Keeping Little Ones in Worship: 4 Moms

moms of many manageWelcome to this weeks edition of 4 Moms, 35 Kids: How Moms of Many Manage.  This is the second post in The Large Family Goes to Church Series

Part 1: Getting a Large Family to Church on Time

Part 3: Choosing or Fitting into a Church

and we’re talking about keeping your little ones with you in worship.

One of the most frequently asked questions that our family gets in real life is, “How do you teach your children to be still and quiet during church?”

We aren’t teaching our children to sit still and be quiet during church. We are striving to teach our children to worship God to the best of their ability.

But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. John 4:23-24

When we began keeping our children in the worship service with us were brand new parents of one newborn baby and we didn’t know anyone else who kept babies in the worship service, we didn’t even know if it was possible.

And lest you think highly of us, we kept Amber with us because she was painfully shy and would have been miserable in a nursery.

However, as we sat in worship week after week with our infant, God began to reveal Himself to us through His Word and to challenge our assumptions about babies, toddlers, young children and church.

12Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, 13and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.” ~ Deut. 31:12-13

But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. ~Mark 10:14

Our reasons for keeping Amber with us in worship changed and it was no longer because it was easy or nice to be together as a family, but because we believed that Scripture taught that children should be partakers in corporate worship and that Jesus delights in the presence of children.

We believe that the act of worship is not for the one who is worshiping, but rather for the one who is being worshiped. So to have our children in the worship service, in the very presence of God eating a snack, playing with toys, drawing, coloring or in any other way purposely disengaged from worshiping God, no matter how quiet and non-disruptive they are does not further our goal. Since our goal is not still and quiet there are a lot of techniques for ‘still and quiet’ that we don’t employ.

Our goal is to disciple our children so that from the very first moment they are physically and mentally capable of worshiping God in spirit and in truth, they have the ability and the opportunity to do just that.

We do not want to train them to sit in the midst of a worship service by finding creative ways to distract them from that worship.

Just as education begins at birth and continues throughout our lives, so is learning to worship God in spirit and in truth. Each age and stage has it’s own challenge when it comes to learning how to worship.

  • Newborns: The goal is quiet. I generally nurse the newborn and hold them while they sleep.
  • Young babies: They learn to sit contentedly in my lap and not  ‘talk’ and babble. (We teach them, “no noise with your mouth”.) However, most of our 7-11 month old babies love singing with the rest of the congregation and this is something that we encourage.If the worship service falls during the child’s regular nap time we allow them to sleep in our arms. Once they give up the nap we encourage them to stay awake.
  • Toddlers: They learn to control those little bodies to follow along with the order of worship (stand when the congregation stands, kneel when the congregation kneels and pray when the congregation prays). They also learn to pay attention and begin to be able to answer questions about the worship service.One way we help our toddlers practice self-control over their bodies is to give them concrete instructions, so they know what is acceptable and what is not. We DO NOT say, “Sit still.” That might mean “Do not run around and jump off the backs of the pews.” to a two year old. We do say, “Fold your hands in your lap and look at pastor.”
  • Young children: They grow in their ability to listen, comprehend and apply God’s Word to their lives.Each Sunday on the way home from church Mark begins with the youngest verbal children and asks them about the worship service. Each child must tell him something that they heard during the service in order to have Sunday dessert. Our little one might say, “He talked about Paul.” and that would be sufficient, but we expect more as they get older.

Tips for training children to worship:

