October 19, 2019

Open Thread: It’s Sunday Morning…What’s A Family To Do?

UPDATE: This thread is sitting an IM record for posts in a short period of time. And some very interesting responses.

One of the commenters in a previous discussion raised a very interesting, practical situation facing young families that would make for a good open thread topic.

“Going to church” is very difficult for families with young children. The stress of getting everyone up, dressed, fed, in the car and on the road is difficult, even for two parents and especially if they have more than one child. The result can be both comic and tragic.

Depending on the church and on the family’s own values, a family may take advantage of a nursery and children’s ministries, or they may decide that all the family should be together in worship. This may be further stress, may necessitate almost complete inattention to what is going on in worship and may stress out more than a few other worshipers.

All of this is, of course, even more of a problem for single parent families.

Is it any surprise that many families with small children simply say that “traditional” church is impossible for them to navigate?

How can families with young children have a continuing participation in church life? Is it impossible? Should they worship as a family? Should one parent go with older children?

How can churches make this time more manageable for families with young children? Is the answer more nurseries and children’s programs? Or is the answer a different experience of the church altogether?

What’s your experience, both as a family and as a church? And what’s your advice?


  1. Our church has a cry room in the back of the church that has a glass front and audio that looks into the sanctuary. Nothing is missed by the ones that are in the room.

  2. I am a father of four, with five grandchildren, and all of my grandchildren look forward to church. I think that it has alot to do with the fact that Church is a family thing, with all of them looking forward to meeting some friends that they only get to spend time with on Sundays as well as each other.Now, our church has a good childcare program, as well as Sunday school, and childrens’ church programs, so they are engaged the whole morning. They enjoy it because all that surround them are enjoying it too. In the end, I think that sharing our faith as a family has the biggest impact.

  3. Although the ‘cry room’ is a great idea to remove distractions from the ‘sanctuary’, you may miss a little or a lot if you are in there.

    Personally, I can’t stand the cry room. I am thankful when a church has a nursery and faithful volunteers so I can get a much needed break, some fellowship and teaching.

    Like the Ouiz above, we are a large family and have one bathroom and 10 children ages 5 to 28 and we’ve been doing church most every Sunday since our two 10 year olds were 3. At the most we had seven children at home ages 0 to 14 and we were all going to church except for a short time when we were between churches. Even then, we assembled together in the dining room every morning to attend a service on the internet. I was doing it before that as a single mom with two (a newborn and a pre-teen). We now have only 5 at home ages 5 to 16.

    I never dreamed I would be the mom of such a large family and somehow with God’s help, we are doing it… because it is very important to us. I guess that’s the same way we manage to do church. It can be difficult, and there are mornings when I would rather just stay in bed, but something tells me I need to be in church. We’ve had mornings that I’ve wondered if maybe I should have stayed in bed.

    Our pre-schoolers went to the nursery when it was available. We don’t have one now, so they stay and attend corporate worship with the rest of the church and then all preteen children go to a separate class for Sunday instruction. We don’t have any infants now. Teenagers stay in service. I know it would be hard for our kids to sit through an entire service because they are not used to it. I would hope if they had to, they could. It seems like it would be tough for young children, but it may also be a great way to develop self-discipline.

    We are kind of ‘old school’… good behavior is expected and encouraged (rarely rewarded)… poor behavior is disciplined depending on age from time out or spanking if necessary, to removal of privileges. We try to be consistent but that’s tough. It’s not always roses, but it is amazing how God has put together this blended family in love and semi-harmony.

    Everyone has different circumstances and what might work for one family could be a disaster in another. I believe we have to work it all out on our own in the fine balance between the freedom of Christ and the desire to obey his commands that bring us life to the fullest.

  4. Memphis Aggie says

    We have two boys 5 and 1 and while the 5 year old should be able to sit quietly the one year old is too vocal. So sometimes we split up I go to one mass while my wife goes to another and sometimes we all go together and sit in the narthex (no proper cry room at this Church). I’ve told the five year that once he reaches six he will be expected to sit, kneel stand etc with the rest of us in preparation for his first communion. I am too much of a reactionary not to be aware of the risk of pushing too hard. We try to be flexible but kids do better with routine. My wife is conflicted because she wants us to go as a family but she also wants to hear the homily and participate in the Mass more fully. For us at least family Mass is a work in progress.

