days sitting through church with them. Especially when I had to step out and nurse one. We sit in the front row so he can sit with us at times. A few years ago I realized that I was more worried about my kids sitting quietly so I would look good or they would be "good" kids. I still expect them to sit quietly but it's more about teaching them to worship. Learning that church is a special time to worship God with our church family. But a one year old probably can't learn that yet. We meet outside in the summer and have no nursery so I haven't heard a sermon all summer. I can listen to them online. It seems like your approach to putting the little one in the nursery and help your older ones is a good idea.

Here's something I wrote a while ago about church with kids

Blessings as you raise your kids!

Melanie said...

This is an interesting conversation...I pretty much agree with what's being said here. We've usually taken our 1-2 yr olds to the nursery, otherwise I end up in the foyer with them. Not because I expect them to sit still, but because I think it's my responsibility as a parent to not let my children distract others from worshiping. After that age, they are expected to participate in the first part of worship, which is singing and praying, but during announcements or the sermon, they are allowed to read or draw. With my 4 yr old, since we are at a different church with new songs he's not always familiar with, he doesn't always sing and draws/reads instead. Again, I want them to be a part of our worship, and I also want them to show respect for others who are worshiping by not being a distraction.

BUT, although I want to teach them to be reverent and worshipful, I also try to not get too worked up about things because I don't believe that it is our "participation" or "behavior" in the formal worship assembly that pleases God so much as our daily offerings and praises to Him. So I try to check my own motivations often, and I (personally, not putting that on you at all!) usually find that when I am frustrated with my children and their behavior, it is not so much that their behavior is dishonoring God, it is that their behavior is embarrassing me! Am I being prideful about my children being better behaved than other children? Or am I looking at the big picture and what truly pleases God?

SO, ALL OF THAT TO SAY: Balance, it's almost always about balance :) Looking forward to hearing what others have to say.

(P.S. I tried to state clearly what my purpose is in having them at church--other than because it is where my husband and I choose to be--and I'm having a difficult time defining exactly what I expect them to gain/give from being've made me really think!)

The Bergers said...

This is what works for our family so far (but we have only one child and I am certainly no expert): I take our daughter to the nursery. She is 2. She is definitely at the age where she can learn to sit still, but only in shorts spans of time, not for all of our church service. I feel that if I get the message of the sermon (something she couldn't understand, and even once she did wouldn't be able to relate to for many many years. I remember sitting in church when I was 10 or 11 and thinking 'WHAT on earth is this old man talking about?!' Sermons are not geared to comprehension by young children) Ok sory, off topic. Where was I? Oh, I feel that if I get the message of the sermon and can include it in my life, then she will learn much more by my example. Once she is a little older we'll take her in with us. We are Catholic so there is a lot of ritual that I want her to learn and be a part of. But even though she doesn't sit with us in church every time and see it, we practice it a lot at home, read bible stories, pray together etc. (I also run and get her from the nursery when we are praying and waiting to receive communion so she can go through the line with us and be blessed by the Priest or one of the Eucharistic ministers.) To me learning and finding yourself in religion, like anything else, must be based on their age and realistic expectations of them. I don't think God will think any less of you, or your babies, for not having all of your children with you in the pew :) God Bless! I hope you all find what works for you!

Susan said...

I agree with kids in service. I have friends that won't have their 8 and 10 year old in service with them!

However, I think that 1 year olds are too young to learn how to sit still and be quiet.

We chose the age of 3 for sitting through the sermon. IF your nursery is near you could run the child to the nursery right before the sermon and have the best of both worlds.

Our daughters sit with e pencil and the children's bulletin. My 7 year old has learn the Lord's PRayer and many of our response songs from being a part of service.

I have to say that I am usually with my family for service - becaus eI sing in the choir so my husband has set expectations. His are a little less than mine. I sat with them yesterday and had to tap my 7 year old to get her to realize we were praying and to put down her pencil. I wish he would do that but I don't think he does.

BTW - I read your post about Kenna's birthday. (((hugs))) I have also lost a child and while I don't take a week off (I am a SAHM) the birthday is a hard, hard day.

Susan said...

ack - in my previous comment I was trying to say I am usually NOT with my family in service.

Lisa said...

I personally put my kids in the nuresery as soon as they become a distraction to anyone. I don't think they can get anything out of it at this age. But they start attending sunday school during our service at 3 years old. To me this makes more sense than trying to make them sit and be quiet through a service. I don't think they can get much out of a sermon written for adults but they get a LOT out of Sunday School. but that's just our plan. they will begin attending service when they get to middle school.

Mike and Katie said...

practice at home. we used to hold our two-year-old thrashing on our lap while watching the news on tv saying, 'we're practicing for church.'

that worked for us at the catholic church were the sermons were shorter and not over lunchtime.

over this last year, i would leave and sit just outside the sanctuary and feed her lunch. i always heard most of the sermon and could put amanda right in bed when we got home.

check back with me in a few months when i'm figuring out how to manage a 2 1/2 year-old, a seven-month old and a newborn.

At that point i don't expect to be getting much out of church other than to simply bless our small, mostly elderly congregation with our sweet babes.

jenny said...

We believe the same, although witht the younger ones we will give them something to draw on. When they are over 5 they are expected to sit and ours are an hour long.

My Boys' Teacher said...

The best post on this topic that I know of is by Barb over at Mommy Life.

She has A LOT of experience with this. Now, whether or not that applies to 1 yr olds I'll leave to you. You might want to poke around her blog a little bit. She might have more specific advice for younger children.

Another good post on this topic is by Kendra at Preschoolers and Peace:

Again, a LOT of experience. And, it sounds like they go to the nursery under the age of two ;)

Melissa said...

Oh is your little one a cutie!!

I have a 14 month old and have only taken her to the worship service if she is sick (with a cold; not something major). My daughter is very busy and does not sit still because she is too interested in exploring. She is not usually very loud, but she won't stay on the pew and would be distracting to other worshippers with her movement.

We are very fortunate that we go to a church in which the nursery is always staffed. When they are under 2, there is no Bible lesson during church. However, there are caring people who love on the babies. When they promote to the 2year old class, the kids begin to receive Bible lessons in a format that is age appropriate. By the time they are 4, they go to children's church as well. Since our little one is still so young, we drop her off in the nursery. I don't know what we will do when she's a little older, but for now, the nursery works for us.

As far as the separation anxiety goes, perhaps you could start off leaving her only for a short time like only 15 minutes. This way she'll see that you'll be back to pick her up shortly. Then you could gradually increase the time she is left there until she is fine the entire time?

lilpeasinmypodfrom~God said...

Heidi, you know I often do church alone because of Nates profession. That being said, I beleive the place for children is with mommy and Daddy in church if at all possible. I do not expect my kids to sit for over an hour service though without Bible coloring books or something to read quietly. Its always something Godly or I wont bring it to church. Even if you dont expect as much out of them, its better for them to see you modeling the appropriate behavior sitting in a pew and eventually(with age) they will follow suit. Kayla is almost 9, Wyatt almost 8 and Everett 6 and they really sit perfectly without coloring or anything. Tanner 4.5 and Kenna 2, however, do not:) but they color and yes, play on the floor. The important thing is though, they are watching all these role models of good church behavior.