How Teaching my Children to Sit Through Church Saved my Day Yesterday

September 14, 2013

Years ago, when our oldest was a preschooler, and our second child was just a baby, we decided to do this crazy thing called Bringing the Children to Church. At the time, very few people did that sort of thing at the church we were a part of. Children went to Sunday School, and their parents went to worship service. There are a lot of reasons I will not go into here as to why we decided to make a different choice.

At one point, I truly thought I was crazy. Was this really worth all the effort? You see, my oldest child is almost three years older than my second child, but my second child is only three-and-a-half years older than my fourth child. What I’m trying to say is, I had three children under the age of four.

And of course I feel guilty saying anything about this because I know at least one of you has three children under two, but I’m saying it anyhow.

Ahem.

Our church had a mother’s room that was just fabulous. It was part of the sanctuary, but had walls and one-way glass. I could go into this room, and participate in the worship service, while rocking a baby or training a rambunctious toddler to Stay on Mommy’s Lap.

The worst day of training ever was the time that I took my youngest to nurse. He was probably three months. Shortly after that, my husband pushed our daughter, then almost-two, in the room with me. She was crying. I had a stroller with me, so I plopped her in it while I finished with the baby. A few minutes later, my three-year-old joined the party. She was distraught at being left behind.

And naturally men weren’t allowed in the mother’s room.

So.

I could go into the details of why that almost broke my resolve, but I won’t. I’m sure you can imagine what a hard hour that was for me, and you’ve probably had difficult hours of your own, some of you much worse than mine.

All of this is to say that today I have four children ages 5 to 11 who are trained to sit in church. We moved churches a little over a year ago, and the pastor at this church preaches twice as long as the pastor at the previous church. So now the children are used to sitting quietly for 45 minutes to even an hour.

We didn’t choose to do this so that people would tell us how well-behaved our children were, or that our children would be able to sit other places for long periods of time. We had a conviction and we went with it, whether there were any side-benefits to be had or not.

But, oh, are there side-benefits.

You see, yesterday a Bad Thing happened to me. I almost broke my ankle. Lest you think I’m exaggerating, I will explain.

We were making our way out to co-op. I had my four children, plus my friend’s son. As I was making my way back into the house to grab a few more things, I somehow lost my step. I would later discover that my five-year-old’s knee pad was left right in front of the door, and I was wearing platform shoes {don’t ask}, and so as a result as my foot began to roll down the side of the knee pad, it just kept on rolling {momentum and all} and then I heard this sickening POP sound and then I was on my knees wondering if I could get back up and what in the world I was going to do.

I stood up and it hurt. Oh, how it hurt. I wondered about going to the doctor right then, but then I thought about co-op and how this was supposed to be my first Plutarch lesson of the year, and how disappointed all these children would be if they didn’t get to go and so of course I went.

I hobbled from the truck to the tables at the park. One of the moms gave me an ice pack. I also tried sunbathing my ankle, based upon my inclination to believe that a suntan heals all wounds.

When it came time to walk back to the truck I was {1} not sure I’d make it and {2} pretty sure something was truly broken.

I made it, but it was awful. Right up there with recovering from a C-section.

We went home. My oldest made lunch. I languished on the couch. I tried to find a babysitter. Why, oh, why were my parents out of town?

The question of the hour was really: How crazy will my youngest son be if I take all four of them to Urgent Care with me?

This is where church comes in. All that training that we did for other reasons? It paid great dividends.

I took my children to Urgent Care. They went and got a wheelchair for me, and some super nice woman–another patient–wheeled me in. We waited an hour to get in. They read their books {with their backs turned to CNN–why must there be televisions everywhere??}. My youngest sighed and wished he could read. I spent the time trying not to cry.

They called me back. I brought my youngest with me because he never listens to his brother and he’d also be most likely to decide it was Time to Leave, whether I was there or not. The other three stayed in the waiting room with their books {Falcons of France, The Little White Horse, and The King of the Golden River, if you are interested}, and I silently prayed that the television would try its best not to discuss perversion or violence while I was gone.

Total, we spent another hour in the back. We waited for the doctor. We waited for the X-ray technician. My youngest sat on a bench by himself outside of the X-ray room, waiting for the pictures to be taken. We waited again for them to read the X-rays. We waited for them to bandage my ankle. We waited for them to check me out at the end.

It was two full hours of waiting.

And they did great!

I really can’t believe it. This was such a blessing to me. I am so relieved. I felt so overwhelmed and thought it was going to be one of those terrible disaster stories.

And that was when I realized that all those years ago, when we felt that conviction to bring the children to church, to have them worship with the congregation, God knew this day would come, too. He carried us through all those days of training when it was hard and we wanted to give up, and He blessed us yesterday with some of the fruits of that labor.

As if the joy of discussing a sermon later in the day, or holding a little child’s hand during worship wasn’t grace enough!