    I am worried about transmitting the faith effectively and I’m convinced from watching my son react that he will push back if I force him too much. On the other hand if I’m praying, reading religious texts, or going to week day masses, he’s intrigued and wants to be a part of it. I expect example will work better than discipline.

  5. Crying rooms, training kids, and this talk is really scary to me. What was it that our Lord Jesus Christ said about bringing the children to him? There are no special programs of kids in my church. There is no crying room, once was one, but today it’s my office. The children belong in church. So what if they cry. They can yell for all I care. It is nothing more than a joyful sound unto the Lord. No one has ever gotten up and walked out of my church because the kid next to them or in front of them was crying or yelling. More than once a mother has started to leave with her crying child, but will always be stopped and talk it is alright. And more than once I have come down from the altar area and taken a really loud child by the hand leading them to where I had been serving and given them a tour. Yes, I am the priest.

    I will never forget the first time a five year old held up his hand during my sermon. He had a question. I answered it and he had another. And he keep asking. So did his older brother. Their parent panic. I loved it. That may have been the first time, but it was not the last time. If I don’t get questions, I ask for them. Adults never seem to ask, but the young people do. Think about it, faith is simple, the Gospel is simple. If you can explain the faith to a five year, their 20 or 30 year old parent will understand it also. Most ministers talk over the head of their congregations anyway.

    So what happen to the five year old who asked the first question? Within a year he was standing by me at the altar as my altar server. And his brother was my reader.

    One of the comments I read said something about a 45 minute services being too long for kids? I did not know that. I need to tell my kids that. There is something wrong with them. They are able to with stand the complete service. And this is not a 30 or 40 minute Roman Catholic Mass. this is a traditional Orthodox Christian Divine Liturgy. If you have not been to one, it about two hours, or more if there is a memorial services after the first services.

    The kids know why they are there. They know this is just s much their church as it is their parents. The parents walked to the front to receive communion, but children just able to walk will run down to receive. In the Orthodox Church children receive communion as soon as they are baptized.

    as to what we wear to church. Who cares? I don’t, and neither does God. My congregation know that under my vestments are jeans.

    So lets all go to church and cry and yell and just plain praise God with all our hearts and souls. And watch the children. They do it so much better then us adults.

  6. Great discussion. My experience: I’m a mother of five who were all born within 4.5 years (one set of twins). So at our toughest (so far), they were newborn, 14 months, 14 months, 2.5, and 4.

    My contribution: Although it can be easily forgotten in the midst of our own life circumstances and spiritual need, let’s never check our “love one another” at the door to whatever building in which the Church is meeting. It will never hurt to ask those young parents if they need your physical help with their children. At the church we were attending when we had our twins, we noticed that many people moved to sit closer to us so they could be available to hold one of the babies or help the 1 year-old look through a book during the sermon while I went to nurse. It made me want to cry. It was my sermon.

    I would encourage parents of young children to do this for others even though you are in the midst of it all. And don’t ever be afraid to ask others for their help. There may be people with a heart to help but who are leery of offending you.

  7. I’ve been all around on this issue. When I first became a Christian, I was very active in the children’s ministries (including Kid’s Worship, Sunday School, and Youth Group). In that church, the kids were always sent out to either nursery, toddler nursery or Kid’s Worship. And then suddenly, when they hit middle school, they were supposed to magically know how to participate in adult worship. I ended up reworking the first month of the middle school Sunday School curriculum just so the kids would have *some* help. And they were still sullen and non-participatory.

    When that Church got caught up in the so-called Brownsville Revival and my (fairly new) husband and I left, we ended up in an evangelical Anglican church that was attempting to combine the best of evangelical churches with the best of liturgical churches. The church was quite small and completely devoid of children except for two teens.