  • Set high expectations. The goal is worship, so set the expectations high and you may be surprised at your children’s capabilities.
  • Remember that they are children, they are not always going to be still and quiet, they are going to have bad days, they are going to get distracted and they are going to embarrass you.
  • It’s not about you,  it’s about the process.
  • Be considerate of others. Training our children to worship God is a high and important calling, but it shouldn’t be accomplished at the expense of others being able to hear and follow along with the service. I’m not talking about the occasional squeak or short cry, but if your child is being so loud that others around you cannot follow the sermon then please, please, please take them out.  The place for this type of training is family worship.
  • Sit in the front. Sitting in the front makes it easier for the children to see the pastor and less likely for them to be distracted by others.
  • Sit in the back. Depending upon where you and your children are in the learning process, sitting in the back may be a better option. 🙂
  • Find a supportive church. The National Center for Family-Integrated Churches is a good place to start.
  • Ask questions. Mark’s quizzing of the children on the way home from church is an important aspect of actually teaching them to listen and a good way to evaluate how plugged-in to the service they actually are.
  • Be consistent. Most of our younger children have needed little to no correction to learn how to behave in church simply because they watch their older siblings. So don’t get discouraged, your hard work will pay off.
  • Enjoy. Even though it’s not the purpose of keeping our children with us in worship, it is a beautiful benefit to be able to look down the row and see all those little profiles looking up at pastor and participating in worship.

I posted about some of the specific ways we train our children to sit through family and corporate worship.

I originally thought this would be two posts, so if I’ve left something out or you have questions feel free to ask or just visit the other moms of many to see if they already talked about it:
Smockity Frocks
Life in a Shoe
The Common Room

This post is part 2 in the 4 Moms series on church and large families:

Part 1: Getting a Large Family to Church on Time

Part 3: Choosing and Fitting into a Church


For more Moms of Many posts visit the 4 Moms page.

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36 Responses to Keeping Little Ones in Worship: 4 Moms
  1. Danielle
    April 21, 2011 | 9:53 am

    Thank you very much for these tips and for all of the 4 moms posting about this! We have a 4 yr old and a 11 month old right now and have not been able to attend service as a family since it is very difficult right now with the 2 of them. My husband and I have been trying to come up with ideas to be able to go together as a family again and these posts will help us tremendously! Thank you again!!


  2. Cheryl @Treasures from a Shoebox
    April 21, 2011 | 9:53 am

    Our children worship with us from birth (our church doesn’t have Sunday School, nursery, children’s church, or youth group). There are many little ones there with us (I joke about how “the Lord is gonna grow this church one way or another!”). When we have visitors, they usually remark about all the precious little ones in our congregation.

    We’ve never brought toys or coloring books or snacks, though we hadn’t really discussed it before. Thank you for putting the words to the reasoning.


  3. Vickie
    April 21, 2011 | 10:23 am

    We don’t have a nursery either. We totally believe in having the children, no matter the age, in worship with us. The Lord says “bring the little children unto me” that doesn’t mean put them in the nursery and have other adults having to miss services to babysit. We began taking our newborns the first Sunday after they were born. So they have learned from the very beginning what is expected of them. We have a liturgical services, the kids learn by listening and can follow along verbally at a very young age. Parents just don’t give them enough credit sometimes and use the kids as an excuse not to attend church.

    Great post and great topic for this meme.


  4. Celee
    April 21, 2011 | 11:08 am

    I’m so grateful to you and others who have encouraged me in this area. It has been such a blessing have our children worship with us in church. I try to start Sunday morning before we get in the car. We usually meet in the living room and have a very short time of prayer and usually recite one or two Psalms. Then in the car before we get there I remind them that while it’s wonderful to see their friends that the main reason we’re here is to worship the Lord (it takes frequent reminders for my kids).

    I really struggled with my 2 yr old daughter, but never gave up. She was easy until one yr then had trouble from 1-18 months then did fine until the baby came then struggled again (our church lasts an hour and a half so even the adults get restless by the end!!). It was so worth it last week when she repeated words to me that she heard her daddy saying during the sermon. These are the words she picked up on: gentle, donkey, tree (not sure where she got this), Walmart (illustration), Jesus died on the cross (the most important of all), refresh (as she made motions to brush her teeth). She listened, so it was a success in my book! Meanwhile, I’m having to train my mother in the process- every time I turn around she’s stuck a marker or piece of candy in one of my kids’ hands!

    I think having older kids take notes is so helpful. My 7 yr old is still working on this and my 5 yr old is excited to start trying.

    Thanks again for your help and encouragement!



