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Why We Chose to Keep Our Kids With Us In Church

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The Boyer Blog: Why We Chose to Keep Our Kids With Us In Church

Monday, September 7, 2009

Why We Chose to Keep Our Kids With Us In Church

Through the years, we've chosen to keep our children in church with us rather than sending them off to age graded groups. It's a decision we can say we've been glad we made and stuck by even though others often misunderstood our intentions.

We felt it was important for our children to be together as a family while we worshiped the Lord. We found that they absorbed a lot more from being in the adult service than we ever expected even as very young children. We always saw the family as the primary place for spiritual training and as such was the place we chose to teach our children Scripture memory, doctrine and character building. We would gear their memory verses to character needs we saw in their own lives as individuals. Although not opposed to such programs as Awana for others, we felt it was not the best choice for our children. Our oldest son was an excellent
'memorizer' and we felt sure he would win lots of awards competing with others, but strongly felt it would become a stumbling block for him, as it would be a temptation to build pride in his life. For others, not so quick to learn, we didn't want them to feel they didn't measure up. The goal of learning Scripture is to change our lives to be more like Jesus, not to compete for prizes.

So, the question has been asked of us, "How did you train your kids to sit still in church? Are they just naturally cooperative?" Training is the key and no, they weren't naturally cooperative. They were all different, just like your kids are. Funny, but often the most squirmy, active children would actually fall asleep if you could get them to be still for 5 minutes.

We began "playing church" at home. We had training sessions where we sat the kids on the sofa and pretended to be in church. Sometimes one of the kids would be the song leader or the pastor, but our goal was to prepare them in advance for how to act properly in that situation. Little ones need to learn that they can sit still for an extended period of time. We would begin by having them sit perfectly still for short amounts of time, 1-2 minutes and reward them, gradually working up to longer periods of stillness. For some kids, you have to show them they can actually do it!!

We provided "quiet time" activities for them to use during church time. The Busy Bible (See above post)) was, and is, one of our very favorites, as they were learning Bible stories as well as staying busy, quietly. If one of pieces dropped, it made no noise!! We gave each a special "church bag" filled with these activities and a quiet snack although we tried to have them to simply sit still some of the time for each service and listen to the pastor. It was great when, as would often happen, one of them would whisper, "Mommy, he just said one of my verses!"

Our daughter-in-law Dusty has Luke ask the pastor each week what his text will be for the following week .She then reads it to Luke during the week and sometimes makes visuals such as the talents told of in Scripture. Luke used to not enjoy being in church, but this made him look forward to hearing the pastor read verses he was familiar with.

As our children grew older, we sometimes had them take notes from the sermon. Kelley (now age 12)now has her own journal that she brings to church to take notes in. We don't regret our decision to train our children in this manner. I think it has given them a more serious regard for things of the Lord to be in church with the adults. ~Marilyn

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Anonymous Amy said...

Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Can I ask if you allowed your children to go to Sunday School? How did you handle that?

September 8, 2009 at 8:21 AM  
Blogger SuzieM said...


This was such an encouragement to read, and so timely for my family right now. Please keep sharing your thoughts here as it is a lonely road with so few understanding why we do what we do.


September 8, 2009 at 8:26 AM  
Blogger Deborah said...

A former pastor always had a "fill in the blank" outline for his sermons. For my kids who could read, this was a great way to keep them focused on the message, and also began to teach them how to take notes by modeling the outline format.

We were the "rebels" in our church who did not send our kids to Children's Church when they started having it to alleviate overcrowding problems in our old sanctuary. One of my daughters actually cried when she thought she would have to go. "Mommy, I want to be in big people's church with you!"

I have always allowed my little ones to cuddle with me during church and sit on my lap if they want. In retrospect, I think it has fostered many positive memories of church as a place where they are loved---not where they are brushed off so I can "worship."

Thanks, Marilyn, for your wise words today. They ministered to my heart.


September 8, 2009 at 9:28 AM  
Blogger Marilyn Boyer said...

For a number of years, we didn't attend Sunday school, although I personally love the teaching of our assistant pastor. He made it clear to us years ago that he would welcome children in his class and now we do attend with our children. Other families also bring their kids to our class as well. When I had very little babies, I felt two hours was just too much for them to handle, so we didn't attend Sunday school for some time, although each baby is different. Some would sleep right through it and never know they were there, others would just not be able to handle the two hour stretch.

