Why Children in Church?

Screen shot 2009-09-30 at 6.40.27 AM In the past I have mentioned that Aaron & I like to keep our children with us in church. I have received several inquiries as to why and how we go about this. I have finally gotten around to addressing this topic here today. I know it may be controversial, but I pray you would hear my heart and our family’s vision in this area.

I was 12 years old. Our family was taking a family vacation around the United States, expanding our knowledge of history, geography, and most importantly building family relationships. It was Sunday morning. We decided to visit a church where an old friend of my mom’s was pastoring. The moment all eight of us children walked into the sanctuary we were quickly stopped by a lady. She kindly directed us to the multiple children’s services taking place down the hallway. There was one room for each of us. We were not allowed in the service. What would you expect went through my 12 year old head? Children were not wanted. Children were noisy. Children would get in the way. Children need entertainment. They cannot sit quietly for a sermon. Children would not understand a sermon.

Statistically, as many as 88% of teens who profess Christianity walk away from their faith by the end of their freshman year in college. Could this be one of the reasons? The question begs to be asked. If children are quickly escorted off to Sunday School to be entertained from birth through high school, can we really expect them to be able to adjust well into the adult services after youth group? Families are immediately separated at the commencement of services for each to go their own direction. Sally to nursery. Thomas to youth group. Is this really helping build family relationships?

As a mother of small children who knows the challenges of training infants and toddlers to sit quietly, I definitely think there is a place for having a nursery or child care for small children. As we are involved in a new church plant, we are hoping to establish a nursery for children under five. I believe this can be very valuable, especially for new moms (whether newly saved or not) coming into the church or people just acquainted with this idea and need help adjusting. It is nice to have this option for a mother (like myself) who would like to be able to hear the sermon every once in a while. ;) In the meantime, Aaron and I often listen to sermons during the week if we are not able to catch the full sermon on Sundays while juggling the little ones. I will also add that not all Sunday school programs are watered down, entertainment based, but those that are solid and doctrinally based are few and far between.

My husband Aaron and I have been blessed to have been raised in a church where children were gladly welcomed in the services at all times. It was actually age-integrated and did not offer any Sunday school programs. I have asked a few ladies to share their thoughts on the why’s and how’s of keeping children in church.

Why do you desire to keep your children in church with you?

Personally, I have experienced the impact of seeing my parents worship. As I witnessed their passion for the Lord, their enthusiasm to worship and cherish the Word, I know their example impacted me for eternity. I want my children to have this same experience. I want to be an example of one who wholeheartedly worships the Lord. My prayer is that my little ones would likewise catch the vision. Including them in church is all part of their training and discipleship. I want them to hear the full weight of the gospel. It may be hard to understand at times, but that just gives us more opportunities for follow up, discussion and discipleship at home. My husband and I believe that including them with us in church is just one way to keep our family together, worshiping and serving the Lord together as a full family unit. Lord willing, a mighty force for the kingdom!

Amy, mother of three little ones under 4 shares:

Keeping our children in church with us is difficult at times, but worth it! My husband and I love being together as a family as we gather to worship God. I want my kids to see their parents (and other adults!) worshiping God and listening intently to His word. There’s nothing that will influence them more than seeing Mom’s and Dad’s passion for Jesus in action. The pattern we see throughout the Bible is to include all ages when God’s Word is preached. (See Deuteronomy 31:12-13; Nehemiah 8:1-3, Ezra 10:1; Matthew 18:1-5, 19:13-15)

It encourages my husband and I to take responsibility for training our kids in the ways of God, instead of relying on Sunday school to do that. As the children get older they are able to understand more and more of the sermon, which can be discussed at home afterwards. Our church hands out a sermon related picture for the kids to color each Sunday. There is also scripture from the sermon for the kids to memorize and recite the following week for a candy prize! Training our children to have the self control to sit still is a blessing in many other situations where that skill is needed, such as at a wedding or the doctor’s office.

Autumn, mother of 2 little girls (4 & 2) shares:
It’s good for our kids to learn how to sit still even when instant gratification isn’t on the menu. Also, watching mom and dad worship is especially important, they learn by our example. Now that we attend an afternoon church service, I want to use some time in the morning for their own “Sunday school” at home, a special time to teach bible stories, etc. Not that this doesn’t happen at all during the week, but make it a special learning time for them on how we worship. Helping to prepare their little hearts for the message and some parts they don’t understand- talking about communion, singing songs, the message, our love for each other as a church body, etc. Some of my reasons for keeping my kids with me in church are not that “spiritual”. I want to avoid breeding grounds for cold/flu. Things have happened even in “good” church child care situations, I don’t usually leave my kids with people I don’t know very well.

Julie, mother of 7 boys (also known as my MIL) shares:

1. It helps to train parents, as well as other family members, to be tolerant and patient with babies as they mature to be children who can sit quietly and actually receive something from a sermon.