  5. Sarah
    April 21, 2011 | 1:22 pm

    This is an interesting one. I’ve been debating back and forth what my stance truly is. I really like the idea of the family being together in service. Yet, I feel our kids get a lot out of being in the children’s worship. My youngest (not quite two) was terrible shy and anxious, so we started with him sitting with us (which he did and enjoyed,) but once we started him in his “classroom”, he started to come out of his shell in other places, so we’ve felt it is good for him.
    Do you feel like your kids miss out at all by not worshipping with same-aged peers at church? I’m just curious, because I really debate all the time!


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Hi Sarah,

    Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

    You ask, “Do you feel like your kids miss out at all by not worshiping with same-aged peers at church?”

    First, as I stated in my post, worship isn’t about us or what we get out of it, it’s about worshiping God. It’s not about what we feel is good for us (or our children), it’s about honoring, glorifying and worshiping God. When the standard for worship is pleasing self and doing what we want to do, we are no longer worshiping God, we are simply serving self and serving self is idolatry.

    Since the purpose of worship is to please God it must be governed by His Word. In other words we believe that Christians are required to worship God the way that He commands us to worship Him. (Kinda obvious, right? We should obey God even when it comes to worship. 🙂 )

    The beautiful thing about obedience is that God pours out His blessings upon us and we are more blessed than we ever will be when we seek after our own pleasure.

    So with those two principles in place it is irrelevant whether we think our children (or us for that matter) would be happier, are missing out, or whatever. The standard is worshiping God according to His Word and nowhere in Scripture do we see a command for anyone to worship with their same-aged peers. We do however see specific commands and oft repeated patterns of worshiping together as families.

    Scripture must be our standard. I encourage you to go to God’s Word as you debate this issue and not to your feelings or experiences. We are still learning in this area so if you find something in the Bible that contradicts anything I’ve said, we’d love for you to share it with us.

    May God grant you His wisdom as you seek after His will.


    Brieana @ The Living Well Reply:


    I love your blog and have received so much from it! I think the way you and your husband are raising your children is exemplary and I’ve learned a lot from reading your posts on parenting.

    Sadly, as the wife of a children’s pastor, I’m a little offended at your comment here. While we do provide a nursery and children’s classes at our church we have no problem with parents who want to take their children to service with them and worship as a family. In fact, we are pushing to have occasional services during which the children remain in worship. This isn’t very popular in the culture we’re in, but we’re taking steps to change that.

    That said, I strongly believe that children can worship in children’s church. You said “worship isn’t about us or what we get out of it, it’s about worshiping God. It’s not about what we feel is good for us (or our children), it’s about honoring, glorifying and worshiping God. When the standard for worship is pleasing self and doing what we want to do, we are no longer worshiping God, we are simply serving self and serving self is idolatry.” This implies that children cannot or do not honor, glorify or worship God in children’s church and that taking children to their own class is about serving ourselves. In some cases that might be true – parents want to be free from their kids for a while, but I find this is rarely the case. And while the kids are there, they do worship. They read their Bibles. They pray. They lay hands. They see Jesus in their teachers.

    Your statement here; “Since the purpose of worship is to please God it must be governed by His Word. In other words we believe that Christians are required to worship God the way that He commands us to worship Him. (Kinda obvious, right? We should obey God even when it comes to worship.” could almost be taken to mean that sending our children to children’s church is disobedient and doesn’t please God.

    I agree that the Bible teaches the importance of family worship, but I can find nothing that forbids them from being taught the Bible alongside children their own age. I don’t think you meant to offend in this post, and I absolutely don’t harbor ANY ill feelings toward you, but I have noticed from many families who worship together as yours does a certain disregard or disdain for those who put their kids into children’s church. I only want to point out that worship can and does happen in children’s church.

    I hope this comes across as it was intended – with gentleness and love and not haughtily. I certainly am still learning myself.

    Thank you again for your wonderful blog and all the Godly wisdom about parenting you’ve blessed us all with!