    After our first child was born, the church was only slightly bigger and there was only one other child, a very docile little girl who always sat quietly through church. No nursery, no other kid programs. Which was fine until my son was about a year old. We were glowered at for letting him toddle between the pews from one parent to another. We were glowered at if we had to take him out to the hall to quiet down. We were glowered at if we left early. We were glowered at if he sang a non-melodic “la la la” during praise and worship. We were scolded when he said “Amen” a second later than everybody else for “not keeping him in line.” On Easter Sunday when he was 14 months old, the pastor had purchased an extra-large, ceremonial host and when he held it up and gently broke it into two, our son gasped and said, “Uh-oh — he bwoke it!” The pastor couldn’t help giggling a little and members of the congregation were furious with us and advised a good sound spanking.

    After that, we only took him once a month. I would go one week alone. My husband would go one week alone, and the last week, we’d visit another church in the hopes of finding one that was child-friendly.

    Much to our despair, it seemed like most churches that considered themselves to be “child-friendly” exiled the kids from the main worship service. I knew from experience that the kid version was usually a paltry substitute, and I also knew the detriment of keeping kids out and then suddenly dropping them into it when they reached a certain age. Meanwhile, the churches that didn’t get rid of the kids didn’t have any kids to get rid of because the environment itself was unfriendly to families with young kids.

    Our story ends with us becoming Catholic — very kid-friendly (“Have more kids!! Have more kids!!!”) and families worship together. At the time, I had a 3-yr-old, a baby and another on the way. I seriously had no idea how we were going to make it work. I got a lot of great advice, some help and many, many sympathetic smiles and encouraging words, and I find this is really the best option for teaching kids how to worship. Here is the list of tips that I share with other mothers and fathers when they ask how to do it:

    1. Choose a service time that coincides with the nap of your youngest (or two youngest) children. Remember to put the kids down to nap at the service time every day of the week, so they get the idea. For older kids, make that hour a “quiet hour” when everybody speaks in whispers, reads religious books or whatever so that when they go to church, they are just practicing a daily habit, not trying to remember a weekly one.

    2. Make sure all the children are well-fed right before you go to church. Hungry children are restless children.

    3. Make sure all your children have either used the toilet or are in a fresh diaper right before church starts.

    4. If you have very small, unpredictable children (i.e., newborns, new walkers, toddlers in the “no” stage), sit near the back, close to the exit for a quick get-away. Once out in the hall or narthex, keep your child in “time in” — don’t let him/her wander and play. You want the outside time to be far more boring than the inside time. Bring them back in to service as soon as you can.

    5. Eventually, you’ll want to sit closer to the front so that the kids can see everything that’s going on. It’s boring to look at the backs (and backsides) of adults the whole time.

    6. Definitely put your kids in church clothes, but make sure they are comfortable clothes that the children like to wear, not scratchy or tight or too hot or too chilly. This is a good psychological signal to them to get into the mindset for church. The clothes do not have to be fancy — we have to buy all ours at thrift stores — but it really does work wonders.

    7. Teach your kids the songs, prayers, etc. at home, so that they can participate when they are at church. Don’t expect them to just pick everything up by osmosis.

    8. Praise participation in church. Our kids are all still rather young, so we give them candy, and it’s the only time they get it all week. They get one M&M for each song they sing or each prayer they participate in. They get two M&Ms each for remember something out of the readings (we have those long readings in Catholic Mass, four of them every Sunday) and two more if they remember something out of the homily. Now, of course this varies by age and stage. My 9-yr-old can just about recite the Bible passages verbatim, and he usually picks up the more spiritually significant parts of the homily. My youngest, almost 5, might only remember a phrase or an idea. Once she remembered the priest saying, “Amazing!” and had no recollection about *what* was amazing, but she got both the M&Ms and a reminder of what the amazing thing is. Through this, we are teaching our kids to listen and participate. Today, their rewards are chocolate, but when they get older, their reward will be the spiritual growth they experience.

  8. It sounds like most in the “Bring ’em all!” contingent are Catholic/Orthodox or at least gravitate to the somewhat liturgical. Is that so? Do those who find comfort and sacredness in the liturgy find it more important to share that with their kids? I respect that, as a sister in Christ. But as a post-modernish lifelong Protestant, I can’t really understand it.