2. It gives children an opportunity to see their parents worshiping the Lord in song and listening to the sermon, being an example for them to follow. It also gives children the security of being included in the family unit which is included in the extended family of God.

3. It gives kids an opportunity to learn to respect God more because parents expect that of them.

4. In a culture that often time sees children as an inconvenience, it shows that we really do enjoy their company even if it’s childish.

5. It keeps babies out of the traditional nursery situation where germs are easily spread through the sharing of slobber, snot, and diaper changing stations.

6. It keeps babies safe in the arms of family and trusted friends instead of the arms of a nursery attendant who might be a total stranger or worse.

7. It helps our children to see themselves as a participating member of a local church instead of reducing church to a place that can often be (with some exceptions) one of entertainment with fruit loops and Veggie Tales.

8. It’s in keeping with the historical model of worship services.

Tomorrow, these ladies will be sharing their tips and suggestions for training children to sit quietly within the cooperate gathering of the church. Stay tuned for part 2…

For further vision on this topic, check out these resources:

Family Renewal: The Role of Children in the Meeting of the Church by Doug Philipps (a free downloadable sermon) – listen together with your spouse!
Children in the Meeting of the Ephesian Church by Scott Brown
Family Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham Jr. – A fantastic read on the importance of parents leading in training their children in the Word of God. Powerful! I would encourage every couple to read this book together!

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of four, homemaker, and writer. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

80 Responses to Why Children in Church?

  1. kristine March 15, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

    I really appreciate the spirit in which this was written. Even though after some church services I feel completly wiped out from managing our six children during the service, I know it is worth it. People often comment how great it is to have children in the service and how they miss that. We are far from perfect and practice makes better :) . We through trial and error have learned that siting there doing nothing is better then sitting playing or reading, these things can get out of hand quick. The children remember the sermon and their is nothing sweeter then the faith of a child. I think we live in a society that plays down their faith. I love kids in church. Smile at a mom whose baby is being a bit noisy, she needs it : )

  2. Carla December 29, 2009 at 6:54 am #

    I find the story very interesting. I teach children’s church and I am also a teacher of school age children now for 19 yrs. I do agree with children staying in the service at times. Our children go into our service and after Praise and Worship they are dismissed to have there on developmentally lesson for their age that is strictly bible based. our children stay in service the last Sunday of the month because I do believe they need to learn what is expected of them in God’s Santuary and to sit and listen to the sermon. We do encourage our Parent’s to practice and teach their child/children what is expected of them by example. I really try to make our lesson the next week go along with our preachers the past week so I can see what the children are getting. I do agree with children being in the service but I also think they need something to reach them at their developmentally levels.

  3. Becky October 28, 2009 at 9:43 am #

    When i have children, i plan to keep them with us in church as well. For the same reasons you stated, learning to be a part of the church body, and not merely entertained. I don’t want them to wait until they graduate HS to see what church is really all about.

    The church we attend now does have something for young children (5 or so & under) where a lesson is taught. Though they wait to dismiss them until just before the sermon. I have to admit, i wish there was something for them before that, for certain screamers. My husband is the sound guy and installed speakers in the lobby, but so far no one has gone back there. They’re working on getting a stand for the projector so they can see and feel more a part of the body. It IS really annoying for people who have rowdy kids and don’t seem to care about disciplining them. (giggling and half-heartedly hushing them does not count) I’ve had to move to the front, away from my husband at the sound board in the back, because it is really distracting.

    I agree with this practice in theory, but i wished the moms would be more considerate of others. We have a small church so there is no escaping it, especially when the pastor loses his train of thought in prayer because of a screaming toddler in back.

  4. Jen October 10, 2009 at 3:25 pm #

    Hi! I have a related question: this year I will be helping out in the nursery at our church (children under 3). I wondered if you or anyone else has any ideas about making this a meaningful, nurturing time for the children to grow in faith and love of God? I’m thinking about short Bible readings, songs, etc, at an age-appropriate level.

  5. Lemon October 5, 2009 at 7:51 pm #

    Our church offers a nice mix. We have our children in church with us, during songs, announcements, scripture reading and communion and the meditation preceding it. Then they are dismissed for the sermon to their Sunday School classes. Our Pastor preaches for almost an hour so our service is almost two hours long. Once a month we have family Sunday and the children stay with us. I really like the way we do it, it gives me an opportunity to hear the sermons and to train my children.

  6. Lily October 3, 2009 at 4:03 am #

    Thanks for your post. My concern is the implication/sweeping generalization that all churches who have a children’s program or all parents who send their children to a children’s program “don’t want” them in church. I don’t mean to be antagonistic or critical but, at least in our church, I don’t send my children to be “babysat”. I think they gain MUCH more from their own worship, their own bible stories, concentrated small group time with peers, etc. than sitting in a church service that they probably don’t understand and drawing or sleeping. Of course, it depends on the children’s program, just as what we get out of the sermon depends on who is preaching!