September 8, 2009 at 12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. My husband and I have resisted the notion of Children's Church as it is called in our area. Our youngest is still "too young" but by the end of the winter he'll be "old enough." This helps my determination to keep him with us. Since we are a small church, there aren't Sunday School classes, making that decision easy for us. However, they treat the Children's Church as Sunday School for the 3yr to 3rd grade age group. It's encourging to hear of others who feel this way. Thanks again.


September 8, 2009 at 9:07 PM  
Blogger April said...

Thanks Marilyn for sharing. We felt, too, that worship should be as a family and families should not be separated when entering the building.

Those moments of "hey, I know that verse" are precious and lets you know they really are listening...on some level.

September 9, 2009 at 2:49 PM  
Blogger Bridgett said...

We recently started doing this and it has been such a blessing. So far no one has said anything to us. Our 4yo has actually finished verses while Pastor is talking if he pauses in the middle of the verse b4 continuing! Or he'll finish the story. Don't worry he's not yelling these things out. LoL I hear him whisper it under his breath.

Right now just our 4yo is staying w/us but our 2yo is staying in nursery. He is very active so we are going to practice at home sitting on mommy's lap while listening to our audio Bible and build him up b4 bringing him in.

September 15, 2009 at 8:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this encouraging post- it's great to know others are facing similar challenges and standing on their convictions.

Our family had to leave a church we attended for nine years over this issue, as we were given an ultimatum to have our kids attend Sunday School classes by the former pastor, after at first receiving his blessing to have them with us in services- and there where valid concerns about having them attend classes...

14 years later one is a missionary assistant and another is finishing college and heavily involved in ministries at her church.

I believe that tampering with parental authority is one of the highest forms of tyranny, although I also belive in reasonable submission to pastoral authority.

God bless all your readers who follow the sometimes difficult path that comes with choosing to worship together with one's children.

September 24, 2009 at 5:11 PM  
Blogger Hopewell said...

Even when my son barely knew English, he came away from "Big" Church [a stupid name--it's all God's Church] with good Questions. For a while my kids went to Youth Group when we had a really decent program that didn't aim to put off parents, but know as teens they are back going with me--this time by choice. Moms of little kids, hang in there.

October 6, 2009 at 3:30 PM  
Anonymous Amy @ Raising Arrows said...

We have kept our children in church with us for years now. When you have a large family it often feels you get one child "trained" and there is another coming up. I like the idea of practicing church and wonder if this would help train more children at a time, because I often feel I can only concentrate on one child's behavior at church.

August 8, 2010 at 4:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this. I heard you and Rick speak at the Indy convention 2010 and I spoke to my husband about this, we started praying about what we should do, I have never been comfortable sending my child to (1st-6th grade) Children's Church (to many movies watched without our approval & no set curriculum that we can preview) but "it is the way it's always done" in our church :O)
All the sudden in April, our son came to us and ask if he could attend service with us since he thought he would get more out of Pastor's preaching, than hearing the same Bible stories over and over again in Children's Church. What an answer to prayer! God is so gracious when we give it over to him. It was a nightmare though, the teachers called us over & over again, spoke harshly to our son in person, claimed that we were trying to "start something", we were "not team players". Our son told them the truth in his own words "I want to be under pastors teaching." They asked him all sorts of questions about what it was that his parents did not like about the class/teachers, what our problem was, they then accused him of lying and demanded the truth, we just stopped answering the phone when they called, since we already told the truth and they were not willing to hear it. Now that we are several months out, they have not done much else. They do send him postcards/notes with the entire class signing it saying that he is missed & they want him back and they tell him about every party that he is missing. blah blah blah. Our son loves being in service with us, he has played piano in the service, the elderly people dote on him, they are thrilled to have him in service and comment that more kids should be up here learning from Pastor.
So those that are getting grief, please stand your ground, PRAY and don't lose heart!!

December 22, 2010 at 6:28 PM  
Anonymous Rick Boyer said...

Dear Sister,

Thank you for hanging tough on this issue. It's not easy when your church family reacts instead of honestly trying to understand. But give them the benefit of the doubt; what you're doing is after all, outside the mainstream. It will take some time for others to get used to the idea.