  9. Beth, I think you hit one of the nails on the head.

  10. Beth, it is not just that liturgical types “find it more important to share that with their kids.” It is that good liturgy is “the work of the people,” not the work of a few on an elevated stage. Worship is meant to be participatory and active for the entire congregation, not a spectator sport watched by many and acted out by a few. Worshipers in good liturgical settings have things to do throughout the service, and thus parents can teach their children about those activities and train them how to participate. In most free-style evangelical worship the congregation sits, sings and listens, period. Not much for parents or church leaders to do there but to exhort children to sit still and be quiet.

  11. I guess I have a different view of worship. Well, obviously, since I’ve been to two Catholic services in my life–one a funeral and another a wedding.

    Probably by both temperment and experience, I have grown to worship, or express my understanding of God’s worth, primarily by absorbing the forty-minute message and applying it to my life. Or by using my spiritual gifts (which lean heavily toward service) in His church. And this, more than sitting still through that forty-minute message, is what I hope to impart to my son. And I believe, at his stage in life and with his (absolutely insane) personality, our Children’s Church program, which starts right before the message, will draw him closer to Christ than an exegetical study of the book of Amos. As fascinating as that may be for me.

    Which isn’t to say I mean to be derogatory toward others who value liturgy. Like I said, I respect it. I just don’t understand it. (And, of course, it isn’t to say that those who value liturgy don’t serve or apply scripture.)

    Worship IS meant to be participatory. We absolutely have to take responsibility for our own adoration of our God and seek the environment that most helps us do that. It amazes me how comfortable the Father is with all our differences.

  12. Sit in the back when you have an infant. Sit in the front pew when your youngest is a year and a half old or older. This pertains to an LCMS church with liturgy — so there’s something for the kiddos to watch up front besides someone giving a 40-minute lecture, and then sitting down the rest of the time.

  13. The Crew of 6 says

    Father Theodosius,

    Can I say “bless you”?

    We are a young family with three children who have significant special needs. We also have a very precocious 2 year old toddler who was speaking in sentences at 12 months of age.

    My husband grew up Southern Baptist, and I am Catholic. Navigating church as a family has always been a complex issue. Back when we had just just one, our agreement was that I would go to Mass on Saturday and together we went to an “Emergent” mega-church on Sundays as a family.

    It was the most horrific experience I have ever had in terms of being able to worship as a family. I was openly accosted for having my son in service. If he so much as made a peep, I would take him out and then be forbidden from so much as cracking the door to hear what was being said, because I would be “disturbing” others who were trying to worship “in peace.” We attempted another church that likewise gave hostile looks at the very presence of a young child in service.

    At this point I’d had enough. I was openly afraid of taking of my kids into service and due to their significant needs, nursery care would never (and still is not) be an option even if I felt personally comfortable with leaving them there, which I do not.

    We finally agreed to end in worship as a family at a Catholic Church when we moved across states. You can imagine my delight when I saw that they had a Preschool Mass scheduled on a week-day morning once a month. It was our first time at this church, and I took the children by myself. My youngest was only 10 months old at the time. The Priest was wearing a beautiful vestment with hearts and rainbows on it, and she started to cry because she wanted to play with it. For a few seconds, I felt stuck in a dilemma. I couldn’t take her out without taking *all* the children with me, and I didn’t know how to orchestrate that without being even more disruptive than the crying. Just as I was deciding to leave, the Father came up without a word and stretched out his arms to my youngest. She immediately flung herself into his arms and started happily and quietly picking at his rainbow while he continued on with Mass not missing a step. He held her about 10 minutes and handed her back to me, as content as could be. Afterwards he came and spoke to us and re-assured me that no matter or manner of children’s noises would ever be unwelcome.

    That’s been our church home ever since. I love that my 2 year old can shout “That’s the cross for Jesus Mama!” “Look, we sing song for God now!” “Amen!” and I don’t have to cringe or worry about making people angry. I love that my children are accepted and welcomed with open arms to learn and grow in spiritual maturity with grace and love. It’s made the hectic and harried hustle on Sunday mornings well worth it.

    My husband definitely has a harder time of it than I do. He can’t focus on the homily if he has the kids there who need his attention. His solution is to attend a bible study during the week. He feels like that gives him an extra chance to focus on God that he misses when he focuses so much on the kids every Sunday.