    I think we need to be careful about assuming that what we’ve chosen for our family is what God expects from everyone. Unless I’m reading my Bible incorrectly, I don’t see any scripture where I am commanded to force my children to sit in church. It’s certainly not wrong but it’s not sinful to choose to do otherwise either.

    Thanks for letting me share!

    • M.I.A in Minnesota October 5, 2009 at 6:29 pm #

      I agree with Lily. I so appreciate the serving spirit our children’s teachers have. They spend a lot of time preparing for the class to enrich our children’s spiritual life. I’m so thrilled that they are soaking up God’s word on their level. I know there are churches out there that do just “babysit” during the service. That is so sad to me, and most definetely sends the wrong message to children. But not all churches are created equal. I’m blessed to belong to a local church that doesn’t undermine parental authority and let’s us decide what we think is best for our children.

  7. Ann October 2, 2009 at 3:53 pm #

    I don’t like to leave our children in the nursery at church. First off I think that it is very important to learn to sit in church. I believe with time children come to understand more of what is being said. They learn that Christianity is not just about being entertained. I think later in life that this is good for them. I also don’t like leaving them in the nursery because I feel that I am dumping my kids with strangers a lot of whom probably don’t want to be there anyways. I also don’t care for all the germs and sickness that seems to go around.

  8. Janet October 2, 2009 at 1:21 pm #

    I was so excited to see this post and pleased at the numerous comments from others showing that many are worshipping together as families. Our family has always worshipped together (our boys are now 21 and 16). It has been the biggest blessing to our family and had a dramatic impact on our sons’ spiritual walk. In the early days, it did take patience, perseverence, and sacrifice (as we missed sermons while attending to children’s behavior), but the rewards are far greater than the small inconvenience. I encourage parents to persevere, even if you are the only “weird” family in your church to keep your children with you. God honors those who honor Him.

  9. Jessica October 2, 2009 at 12:31 pm #

    I am a subscriber to your blog and love all the information you share. I just wanted to let you know that I agree with this post 100%. I am also a Christian (member of the LDS faith). One of the things that drew me to this faith was how family centered it is. Families are always together during the sacrament portion of church (about an hour and 15 minutes). From there, adults go to Sunday School and one additional meeting, while the children go to their designated meetings, which are all about learning about Christ, not a childcare. Children under 18 months of age stay with their mothers/parents throughout all 3 hours of meetings. I thought I would never want my daughter to start attending the nursery but now that she is 15 months old I am very excited for this, so we both can learn and grow in our testimonies of Christ in the best/most appropriate environments.
    Thank you again for this- definitely a worthy topic of discussion!

  10. Meggan October 2, 2009 at 10:56 am #

    We don’t go to a church that I otherwise LOVE because of this reason. They do not allow children. At all. It isn’t even that it is suggested or encouraged that kids go to the children’s area- they aren’t allowed in church. Period. What?!?!? It made me so angry. Their argument is that they provide an “age appropriate worship experience” which is “better” than the children being in church and that the parents need to focus on the service. Fine. For some. I think church is a family expereince and families should be able to make their own decision on exactly what is “age appropriate” and how to worship. Frustrating.

  11. Samantha Leonfils October 2, 2009 at 10:20 am #

    I totally appreciate wisdom from mothers! I am a mother of 21, and I have a 4 month old daughter…I agree with what Sis. Webb shared with us. I also would like to say that while raising your kids in church, it is also wise not to pass them around…I’ve seen this too many times. All of your hard work of training your children ends up wasted because everyone wants to hold your children, give them candy, and pass them from one germy hand to the next. My husband’s family can’t seem to grasp the concept…I am finding it hard to find a polite and respectful phrase as to why I boycott those who pass his/her child around…What Can I do/say?

  12. Donna October 2, 2009 at 10:00 am #

    .wow…the timing of your post is so amazing…I feel like God inspired you to do this just for me!!! I think I really need to just give you a call…standing up for what is important for our family has caused me some stress this fall…and I need to focus on the peace God gives me about our decision to have our whole family worship TOGETHER and not let the opinions of others bruise me. I really appreciate your gift of writing and sharing with others!

  13. Alex October 2, 2009 at 9:00 am #

    This is something I’ve been struggling with as well. My husband and I feel convicted to keep our children in church with us. Our problem is that we have 5 kids, 7 and under, who have, up until this point, been used to attending Sunday school. I don’t worry so much about the 7 year old, but the 6, 4, and 2 year olds are boys….and well, boys are quite different than girls, at least in our family! They have a lot more energy and it’s much more difficult to get them to sit still. I know it’s possible, it’s just going to take some time. :)

    We have read “Family Driven Faith” and are currently going through it in our small group….what a GREAT book!

