And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children.
– Isaiah 54:13
It’s fifteen minutes to ten, I’m scrambling around the house to find my grey cardigan. The baby’s bottle hasn’t been filled, my oldest can’t find her other shoe, and my middle child is refusing to finish her breakfast. It’s complete chaos! We finally make our way into the church, we’re twenty minutes late, but phew no one has seemed to notice. Now, I’m just hoping that we can make it through the rest of it without our brood disrupting the whole place.
I know exactly how stressful it can be to try to get through a service at church when you have a bunch of littles to keep quiet. As soon as one settles down, the other one starts jumping around, and as soon as you get that one to put their little butt in the seat, the baby starts yelling. It’s exhausting! You’re desperate for a moment of peace to enter in to worship, but the second you close your eyes, ARG! They start up the crazy all over again!
When my oldest daughter first began being a handful in church, I was definitely tempted to find a quick fix.. I thought about bringing toys.. coloring books.. candy?.. anything to keep her quiet! I would see all of the other parent’s bringing a big bag full of activities for their kids, so it just seemed like the normal thing to do. But every time I would begin to pack my purse with toys, I would always feel the need to stop.
Growing up I don’t ever remember having stuff to entertain us when we were in a situation where we needed to sit quietly.
To be honest, I think in our society we tend to have this idea that expecting a child to sit without any distractions is just unreasonable.. but I mean come on.. really? It’s completely reasonable.
Yes, it’s hard to keep them happy sometimes.. and yes it takes away from our ability to focus on the service (which I know can be super frustrating) but I believe it’s a very important lesson for them to learn.
There will be so many times in their lives where they will have to be able to sit quietly.. not just church, but also school, work, appointments, waiting in line. In a world of constant entertainment, sometimes we all just need to learn to be still.
One of the fruits of the spirit is self control (Galatians 5:22-23), we must all work hard to possess this quality. By teaching them when they are young, we start them off on the right track. By teaching them to sit quietly without toys, we are building a solid foundation of self-control. They are learning to not only control their movements, but also their minds.
Standards and rules have changed so much in the world today. I am only twenty-four, and I even see the huge differences between when I grew up and now. Children are being taught that they shouldn’t have to learn to be quiet, to sit still, to be obedient. As Christian parents, we must set our standards to a higher level than the world. The Lord demands us to teach our children to live a righteous life. And to live righteously means that we do not give in to the temptations of our flesh.
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
– Titus 2:11-12
If we teach them the idea that they have a right to continuous entertainment, then what’s going to stop them from insisting on it every other time?
I also believe that it is important for our children to learn a respect for being in the presence of The Lord. Yes, I get that they don’t quite understand what church is when they are very young, but that’s not the point. The point is to instill in them the value of putting The Lord first. If we allow them to have toys, or books, it demonstrates to them that focusing on Jesus and the service is not necessary. It represents the idea that church, and really The Lord, is an option.
I want my children to understand how important it is to partake in worshiping our Lord. They need to be free from distractions so that they can see the adults worshiping God, and learn to do it themselves.
Now, believe me when I say I know it so is not easy. There have been many times that I have wanted to throw my decision out the window, in exchange for a simple, headache-free service. But, the question that always comes back to me is this.. is it worth it? Is the lack of frustration worth teaching my children the wrong values? Personally, I don’t think so.
I wish I could come up with a wonderful detailed list about all of the strategies that I have developed over the past six years to keep them happy and quiet during church, but honestly, I don’t have too many tricks up my sleeve.
This is what works for us..
My oldest daughter is six, and she is quite good now that she is able to fully grasp what church means. She is a very high energy child, but she really has a heart for Jesus, and I think that has helped her to understand why we have these rules. But there are definitely times when the fact that she is a little girl comes into play, and she just can’t sit still a second longer. So when that happens, we just resort to explaining to her why it is important to be quiet, and reminding her that it’s almost time for Sunday school, and then she is pretty good at reining herself back in.
My second daughter is three, and although she isn’t quite as energetic as her big sister, she still has trouble sitting still for the full hour. She is also a very “confident” little thing, and is not the easiest child to intimidate. For her it’s not so much that she is loud, but more that she tries to climb all over the pews. With her, we just have to continuously remind her to sit down. If she doesn’t listen to words, then we will physically sit her on the seat. If that still doesn’t work, my husband or I will take her out of the service, discipline her, and then bring her back in. That will normally do the trick, but there are times when we have to repeat these steps again.
My youngest is only 10 months old so he isn’t all that receptive to lectures. He likes to wiggle a lot, which means I am continuously changing the position I am holding him in.. VERY exhausting. A lot of the time, if I stand him on my lap, or turn him around to look behind me, he will be happy for an extended period of time. But, when all else fails and he just won’t keep quiet, we bring those little puffs snacks. I guess you could kind of say this is giving him a form of entertainment, but with babies sometimes there’s only so much teaching we can do. We only give him one at a time, and we put it in his mouth for him so he is not able to make a mess. This is the only solution I have found, and I still feel it is a much better option than bringing toys for him to play with. Once he is older I will definitely try to teach him the same way as I am teaching the girls, but for now I feel it’s necessary to give him a break.
Now, I understand if you are reading all of this and thinking “this girl is cray cray.. there is no way I am taking my [insert number here] kids to church without some sort of back up”.
There are real moments of stress, frustration, and total mental/emotional exhaustion. And maybe you don’t feel it is the right plan for you and your family.. hey that’s cool, I am certainly not here to judge. What is right for us, is not always going to be right for others. I feel it is always best to look to The Lord, and ask Him to direct you.
Whichever way you choose, I totally believe that kids are adaptable. I think that what we teach them (especially when they’re young) will more often than not become the norm to them, and sooner or later they will accept the rules that we lay out.
Self control is not always easy for children (or even adults for that matter) to master, but I wholeheartedly believe that the reward is so worth the work.
Do you allow your children to bring toys to church?
Why or why not?
If not, what tips do you have for keeping your children calm?
I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments.
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
– Proverbs 17:6
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