Kids in Worship? – One Family’s Story (Part 2)

Originally published on Maximizing Days blog
(Original title: “Why We Make Our Kids Sit with Us in Church”)

Bethel Church’s vision can be summarized in the phrase, “Faith@Home.” Part of this happens through connecting what we do on Sunday morning with the way we live our life at home, in our neighborhoods and at work. Below is “Part 2” of a post that was written by Kristin Christenson about her family and why they bring their kids to worship services. It’s hard, but as you’ll read below, it has made an impact.


How do we get our children to sit through church?
We drug them. (I’m kidding. I just wanted to see if you were still reading.)

Here are a few things that we’ve found helpful in setting our children up for success in this area:

1 – Location

Find a spot to sit in the sanctuary that works best for your kids.

Notice that I didn’t say you. Your preference may be sitting in the back – because that’s where you’re comfortable or because that’s less time people will be staring at you as you carry out a screaming child. But, that might not be the best place for your children to sit to increase engagement.

We have found that our kids do exponentially better the closer we sit to the front. Now, we go to a Lutheran church, so the “front” is still the 5th or 6th pew, but there’s nothing between my kids’ eyes and the front of the church to distract them.

Where you sit isn’t as important as why, and that why should be minimizing distractions and maximizing their engagement in what’s going on.

2 – Set Reasonable Expectations

Instead of defaulting to “My kids can’t sit in one place for an entire hour!”, change your perspective. Ask yourself “What can my kids do?”, and set them up for it.

Our service structure is one where the first 35 minutes is made up of singing, reading Scripture, praying, listening to music and greeting people around us. The activity – and posture – changes about every 5 minutes. My kids can do that. At 2 and 4, it is reasonable to expect them to sit to listen to the choir sing a four minute song, or stand and pray for three minutes.

The sermon is at the end of the service and usually lasts about 25 minutes. Expecting them to sit and listen for that amount of time might be too much, so we plan for that.

This may be a good time to have them go to the church nursery. Or bust out an activity bag. (Read below to see what we pack in ours)

3 – Include Your Kids

During a worship service, our kids do everything that we do. They stand and sing when we do. They fold their hands to pray and open a Bible and “read” it.

Don’t sell kids short. They can do more than we think they can.
You might read that and think “My kids will never do that.” But you don’t know until you try. And celebrate baby steps of progress. The more you do it and the more you set that expectation, the more likely they are to meet it.

4 – Plan for Shorter Attention Spans

Like I said before, the church nursery isn’t a bad thing. Your kids may only be able to last five minutes into the sermon before they’re rolling under the pews (that actually happened to us), but that’s five minutes that they wouldn’t have been sitting in church with you if you would have started by handing them off somewhere.

Have a Plan B for what to do when they’re attention spans have been maxed out.

We bring an activity bag with a few activities that they have chosen (which we approved) that they are allowed to use once the sermon has started.

Scroll down to see what we pack in ours. And search for even more ideas on Pinterest.

5 – Model for your Kids what Worship Looks Like

As much as you can, do what you would do in church if your kids weren’t with you. They will learn by watching you.

This week, our sermon was telling the story of Jacob’s wives, and I was intrigued by which of his two wives bore which of his 12 sons. So, I busted out my kids’ coloring pad and their crayon and started going through Genesis 39 and making a list. My daughter saw it and asked what I was doing and when I told her, she grabbed the other pad, opened a Bible and started writing letters she saw.

My heart almost exploded. And I learned how messed up Jacob’s family is.

6 – Focus on the BIG PICTURE

Remember WHY you do this; so that your children can learn how to experience this integral part of the Christian faith. It’s not so people will think you have well-behaved kids. Or so that YOU can get an undistracted hour. Like everything else with toddlers (and elementary, middle & high school kids, I presume), this part of your life looks different now than it did before. But it’s just a season.

And this is an investment, with an Return on Investment that is better than any stock you could ever purchase.

A year ago, I never would have guessed we’d be here. Sunday mornings weren’t enjoyable and there seemed no way our children would ever learn to sit.

But here we are.

It’s not perfect.

Half of the Sundays, I still don’t hear most of the sermon. And last week, my son lunged at me while I was holding my communion cup and juice went everywhere.

But then my daughter whispers in my ear, “Mom, I read that story in my Bible” after listening to the sermon. And all the spilled grape juice and humiliating walk outs with a tantrum-throwing child are worth it.

It’s not perfect and it’s a piece of how we teach our children faith. But it’s a beautiful piece.

An imperfectly beautiful part of our family’s story.

Why We Make Our Kids Sit in Church with Us ::

Church Activity Bag

The two keys are:

  • Less is more.
  • Simplicity is best

We have one small bag for both of our children and they share it’s contents. Choose activities that are quiet (duh!) that will keep their attention, but aren’t a distraction to others.

We include

  • High 5 Magazines – These have a variety of activities in them, so packing one magazine is like packing 8 activities. We have a stockpile of them, so I switch them out every couple weeks.
  • Paper pads – Something to write or color on (and something for you take notes on when you want to figure out Jacob’s 12 sons…..)
  • Crayola Twistables – I love these because I don’t have to worry about them breaking
  • Bible – My kids like to “read along” when we’re reading out of “big” Bibles
  • Book – I choose books that are pertinent to what we talk about in church, but it doesn’t have to be
  • Lacing cards – these are lightweight but can entertain kids for a long time

READ PART 1 HERE (So WHY do we do this?)

Kristin Christenson
Children’s Ministries Coordinator
Bethel Lutheran Church
Blog: Maximizing Days

Originally published on Maximizing Days blog
(Original title: “Why We Make Our Kids Sit with Us in Church”)