Of course there will be those who will be threatened by your stand, either because they fear the loss of attendance in their classes, or because they wonder if perhaps they should consider doing the same thing with their own kids. Concentrate on being friendly and kind to them, and most of them will come to accept your position even if they don't agree with it.

We're proud of you.


December 22, 2010 at 9:30 PM  
Blogger CherylFirebride said...

"We're proud of you.


What an amazing, and fatherly thing to say. So many people never hear this message. Thank you so much for saying it.


January 7, 2011 at 10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have 7 kids, ages 19-5. when our oldest were young my husband and I were on the same page, but now that we've moved back to his hometown (to take care of his elderly parents) he is being influenced by the youth pastor and others to embrace SS/youth group/ children's church, etc. It's confusing our children, making him look wishy washy and me look domineering.

what do you recommend in this situation? I have no trouble submitting, but this is just such a departure from the norm...

mom of 7 in PA

January 13, 2011 at 11:34 PM  
Anonymous Rick Boyer said...

Dear Anonymous:

You're to be admired for wanting to stick to your guns yet being concerned about appearing domineering. God will honor your desire to do your best for your kids while also desiring to be submissive to your husband.

I suggest you appeal to your husband based on what you'd come to agree on in the past. Hopefully, he'll feel that the kids were just fine while worshiping with the two of you in adult church and without the angelic influence of the other kids in SS and youth group. It's not easy to stand up to the pressure of feeling like the church oddball when the majority of the members and even the staff believe differently than you do. So give your husband room to flounder a bit as he sorts thru his beliefs on this. If you believe strongly, as I do that age-segregated youth programs promote peer dependency and undermine respect for parents, then please make it clear to your husband how strongly you feel about it. Just be careful to do it in a spirit of love, support and submission rather than with any hint of contentiousness. And don't let the kids hear you discussing it with him if there's any hint of tension in the discussion.

We'll pray for God to give him wisdom in the decision and give you faith to trust Him thru your husband.



January 18, 2011 at 10:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting about keeping your children in church. We have been doing so for the past two years, because we feel as you do. My question is this: did yout children ever balk at being kept in church? Our kids struggle many times when the other kids are being dismissed for children's church after worship. They want so badly to go be with the other kids, and complain that they are bored and don't understand what the pastor is talking about. They are young (ages 9,7,7, and 5), our 3 year old and 1 year old go to nursery because I need to work with them to stay quiet and still. We cuddle with our kids, read the scripture together, they each have a clip board with a word find and a place to doodle as they listen to the sermon, but they still don't seem to enjoy or get much out of church. We homeschool, and they do not spend very much time around other kids. I guess I sometimes get discouraged, and feel like I don't want them to dislike church. If you have any words of wisdom, I'd sure appreciate it! Thanks so very much! Dyan

September 24, 2011 at 1:53 AM  
Anonymous Marilyn said...

We had a couple of children who would rather have gone to the kids programs. I guess you have to evaluate what's being done in the kid's programs, teacher, degree of control, benefits, etc. For us, we opted to keep them with us except for a period of about a year at a former church. We brought plenty of soft books, coloring books, etc, a small snack and as they got a little older encouraged them to take notes on the sermon. Our oldest grandchild now often sits with us during church and she loves to copy the notes from the screen. One of our daughters-in-law used to ask our pastor what he would be preaching on and then read that passage to her son in advance of Sunday and explain things to him. I remember one Sunday the pastor was preaching about a passage that talked about denarius and she had printed off a picture of a denarius for him to hold during church. Often one of my kids would look up when I thought they weren't paying any attention and say, Mommy, he's talking about MY verse! (one they had learned)

It's much harder, I know when you have several little ones. Believe me, I was there, too. There were many years I never did hear a sermon, as I would keep the toddler in until preaching time began. Our church presently (didn't used to when I was raising mine) has an overflow room with the service shown on the screen. It's a great option for kids in training. I'm not hard and fast on NEVER send them to a kid's program, but there is a lot to weigh. It's also harder to pull back then never to allow it in the first place, but you may find a situation that is right for one or some of yours. Several of mine never "liked" church at an early age, but the discipline of sitting still and paying attention was helpful to them anyway. I had a few who had to be shown they could actually sit still. As some of my children got older, I would let the older ones rotate with me and take turns going out with the toddler or baby.
Hope that helps.

October 3, 2011 at 3:39 PM  

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