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:


    Your comment came across beautifully. Thank you.

    I actually do not think that we disagree very much, but I do think that you have misinterpreted my response.

    First keep in mind the question I was asked,

    Do you feel like your kids miss out at all by not worshiping with same-aged peers at church?

    This is a question about a principle of worship being decided based on human feelings. The singular goal of my response was to point toward Scripture as our authority. At the very end of my comment is the only place where I speak at all about the specific issue of children and age-segregated peer groups.

    I said,

    worship isn’t about us or what we get out of it, it’s about worshiping God. It’s not about what we feel is good for us (or our children), it’s about honoring, glorifying and worshiping God. When the standard for worship is pleasing self and doing what we want to do, we are no longer worshiping God, we are simply serving self and serving self is idolatry.

    I’m not implying ANYTHING about ANY specific practice of worship but rather discussing the purpose of worship. Do you believe the purpose of worship is to honor God or to please self? (I think we agree 🙂 )

    Having established the purpose of worship, I then point out the standard for worship, in my opinion God’s Word. Please re-read what I say. Once again, I’m not talking at all about any specific practice, just about what our standard should be. I think that we agree that God’s Word is the standard for HOW we should worship Him.

    Please allow me to clarify two things. I would never say or imply that children in an age segregated group cannot worship God in spirit and in truth because I simply do not believe that because there is absolutely no biblical basis for it.

    I also do not believe that sending your children to children’s church or a nursery is sinful, providing their is not a sinful motivation for that action.

    Interesting that the one point where we seem to disagree slightly is the one section you didn’t take issue with in your comment,

    So with those two principles in place it is irrelevant whether we think our children (or us for that matter) would be happier, are missing out, or whatever. The standard is worshiping God according to His Word and nowhere in Scripture do we see a command for anyone to worship with their same-aged peers. We do however see specific commands and oft repeated patterns of worshiping together as families.

    Notice that I’m still mostly dealing with the standard upon which the decision should be made.

    We probably disagree a bit on this point (and that’s quite alright).

    Our position is that to the best of our ability, each and every aspect of worship should be as close to God’s revealed pattern and form as possible and that simply because He hasn’t forbidden something does not mean that it should be part of His worship service.

    Lev. 10:1 gives an example of what I’m talking about

    Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.

    God had not forbidden this fire, it was just “not commanded”. (Lest I be misunderstood again, I’m NOT saying that sending your children to the nursery is on the same level as what Nadab and Abihu did 🙂 )

    We believe that having our children in the worship service with us, most closely follows the patterns laid out for us in God’s Word and so that is how we choose to worship. And when we have visitors at church with small children we try to make sure that one of our girls offers to sit in the nursery with the children if the parents wish. 🙂


    Brieana @ The Living Well Reply:


    Thank you so much for your gracious reply! I think you are right that we agree more than we disagree – and we probably agree more than you think since in all honesty I would love to be part of a family integrated church. Thank you for the clarity, it was exactly what I was looking for. Sadly there was another discussion on this topic (FIC vs. not) on another blog that was very pointedly against children leaving their parents during service, even saying that parents who do so were less Godly and not parenting correctly. That was the prism I read your comment through. I am satisfied that you were not coming from the same place of judgement those women seemed to be speaking from, but I’m sorry I questioned your intent at all.

    Just to be clear, I thought your original post was excellent.

    Thank you so much!


    Amy Reply:

    I know for us at our church, the children’s church from age 4 and up are in children’s classes for about 30 to 45 minutes while the adults have a special class on a speciall topic fo the month type thing then we all go and pick our children up and return for the actual Sermon part of the program. My 2 year old stays in class however on special holidays like Easter and Mother’s Day all the children are in service and it’s shortened slightly.


