Why I Ditched the Church Nursery
I think we attempted to put our first child in the church nursery about 3.2 times before we decided we were just going to keep her in church with us and teach her to sit still. She cried a lot in the nursery and so I kept having to be called out with the little pager to go and calm her. She missed me, so keeping her with me seemed the natural thing to do.
At the time we were the odd ones for doing so. Our philosophy? Children had to learn how to sit still for thousands of years, and we found it strange that it is only in our modern culture that children not being able to sit still is somehow suddenly the accepted norm.
This isn’t for everyone and that is fine. Church nursery is a personal family decision and I honor that. We are now in a family integrated church so nursery is not even an option for us. Family integrated church is church where families are not segregated by age. Families “do” church together. In our church all of the children sit through the service and where moms and dads do get up and down to tend to the needs of their children for the most part it is surprisingly calm for the amount of small children during a 2 hour service. It is possible!
Here are a few tips I have learned that seem to work for families I know as well as our own to help teach children to sit still.
- Start Teaching Them When They Are Young: You cannot expect a child at the age of 5 to suddenly sit still if he has not been expected to before that time. It is a process of learning so start immediately. I know some mommies who do “blanket time” even as a baby. Teaching their babies to stay on a blanket space by just repetitive action. If you now do not have the luxury of starting young that is okay! Look below for a few tips!
- Start Teaching Them At Home: Consistency is one of the most effective tutors in my book. Schedule sitting still times at home each day during the week to help train your child. Meal times and family devotions are more obvious ones, but plan extra times of reading and maybe even listening to audio stories to help train the child to sit still and to listen at the same time.
- Explain the Ground Rules: With smaller children this is much more difficult if they do not have the ability to converse quite yet, but it is always good to get into the practice of explaining rewards/ consequences for behavior with your children so that they know if I do this then this is going to happen. Explain these ground rules OFTEN, at home and one your way to church each Sunday.
- Limit Warnings: Not everyone will agree with me on this and that is fine. I find that the more I warn my children that they “are about to be in trouble” the more they misbehave because they are seeing just how far they can stick their big hairy toe across that line. I also find the more I warn the more flustered I become and that is sinful on my part. I believe that one warning is sufficient, because children should learn to obey immediately in the same way that we are called to obey the Lord immediately.
- Guard Your Children: When a child does misbehave guard them with love. Do not make a scene about their misbehavior. Quietly remove them from the room and talk with them in private. Depending on the consequences needed those are usually best explained and/ or delivered not in the public eye.
- Small Children: My best advice for small children is not to obsess. This is a marathon not a sprint. For really ages two-and-a-half and under when talking is still not at its height, sometimes you might need to just have a reboot session. A child at these ages are hard to keep sitting still and that is okay. Work with them in patience. If you need to leave the church building and let them run a few circles outside, then come back in and try again. Sometimes I have found that having snacks on hand or something for their hands to do like a fine motor skills book or something of that nature will help to keep them quietly busy.
- Older Children: Engage these children about the sermon. Ask them to take notes if they are of age. Talk as a family about what you learned that day.
- Starting Late? Is this a new conviction that you would like to have your children sit with you in church but you are just not sure how to go about it? It is not too late! I think that all of these things above still apply. Lay out the ground rules. Have patience and PRAY! Pray with your children that God would help them to sit still and enjoy the service. Engage your children about the sermon, and help them to understand that church is not meant to be boring. It is meant to be a time to come together with our brothers and sisters in Christ and learn from the Word of God.
One last BONUS important piece of advice I have is to not expect each of your children to be the same. We all grow and learn at different rates. You know your child the best. Have patience and try different methods to find which fits that child best. For instance, snacks worked with one of our children when a little time out in the church hallway worked with another. Every child responds differently, and we must be flexible as parents. Parenting is not a one-size-fits-all kind of deal.
I think it is always important to remember that without the Holy Spirit working in our children, our children are unregenerate. We cannot expect the unsaved to act saved. We want to be very careful in this area to not exasperate our children to the point where they despise both us and church because of legalism, yet we want to train both their bodies and hearts to be fertile for the Word of God to fall upon. It is such a fine line and it is why we must rely on the Holy Spirit fully. You cannot train your children up in the Lord unless you are saturated in the Lord yourself.
What Is Your Experience with Church Nursery or Teaching Your Children to Sit with You in Church?
I Would Love to Hear Your Advice!
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