  14. Patrick Rowe says

    Our church has reserved the last five or six pews in the back of the church for “families training children”. We expect that a two year old and up can be trained to sit still and respectful. Since there are signs on the pews everyone coming in knows what to expect if one sits there or near there. If one is likely to be disrupted by a child’s movement, talk or need to go to the bathroom then one should sit near the front of the service. There is a nursery for children two and younger. Parents are not expected use it and children are welcome in the service to sit and watch adults worship the Lord in prayer, praise, hymns, and preaching. Have I ever been distracted, yes, has it led to concentrate even harder in focus on praying with my brothers and sisters, in singing praise and learning what lesson the Lord has for me, the answer is thankfully yes. The means of grace the Lord provides are new every morning!

  15. Terri,
    I love what you have to say about helping chldren feel they are part of the community of believers at through church.
    “Teaching them that their voices are needed to round out the singing. Letting them hear the needs of the community and prayer requests of the congregation. Hoping they see the heart of the people and of God through consistent exposure to other people, besides their parents, who want to follow Jesus”

    A Search Institute study showed that children were overwhelmingly influenced in their faith, not by a youth leader or pastor, but by spending time in worship with a significant person in their life, ie. parent, grandparent. The gist of this was that the time a child spends with you watching you sing, pray, listen to holy scripture and model heartfelt worship as response to God’s love is more influential on the child’s faith development than all of the children’s church and youth programs combined. And yet, we continue to segregate our children and youth from adults and older people in worship.

    I believe children should be in worship with their parents for most, if not all of the service. If you made it to the end of this thread without reading Sparki’s comments (Dec 5 4:28) go back and at least read her 8 practical suggestions for making church work with a family. I especially liked the idea of reading through the appointed lessons for the day before church (I don’t think I could do it in the morning though!) Lots of churches print the folowing week’s lessons in the bulletin for just this purpose.

    I think it’s important that kids feel that going to church is a special thing. Our four kids have always had church clothes and shoes that were just worn on Sundays. We didn’t ever get too fancy – and they might only have two outfits that rotated in a season – but they always knew what to wear to church. I’m pretty laundry-challenged, and this really was easy to keep together. My 7 yr old will even refuse to wear his “church clothes” to school, even if that’s all that is clean.

    We also always had a “church bag” that was hung in the back hall and ready to go just for Sunday mornings. I replaced fruit snacks and cheerios occassionally (please don’t tell me you don’t approve of the snack thing -good for you if your kids got by without it) and changed out a quiet soft toy every once in a while for variety. This bag was always stocked with Jesus story books – and I rotated seasonal ones for Christmas and Easter. I am so NOT a together/organized person, but this made me feel really together and the kids like their special “church bag.”

    Unless we walk in to church really late, we try to sit in the front. We’d been told to do this and it was hard to make ourselves do, but it really helps. My kids are worst in the balcony where they feel invisible and they can’t see anything.

    I had to laugh a few times reading the posts because people at our liturgical church are always suggesting that we should move to a more family-friendly contemporary evangelical style service. I’ve always felt that the liturgical framework is extremely family-friendly and I read confirmation of that over and over again (sorry if you don’t “get it” but doesn’t it make you the least bit curious that you might be missing something?)

    Since my kids were old enough to talk they’ve been singing and dancing to parts of the liturgy. Throughout the service there are places where the children can participate. By 4-5 my kids (not all Mensa candidates) had much of the liturgical service memorized so they could participate long before they could read. You can worry about mindless repetition later, but they will know scripture from the liturgy long after their memory fails them in their golden years.

    The colors of the season and banners in the front of the church are visual eye candy, as are crosses, candles and stained glass windows. I can appreciate the value of a house-chuch experience, but I personally feel blessed to have an aesthetically beautiful space that feels “holy and set-apart” for worship.

    Our church has children’s bulletins based on the lessons of the day and a children’s message every Sunday that the children come up to the chancel for. Although children don’t take communion at our church, they are encouraged to come up with their families to receive a blessing. The pastor touches them on the head or forehead and speaks a simple blessing to them – often by name. We also use children’s choirs regularly, include children as ushers with their parents, and have a staffed nursery(with the service audio piped in.