  6. Elizabeth
    April 21, 2011 | 1:25 pm

    I agree with everything you’ve written. It’s not always easy to worship with one’s children, but through practice it does become a special family time… and it pleases God. I do want to point out that not everyone worships with their entire family need to do so in a family-integrated church. (This isn’t directed at you, Kimberly, but for other readers.) For some churches, a culture of children leaving the worship service for Sunday school is very ingrained and many families can’t conceive of anything else. Instead of leaving our church for one where we wouldn’t be in the minority, we have been working to change the culture from within. Through prayer and the example of several families, we are now moving toward a model where children will begin to worship with their families for the entire service. I really just want to offer hope to others who may be in the same situation we have been. Here is a link to an article I wrote for our church’s newsletter as we work toward families worshiping together:


    Emily Blaisdell Reply:

    Wonderful post, Kimberly. In my experience, children do rise to the expectations that we have of them.:)

    Vickie, I appreciate your thoughts.

    Elizabeth,I appreciate your input. Our family doesn’t worship in a FIC either. Although, we do keep our children with us during service. I like that your working to change the culture from within. I honestly believe that some have never even considered the concept of children in worship service.


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Excellent point Elizabeth. As a matter of fact I debated whether to put that in there at all. We do not believe that people should leave an otherwise biblically solid church simply because it is not family integrated. I may have to change the wording in my post!

    While we’ve never been in a church that was opposed to family integration, when we began keeping our newborns and infants in the worship with us we were the only ones who did that. Now however, it is common practice in that church.

    Thanks for being willing to be used by God right where you are and thanks again for the very appropriate reminder.


  7. Eva
    April 21, 2011 | 2:55 pm

    I have really enjoyed all the posts today on the topic, but I really identify with your goal! My husband is the preacher, so I am often doing the training by myself, but it has been such a blessing. One thing that I love is that my husband generally preaches verse by verse, so with our older ones they are memorizing verses with in the next possible section and we even spend time looking up related verses during our daily Bible class. I love when their eyes light up because they recognize a verse or story referred to in the sermon. This has really helped their notes. Since my DH is the pastor and can’t help during the sermon, he collects their notes each week and then talks with them about them either on Sunday or Monday. This has really helped the girls to be more specific and pay closer attention.


  8. Stacie
    April 21, 2011 | 3:35 pm

    I like this post.

    I grew up in a church where there was no nursery. My mother didn’t believe in crackers and books to get by, either. We sat with her and we had to pay attention. Period.

    With my own children, they’ve always sat with me. My church does provide a nursery and children’s church, but we have never thought to put them there. My husband and I believe that they are able to worship and sit with us in the sanctuary. You have given me some things to think about though. . . the reason why we’re all together, the distractions from participating. . .right now, I’ve told my children they can have bibles and Bible story books for church only. But I’m wondering how engaged they are in actual worship. . .especially during the sermon.

    Thanks for this post!


  9. Rhoda
    April 21, 2011 | 3:45 pm

    This is a great topic and something I’ve been struggleing with. Our oldest daughter (9) is required to sit in church with us. We do allow her to take notes, but she isn’t allowed to draw or write about things that don’t pertain to the sermon. However our son (4) but with some servere mental disabilities and baby 13 mo. do go to childrens church/nursey. (this is where I’m having troubles.) Up until about 3 months ago, the baby stayed with us, but was starting to cause alot of distraction and other ladies encouraged me to put her in the nursery. ( I do like it that I now get to enjoy the service, but I really feel guilty about not keeping her with us. (and reading this post almost gives me the courage to take her back out and keep her with me. Now, for our son…. He isn’t capeable of sitting still and doesn’t comprehend the word quiet. (he’s 4 but is about a 18 mo. age level) He will ask the same thing all day….even though the answer is always the same and it may be like that for a few days or weeks. But it is constant (sometimes even every 3-5 min. all day.) He does like to be with the other kids his age even though he doesn’t talk, sing, answer questions or color ect.
    I was raised in a conservitive church. Us kids had a sort s.s. lesson and then sat with everyone else in church or the sermon. We go to an Independent Baptist Church and while most of the other families do homeschool, when it comes to alot of other things, we are the only ones who choose to be more stict on some subjects. There doesn’t seem to be any family intergrated churches close to us. I’d love to hear your feedback. Thanks again!


