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    Children At Church

    February 17, 2009 by Brandy Vencel

    On Sunday, I spent an entire church service rocking a very distraught toddler. My parents had been kind and gracious to my downtrodden husband and I and gave us the weekend off. We only had one child to contend with for two days and nights, and this child sleeps most of the time and never ever talks back.

    It was a lovely weekend.

    My parents showed off by getting to church before us with three kids in tow. {I couldn’t figure out how they did that until I realized my children wake a whole hour earlier at Granmama’s house than they do at home.} When Q. saw Si and I, she was suddenly overwhelmed by it all. During the second song, she began to cry softly.

    And then louder.

    And then finally I tapped Si on the shoulder and offered to exchange my quiet baby for his almost-screaming toddler. He agreed, leaving me with the short end of the stick, which I promptly took to the Cry Room, where we proceeded to rock {me} and cry {her} for the next hour.

    There was a young mommy in there, one that I know. Her second-born is about the age of Baby O. Just last week, she was asking how in the world we get our children to sit through church, so I was so very glad I did the right thing. You know what that was? Telling her to go ask that mother-of-nine we both know! Seriously, though, the dose of reality {that children, even trained ones, still have bad days} was probably encouraging to her. I know it was for me when I was in her shoes, training a resistant A. to stop singing during sermons.

    Our church has a full array of Sunday School activities, so our children do not need to be in church with us. And though I wasn’t frustrated this past Sunday, there have been times where Si or I or both of us have been so tempted to plop a child down in Sunday School and go to worship service in peace.

    But we never do.

    We made a choice to train our children to come to church as a family because we believed in the power of such an act, of its rightness, and so on. And on the very best days, I am bursting with joy. Seeing my son and his granddad near-hugging while belting out hymns together? That is something so priceless, something I’ll never forget. Watching my toddler flirt with the couple behind us {to their great delight}? Possibly a little distracting, but also a treasure.

    Three years ago I wrote a post about why we decided to bring our children to worship service with us. It is funny to call it a decision. Our modern world has turned everything into a choice issue. Even a hundred years ago, there wasn’t much decision making about church. You either went or you didn’t, and that was the extent of it.

    Having a conviction about bringing children to church and actually doing it are sometimes two different things. I mean, there is the ideal and then there is the practice. Ideally, we all sit in church together, sing together, pray together, and so on. In practice, small children are in training. This means that the parents are often not singing and praying. Instead, they are whispering in a child’s ear to please-stop-whining-this-very-instant.


    I was not worn out on Sunday one bit, but I remember how exhausting it once was for me, this training. And I distinctly remember watching other mommies happily drop off drooling babies in the nursery and head for “Big Church” as we called it growing up because church was perceived by children as being for grownups only. And as these moms calmly sat through church, I rocked a crying person in the Cry Room and wiped spit up off of the dress that I just remembered wasn’t appropriate for nursing in public.

    And I wished at that time that I could rip the conviction out of my own heart and go to worship service sans wee ones.

    But I just couldn’t, and as we all know, we must be convinced in our own minds for anything which isn’t done in faith is sin.

    Now, it’s different. The battle hasn’t changed. I still have one half-trained child and one untrained child, and church can still be taxing at times. But I think my heart is changed because now I know that this time isn’t forever {as long as we practice and work at it}, and that the pay-off is worth it {like the time my son reminded my husband of Pastor Brent’s sermon on evangelizing}. Sitting in church with my children and training them has made me more patient. I suppose I could say it has been sanctifying.

    So my heart warmed today when I read over at Preschoolers and Peace this quote from Doug Wilson:

    But the life of Christ is not best represented by listening to a lecture, undistracted by anything. The life of Christ is pulled in many directions, just like you are being, and you are willing for this to happen so that your children may come to worship the Lord. Laying it down for someone else this way is our glory. It is a sacrifice to bring them to the Word, to the psalms, to the wine and to the bread. So donโ€™t measure what you get out of these worship services with carnal balances. The weight of glory you are carrying is far beyond the weight of toddlers in your lap.

    P&P has the larger quote here.

    Children in Worship
    Training in Churchgoing
    Childrearing #11: Using Tally Sheets in Church

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  • Reply Brandy February 18, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    We were writing at the same time, I see. You are very welcome. P&P is a very encouraging site. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Brandy February 18, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    I have heard a couple people now recommend Parenting in the Pew. I wonder if my church has it in our library? If not, maybe I’ll try to donate a copy! I enjoyed your post on the matter. As far as First Daughter goes…when we were training A., she could be a horrible distraction and I always felt like the people around us didn’t realize that we really were trying. I don’t know if my feelings were accurate, but church was very stressful when we were training her. Some children just take time. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I almost said “whispering threats in their ears” but I thought maybe that was too much of an exaggeration. Our 6-year-old and 3-year-old (who will be four on Sunday!) do not sit next to each other, and that is the magic bullet right now. We are blessed by grandparents who decided to help us in the training stage, so our row goes: stroller, me (holding baby), Si (holding Q.), A., Granmama, E., Granddad. No adult is outnumbered. I really think this is what enabled us to carry on when Number Four was born. I really didn’t see how we were going to do it other than me taking two babies to the Cry Room every Sunday.

    Yes, you certainly have a wiggle worm with a pair of lungs! Sorry, I’m laughing. It is so much funnier when the child belongs to someone else. ๐Ÿ™‚ He reminds me of A., who started crawling at four months. I felt like church was a wrestling match for the longest time! If you ever want to train him…talk to Tammy. ๐Ÿ™‚ He he. There is nothing like passing the buck.

  • Reply Rachel R. February 18, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    Thank you!

  • Reply Dominic and Kimberly February 18, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    I love seeing your family in church all together and I have noticed how special this time is for your oldest boy and his grandad. So sweet. Maybe when you finish with the baby, you can work on my crawling, climbing, trying to walk, falling, siniging, yelling, babbling squirmy worm? He, he, just kidding =)

  • Reply Wendi February 18, 2009 at 3:07 am

    I chuckled when I read the part about whispering in a child’s ear to “please stop whining now”. We have three children (7,4,2) and have been bringing our children into church with us for the past 1.5yrs. The 7-year old is pretty well-trained, we’re working on the 4-year old, and the 2-year old tends to fall asleep (keeps him quiet but so hard on the arms!). Many times I feel that I go from whispering in 7-year old’s ear to giving 4-year old the look, to nudging 7-year old, to whispering in 4-year old’s ear to…well, you get the picture.

    I was very encouraged by both your post and the post by P&P – it is a struggle to train them, but it is so worth it!

  • Reply Kansas Mom February 18, 2009 at 2:43 am

    I feel exactly the same way! (Though I admit to more frustration when a baby cries the whole service!) Now that I finally read Parenting in the Pew, I feel like we are really making progress with First Son. First Daughter is still just a squirmer, but that doesn’t mean we’re not trying.

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