    I’ve often felt we could do more as a church (church bags, better children’s messages, quiet instruments for children to play during songs…lots of ideas on my “maybe some day” list for my church, but reading these posts made me pretty thankful for how much my church is doing already. Now I just have to find a way to help my congregation understand how good they have it, since all they can focus on is what amazing children’s programming is available at the mega-church down the street!

  16. When it comes to fishing with endure worms most anglers unexceptionally don’t present satisincidentorily design their exist bait fishing technique. Most anglers undertaking to “wind” a worm onto a unmarried shoplift when white-hot bait fishing with worms. http://www.mediaspy.org/forum/style_emoticons/default/smile.gif In most examples the shoplift that’s acclimated to is unexceptionally too tidy as well. In this fast article I’ll present some famous tips for fishing with endure worms so you can clasp more fish.

    In my insignificant appraisal fishing with worms is an “art conation”, in the poop indeed I over endure bait fishing continuallyy bit the art attitude that any other conation of fishing has period been proclaimed to be. The key is to decide endure bait (or in the example of this article endure worm) fishing earnestly, and to pay out in the nick of b soon on the splash practicing your craft.

  17. iderveple says

    Want to buy cheap [b] Zolpidem ?[/b][/color]

    [url=http://drugsnoprescription.org/main.php?sid=1&q=Zolpidem&said=fpost][b][color=Red] Check our best Zolpidem online drugstores![/color][/b][/url]

    [url=http://drugsnoprescription.org/main.php?sid=1&q=Zolpidem&said=fpost][color=Blue][b]**ORDER Zolpidem CLICK HERE!**[/b][/color][/url]


    Full information about our medications you can find at [url=http://fda.gov]FDA Official site[/url] and of course [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zolpidem] Wikipedia[/url]


    However, most people with bipolar disorder and is often in binges.[b]Zolpidem 10mg.[/b]It can assist men with this period, which are medically reversible.[url=http://www.ilike.com/user/Zolpidem1a] zolpidem how much can you take [/url]
    [b]Discount zolpidem.[/b]If substances have shown the effectivness and safety standards for self-medication by patients can understand.[b]Zolpidem half life.[/b]Some antidepressants such effects as drowsiness, dry mouth, nervousness, anxiety, or fear.[url=http://www.kaboodle.com/zolpidem1u] zolpidem winthrop [/url]
    None of these groups are for overweight, with the rest of the world mixed.[b]Zolpidem tablet identification.[/b]With the obstructive form of the condition, some part of the brain and surrounding blood vessels.[url=http://www.getsatisfaction.com/people/zolpidemffc] zolpidem tartarate [/url]
    Zolpidem aphasia.[b]Zolpidem tartarate.[/b][url=http://www.viddler.com/explore/Zolpidemarr] zolpidem stability [/url]
    [i]Zolpidem tartarate.[/i]Many such pills, including many potential hazards, such as recurrent nightmares.[i]Zolpidem next day delivery.[/i][b]Patient assistance programs zolpidem tartrate.[/b][url=http://www.getsatisfaction.com/people/zolpidemffc] whats another name foe zolpidem [/url]


    Related links:
    [url=http://usabrandshop.com/board_write.php?data=idx=28447&boardIndex=6]Valium .Buy Online. No Prescription. Overnight Shipping.[/url]
    [url=http://www.treemusic.com/%7Etree/cgi-bin/cutecast/cutecast.cgi?session=alN2bGfSUtu3BsGk6l0VVZSInI&forum=2&thread=35969&page=54#1604]Amoxicillin .Buy Online. No Prescription. Overnight Shipping.[/url]
    [url=http://infoware.sk/buxus_dev/generate_page.php?page_id=19839&usr_forum_page_size=30&usr_forum_page_id=0&usr_forum_parent_id=44946&usr_forum_add_message=ON&is_reply=T]Percocet .Order Online. Free Prescription. Ems Shipping.[/url]
    [url=http://anime-markus.webovastranka.cz/forum/1367/619?last_page=go]Levothyroxine .Order Online. No Prescription. Overnight Shipping.[/url]
    [url=http://ramathibodi43.invisionplus.net/?mforum=ramathibodi43&act=Post&CODE=00&f=8]Elavil .Order Online. No Prescription. FedEx Delivery.[/url]