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:


    I think when it comes to questions about specific children, God gives the wisdom to the parents. Ask your husband, read God’s Word, pray for guidance and use your knowledge of your child to make your decision in accordance to the Word of God.

    May God grant you wisdom as you parent your children for His glory!


  10. Sarah
    April 21, 2011 | 4:20 pm

    Thanks for the response, Kim! I hope it didn’t come across that I was implying your kids are missing something, or that I even disagree with you on this subject. I really, truly, have been going back on forth on this for some time, so just was curious as to your thoughts on what I’ve been debating within myself for some time.
    I think Elizabeth says it well (below); it helps if the church itself is welcoming to children staying in the service, versus being “strongly encouraged” to head into the children’s church. (In our church, it is common for the older elementary kids to remain with the adults for praise and worship, then head out directly following. The younger kids- mine are all under 4- start and finish in their own classrooms, as encouraged in our church bulletin.)
    Anyway, thanks, you’ve given me more to ponder! 🙂


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Not at all. I simply hope to point to Scripture as our standard and the wonderful thing about this is that God promises to give wisdom to those who ask. I’m so very thankful for that!


    Elizabeth Reply:

    Sarah–Our church has also had the children begin in the worship service and then leave after the worship music and before the Scripture reading and sermon (and communion on the days it is served). I’ve watched this model for years, though we haven’t participated in it, and sadly what it seems to communicate to children very well, is that the ‘entertaining’ parts of the service are OK for them, but the long, ‘dull’ parts, have nothing to say to them. The expectation is that when the children are older, say Jr. High or High School, the children will be ready to stay in the service the entire time. The trouble is they don’t. There are very few adolescents sitting in our worship services, instead of choosing to opt in to the entire service, they choose to opt out completely.

    I think this is one of the things that has finally awakened our church’s leadership to the fact that we need a change. It looks as though we’ll be moving to a format which moves education for everyone to in between the two services with the expectation that families will stay together for the entire worship service. I can’t tell you how huge this is for our church and how excited and thankful I am about this change.


    Lynn Reply:

    Elizabeth-this choice of opting out completely is one I’ve seen in my church as well and is one that I don’t understand at all! I want to ask the parents “who gives these kids the option to opt out????” It happens more with the high schoolers in our church who drive themselves to Sunday school & don’t stay for the service that follows. This was not an option for me as a child (and shouldn’t be for any kids now!) Maybe changing the format to not have Sunday school and church at the same time will help with this problem but there seems to be a bigger issue present when parents allow children to make decisions such as “opting out” while still living under their roof.


    Elizabeth Reply:

    Oh, I completely agree! It is so much more than just when they go to Sunday school. But I can’t help thinking that at some small level, the problem is exacerbated by the parental idea that discipleship is something someone else does for your children. If parents have to take back on that role, it might have bigger pay-offs down the line as well.


    Lynn Reply:

    I do see the value in this. We have an 8, 9:15 and 11am service with SS at 9:30am. A lot of families attend the 9:15am service and the kids remain in worship until the children’s sermon and then all go off to SS together at 9:30. In today’s busy world I see this as multi-tasking (not necessarily in a good way) where the parents can have the children get in their SS lesson while they do church all in the same hour and “be done with it” (which means parents aren’t taking advantage of some wonderful studies we have going on in adult SS or the fellowship opportunities with other believers and children aren’t attending a full worship service.) Don’t get me wrong-we have a lot of wonderful families who end up attending 2-3 services because of their faithful participation in different ways during each service.

    We put our child into the nursery from a young age (and have been praised for doing so at our church!) 🙂 but these posts are causing me to rethink all of this. It’s a little daunting to attempt to get my wriggly 19 mo. old to sit still in a church service but we’re starting to see the value of having a child learn this skill (as it’s needed in places besides church as well.)

    The direction your church is going would be something interesting to propose at our church as well. . . .