  14. Rachel R. October 2, 2009 at 8:31 am #

    I have our “why” posted on my blog, as well. It is pretty much just a concise list, not an “essay-style” post, because I finally just wrote down what I had to keep repeating to friends and family who asked. ;)


  15. E.E. October 2, 2009 at 5:58 am #

    Thank you, Lindsay, for your boldness in sharing your thoughts on such a controversial topic. I grew up in a variety of church settings, but was most often exposed to age-segregated worship. When the pastor at our previous church began preaching on the importance of family worship, there was a lot of dissension and anger among many of the families. I have found that the biggest opponents of family worship (including children in all parts of the service) were the parents who did not, and/or were unwilling to, properly discipline their children. They were the parents looking for a free babysitter. They were the parents who found parenting a burden and their children a constant frustration. They were the parents who had little to no personal time with the Lord, and therefore looked to the church to provide all of their spiritual food (resulting in “starvation” when they were forced to spend the service time dealing with unruly children). Even after the transition from traditional Sunday School, and nursery for 4 and under, to Family Time Sunday School and family worship, there were many moms that would spend the entire service in the cry room (a room set up for feeding/changing infants and quickly dealing with discipline issues) or fellowship hall, because it was easier to let their children “run free”. My husband and I quickly got on board with the family worship idea and have cemented it even more in our minds after reading “Family Driven Faith”. The problem is, that after recently moving, we have found only one church in a 50-mile radius that is family oriented, and the commute to that church is close to an hour and a half.

    The reality of family worship is that children DO “get something” out of church – - even at a young age. They may view it as boring IF that is the way we convey it (the reality being that church can be boring for all ages unless our attitudes are right). The New Testament church did not have puppet shows and snacks, crafts and videos for children. They heard the same preaching as the adults. The training, explanation, and application was done at home.

    My husband and I want our family to be on the same page, and we cannot do that unless we are all under the same teaching. We are willing to take responsibility for our children’s spiritual training. We see church as an opportunity to connect with all ages of the family of God. We see the training of children in the church service as a valuable opportunity for personal growth, growth in our children, and growth in the lives of other believers. A dear pastor friend once said, “Strong individuals make strong families which make strong churches.” How can our families be strong if we are separated and divided? And how can our churches be strong when the family is not?

  16. Audrey October 1, 2009 at 9:38 pm #

    What a great post! I actually wrote about this a few months back. We keep our kids in church too. Here is the link if you want to read it!


  17. Emily October 1, 2009 at 6:20 pm #

    We have a fantastic (I think) way of including children in our church. Because we are a liturgical church, our service has a natural midpoint. The first half includes the sermon and the second half is the liturgy of the Eucharist. All children through elementary school have the option of going to nursery, preschool chapel, or elementary chapel during the first part of the service. It is not mandatory in the least, but most children participate. Then they join their parents for the liturgy of the Eucharist. Preschool chapel also offers the option of childcare right up until communion, because 2 year olds just have SO much trouble hanging in there through the liturgy! :) I love how we have teaching geared towards the child’s age at the same time as the sermon (teaching for the adult!) in the service, but we all come together for prayers and hymns and communion.

  18. Jessica O. October 1, 2009 at 5:39 pm #

    I have 6 children 10 & under & the last 8 years we have been going to family integrated churches, two different ones b/c we moved. We just love it! There is no nursery to say just a nursing room for moms & littles if need be!
    We love having our kids w us.
    Here is a link to find family integrated churches.


  19. Hope October 1, 2009 at 5:22 pm #

    Oh wow! THANK you for sharing this entry….it is great to know that I am not the only momma who believes children need to be in church, not in another room being ‘babysat’.

  20. Lorrie October 1, 2009 at 4:08 pm #

    I grew up staying in the church service with my parent’s through the music portion. After that we were dismissed to Sunday school. I remember often sitting through services where child care was not offered. I did learn a lot from watching my mother.

    I now have 2 small children and one on the way. I am not sure that I have ever had them sit in a service with me since they were tiny newborns. Our church has always offered childcare for all ages and I just got used to taking them there. Many of my friends tell me that they think of this as their time to be away from there children and to have some time to themselves. I have often thought that this was a selfish attitude. We should cherish being able to take our children to a church service. We are not taking them to daycare. We should take it on ourselves to train our children and not rely on someone else to do it for us.

    I have been feeling convicted lately to start bringing my 4 year old into service with me. She could always go to her own Sunday school class afterwords when I go to mine. I am looking forward to reading part 2 about how to keep them quiet. My daughter will be a bit easier then my very active 2 year old boy. Thank you so much for writing about such an important topic.