Church Time Quiet Time

Many churches have designated rooms by age for each year that your child is alive. They have a nursery where the child can cry till he gets hoarse.
They have a children’s church where your child can sit and learn stories (sometimes not even from the Bible) with other children their own age.
They have a youth group where they can be entertained.
But in that nicely age designated world of “social” interaction, we have lost something.
We have lost the pew where the family sat together to listen to the Word of God together.

All those things seem nice. Because now the parent can listen to the sermon without distraction or without displaying that their child isn’t quite perfect yet. (Who is?)

When we had small children, we returned to a church where we had attended while my husband was in school. But it had changed. It no longer allowed children in the service, in fact it had signs nicely posted on each of the doors to the sanctuary, telling they were not allowed in the service. We never went back.
Yet this was the same church who bemoaned their teens did not stay when they became adults.
They were always shuffled off to their own little rooms where they could make noise without disturbing the “sermon.”
They were never allowed to participate in the corporate worship.
There is something that happens when an entire family sits in a pew together and worships at church. 
It gives unity. Purpose. Security. 

But accomplishing that, especially when the children are small, can seem undaunting.
What can you do to make it bearable?
I had a diaper bag, but many of the things in the diaper bag weren’t for the baby, they were for the toddlers who needed quiet toys and little snacks. 
Suggestions for toys:
Matchbox cars, paper and pencil or crayons (my children didn’t like to color so this didn’t work for long), small animals, books. These toys were kept in my bag just for church, so they didn’t play with them during the week. They were specialtoys.
Suggestions for snacks:
Non-sticky, non-crunchy snacks, like Cheerios, string cheese, smarties, runts (not for babies), (again, snacks used only for church so they would not be tired of them).

Going to the library and practicing “quiet time” can also help train them to have “quiet voices.” When one child could not learn to be quiet in the library, we did not go. 

These things help them to sit still and quiet.
But they did not always work, especially for the toddler.
The toddler, who has just learned to crawl or walk, wants to move—all the time.
Often my husband would take them out in the foyer and walk them. Or I would go outside to let them run.
Often I’d wonder, “Why bother coming?”
But we were establishing habits. And instilling the importance of church worship and fellowship.

Eliminate distractions. If sitting beside one sibling or friend is too much of a temptation to talk, move them so they sit beside you. 
Sometimes drawing pictures of what the sermon is about can keep them focused and give them something constructive to do. Sit beside them, and help them. (If the baby allows you.) They can tell you about what they remember on the way home.

Children can get more from a sermon than you think. No sermon that I ever listened to growing up was too hard for me to understand. I just had to listen. 
I still remember some of those sermons. 

The Bible is not an age designated book. When we read to the boys in Genesis about Sodom being destroyed. They asked, “Why were the people destroyed?” We told them about the men of Sodom wanting to treat God’s angels like they were their wives. They were not obeying what God wanted. So they were destroyed. Reading the Bible and hearing sermons about the Bible bring up discussion about life. Those are teachable moments.

Careful attention to the doctrines of the church must be made. You made be discerning, but your child accepts everything. When a pastor who did not believe the Word of God spoke, we taught the consequences, not only in his messages but in his beliefs and life. 

It is one thing to be discerning yourself, but when you send your child into a Sunday School class or children’s church and you do not know who or what they are being taught. And you will be surprised how much, at a young age, your child absorbs. (Much the same as when they go to public or even private schools. Or even homeschool curriculum.) 
In one curriculum that we substituted for a “quick fix”, I had to correct questions/answers that emphasized what we don’t believe with what we do. This helps teach your child to question even books or teachers. Compare it against the Bible.

It is rare, but not impossible to find a church who encourages the children to be present and participate during the service.
We have one. And if you are in our area, you are most welcome to come.
The children help play instruments during the singing.
The elderly have assured me they enjoy hearing the children.

It reminds me of what Jesus said to the disciples. “Let the children come to me.”
They weren’t sent away because they weren’t perfect or too little to understand. 
They wanted to know Jesus too. 
And He wanted to have them close.

I write about what you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what Him.
               Sonya Contreras

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Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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