    Mary Reply:

    I am really enjoying reading this article and all of the responses, but I did have one thing to add to this comment. I think some of the problem is that parents have decided that once a child becomes a teen then the parents just have to let them “do it their own way” or that they are too old to be disciplined/taught. I really don’t recall reading anything about teenagers anywhere in the Bible. There are children and adults. If your child is not an adult, then they are still a child according to the Bible and should still be directed as such.

    Just a point that was made to me not too long ago and thought I would share.


  11. Ashley
    April 21, 2011 | 9:23 pm

    I am always intrigued by discussions on this topic. Coming from the LDS (“Mormon”) church, we worship as a family in all of our wards (congregations) throughout the world! We have weekly worship services broken up into 3 different “hours” (3 hours! I know!). Families first meet all together with the rest of the ward where we have our Sacrament services and have speakers from the ward speak on different topics using the scriptures and modern revelation.
    We LOVE that we have our little guy with us and I am saddened that others don’t get to see the look on their little one’s faces as they lean over to repeat “Jesus” or watch them folding their arms sweetly during prayers.
    The second hour is devoted to Sunday School with a lesson from the scriptures. We then go to the third hour which is for the men and women individually to learn additional gospel principles (usually the same, just geared toward the different gender needs). During these 2 hours, children 3-12 are in primary, 18mo-3yrs are in nursery and our youth 12-18 are in their respective Young Men and Womens. All are learning about the gospel in a way that helps them remember and really feel the spirit.
    I love the variety and great opportiunities that this offers! I love hearing that others also enjoy worshiping with their little ones. Thanks for the topic!


  12. Gabe
    April 22, 2011 | 6:29 pm

    Great post! This is something our family was convicted to do just a couple of years ago, though we had done it off an on for a few years before (not quite out of conviction but noticing we enjoyed having our kids with us! ).

    One thing that has helped me train the little ones was to pick a time during the day, outside of family worship time, to train to sit still and quietly. This starts when the baby is 4-6 months old (when they start to get more active and are not so content to just cuddle anymore). I try to remember to do it daily for a couple of months, after that our daily family worship time as well as other opportunities in a regular day provide enough consistency.


  13. Nicki
    April 23, 2011 | 5:52 pm

    Thanks for telling it like it is. We have long had the rule that “we don’t sleep in church.” My 5 year old has a hard time comprehending staying still without falling asleep, but he’s working on it. : )

    And sitting at the back is the best option for us. : ) I’m usually in an all-fired hurry to snag the very back row for our family. At this stage, we are a distraction, to say the least.

    I appreciate your ability to share a higher standard and do it so well.


  14. Christina
    April 24, 2011 | 10:11 am

    Wonderful post, but I must say I am a little confused. I attend a Catholic church and every church I have ever been to has children of all ages in attendence. Occasionally there is a cry room for infants (not a nursery–there is no one there to watch your child for you), but even these aren’t that common. Are there some denominations that do not favor/allow children to be part of the service? I have heard of a child’s service, to explain the Gospel in a more child friendly manner (usually for children under the age of 7 or 8), but I have never heard of removing the children from the service completely or discouraging families from sitting together.
    I do wholeheartedly agree with this post though that I think families worshipping together is beautiful and that toys and snacks should be avoided at all costs (and if they must be brought they should be religious themed books and toys). Thanks for this wonderful blog, I am learning so about how I want to raise my children, when I am hopefully blessed enough to have them.


  15. Michelle
    April 25, 2011 | 4:29 am

    Do you have a camera in my house? We are working on this. We just moved to singapore….just 6 months ago…so maybe not JUST. Nonetheless we did JUST find a church. SO it’s back to training. We had a good rhythm down before we moved but it’s like starting over.

    I’m going to go back and read all the comments as I’m sure my questions have been asked and answered.

    But while I have you captive…do you mind telling me (in blog format is great…LOL) how you manage afternoon rest/quiet times? I’m at an en passe and going nuts here. Seriously need some suggestions.


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Hi Michelle,

    I’d love to write a post on this, but finding time is challenging right now, so I’ll give you a few quick thoughts here.

    We’ve always had afternoon quiet time. Most of our children have napped well into their 4th or 5th year. When they stop sleeping during that time, they are required to read a book quietly.

    Quiet time is a minimum of one hour each day. It seems that as we’ve added children we’ve gone through times when not everyone was sleeping/quiet at the same time, but we just kept trying to work toward that goal.

    As much as possible I try to put sleeping kids in separate rooms so that they don’t keep or wake each other up. I’ll let someone sleep in my bedroom and someone use the living room or family room. It hasn’t always worked but everyone gets more rest if we set it up that way.

    I’ll also add this to our list of possible topics for the 4 moms! If you have more specific questions, just ask.


  16. Aimee
    April 25, 2011 | 12:57 pm

    What an incredibly timely post, Kimberly. We recently moved and when we began going to our new church we made the decision to keep our 3 year old in service with us. It has been such a blessing and has reminded me of my growing up years in a small church that believed children should be in the chapel with the parents.

    I will admit to feeling conflicted about our son (14 months) who currently stays in the nursery. There was a family in my home church growing up that had very poorly behaved children. I don’t say this to be judgmental but to set context. The children screamed so loudly that you oftenttimes couldn’t even hear the preacher. This family happened to sit directly in front of mine.

    I really believe that their behavior (and the parents failure to intervene) impeded the learning and worship of the rest of us. That said, we do believe in discipline and wouldn’t allow our children to behave that way in service (or elsewhere!) but I’ve been very reticent to keep our son in service until he’s a bit older for fear he would distract others.


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Hi Aimee,

    Here are my two cents. 🙂 We’ve also been in worship services where children were very loud and were not taken out. We literally could not hear ANYTHING the pastor was saying for minutes at a time because of screaming behind us. I think that is rather inconsiderate and is not the way to teach children to worship God.

    That said, there have been times when I’m sure that our children have been a distraction to others. I think this is a balance. If parents are thoughtful of those around them and diligent to teach and train their children to worship God AND if congregants are understanding of parents and children working toward a goal of worship, it all works out beautifully.


  17. Heather
    April 26, 2011 | 12:21 pm

    One of my boys likes to dance in the aisles and visit with others during service. My husband is often mortified but as long as he’s not too disruptive I allow it. I think that it’s his way of sharing the joy of God ~ and it’s a great icebreaker and way to meet new people.

    Thanks for visiting my blog and sharing your rain gutter book shelves! Definately a top consideration and perfect for our little nook because they aren’t very deep. Isn’t Cheri great?!?! You’ll have to really browse around awhile because she has tons of fab, older projects too! Have a great day!


  18. Janna Wiersma
    April 26, 2011 | 9:45 pm

    I am so thankful for your wisdom! We started keeping our children with us two years ago, and while the training has been challenging at times, it is so worth it! We have recently left our former church to begin a church plant, and between that and bouts with two pretty sever illnesses, we missed about 6 weeks of church. So, we are now in training mode again. I made the mistake of letting my children have things to occupy them in the service several weeks ago, and it won’t be happening any more. Thank you for putting belief/conviction behind your choices. I have never looked at it from the perspective that them having notebooks/coloring books (even if they are Bible based) really distracts them from the true purpose of our service – to worship!


  19. Davita
    May 6, 2011 | 1:01 am

    I like the concept of this article; but I am curious how long your services are? Ours usually run about 3 to 3.5 hours. Do you think this concept would still work for a 2 and 3 year old under that time span? Thank you so much for your writings.


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Absolutely! Our family recently attended a conference. There were three hours of lectures the first day and 6 hours the second day. Our youngest children were 6 months, 2, 4 and 5 years old and did fantastic.

    For the first 9 years of parenting our morning services were 2 1/2 to 3 hours and evening services were an hour and a half. Currently our services last about an hour and a half to two hours.

    But really our standard is the Bible and Joshua 8 says,

    There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them.

    The first five books of the Bible are the Pentateuch or the Law and it takes very long time to read through those.


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