The possibility of side-benefits are never a reason to train children, in my opinion. I’m one to think that the thing we’re training them in must be Good in and of itself. But there are side-benefits, and that’s a fact.

And a relief.

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22 Comments

  • Reply SS #27: Education is a Discipline | Scholé Sisters October 19, 2017 at 9:05 pm

    […] How Teaching my Children to Sit Through Church Saved my Day Yesterday […]

  • Reply ckeyster April 14, 2014 at 7:16 am

    I have just started on staff at a new church as the Associate pastor at my church and for the most part my children do well sitting except for days like today when I needed them to as I was filling in for the senior pastor. I have three children and my girls do a great job at sitting still however my 4 year old feels that he needs to be attached to me the whole time while at church and won’t even stay with daddy. Since it was family Sunday and the children had an active roll in the service we did not have anyone to help with the younger children once their portion of the service was over. This made it difficult for me to do my job as my son literally hung on my leg the entire time I was giving the message. Thankfully the congregation was understanding but I need to figure out a way to end this behavior. I know some may wonder why my husband didn’t help in this situation but he was tending to our 5month old. Any advice on how I can teach him that this is not okay without causing a meltdown in front of the congregation?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel April 14, 2014 at 6:47 pm

      I really don’t know! That is a tough one because it is developmentally normal for a 4yo to want to be with his mother all. the. time. 🙂 The only advice I can give you is what was given to me and that is to use public times as a test to see how your home training is going. In other words, you practice at home, and then when you are out you see how much more practice you need. 🙂

  • Reply Karla A September 21, 2013 at 5:29 am

    I’m glad you are doing better. When my husband and I were planting a church in NC, one of the things we wanted was for the whole family to worship together. The kids were able to stay AND participate (welcoming people, passing the offering plate, etc). We even had a Family month where we had Sunday school together. We just left a church where our kids were gone throughout all the worship service and that bothered me (we left for different reasons). Another thing that I have seen is those children who are present during worship will stay seated while we sing or read the Bible. My children know they are expected to stand up and sing or read along with their Bible. If we let our kids just sit down when we should be teaching reverence then when they become young adults we can’t expect them to change that behavior.

  • Reply Anonymous September 16, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    I too have been thankful in other places for training my children to quietly sit through church. My husband had to deal with a legal battle when my oldest was 20 months and I was 8 months pregnant. The lawyer recommended that I sit with my son up front during the trial to humanize my husband with the panel hearing the case. My son sat quietly on my lap for the duration of the hearing and my husband’s case went his way. The lawyer was impressed and said we helped the case. The panel cooed at my son and remarked how “amazing” he was. To this day we are thankful for the extra blessing church training provided us that day.

    If it weren’t for families that went before us and showed us the importance we might not have thought it possible. We also trained at home in order to minimize our disruption during the actual service as well as begin slowly. Even though we had many Sundays with my husband walking out of service to discipline it wasn’t long before each child learned.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 17, 2013 at 3:10 am

      I cannot even imagine having to go through that with such young children! What a blessing!

  • Reply Hayley September 16, 2013 at 4:31 am

    Brandy, so sorry about your ankle. May I do something for you? Pick up groceries- send me your list! Bring a meal?

  • Reply Heather September 15, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    I’m very sorry to hear about your ankle injury, Brandy. Being the mom and being sick/injured is a hard providence, but how wonderful to hear of your children rising to the occasion and doing their best to help by their obedience and cooperation.

    We too have always had our children sit with us during our worship service with Sunday School to look forward to after Worship. When we started at our church, there were not a lot of families with young children, but today our church is full of little people and their families worshiping together and our Pastor has said publicly how much he enjoys having them there.

    And I could empathize with Beth Starr’s comments about at times not feeling very spiritual. I posted some words from Doug Wilson on this topic on my blog several years back when our third was just a baby.
    Here’s the link to his post called A Deeper Level of Worship: http://dougwils.com/s7-engaging-the-culture/a-deeper-level-of-worship.html

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 17, 2013 at 3:12 am

      Thank you for sharing that link to Wilson’s article. That was so encouraging!

  • Reply He Sets You Free September 15, 2013 at 11:03 am

    Brandy, I pray you are feeling better and praise God for endurance training. If you get a moment, I would really appreciate talking to you more about your decision, we are the only family in our Church who have our four year old with us, your wisdom may help me articulate how I feel. If you ever feel led to contact me…. tarascottjefferis at gmail dot com Thank you. Tara.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 17, 2013 at 3:09 am

      Tara, I’ll try to briefly explain in here, in case anyone else has the same question. I think there are a lot of little reasons, but our two main reasons were that (1) we had trouble reconciling Jesus’ “let the little children come to me” with sending our children away while we “did church” without them and (2) we think that children should grow up as part of the body of Christ, which means participating in Communion, witnessing baptisms, singing in worship, and even learning to listen to a sermon.

      I think that at many churches a child can grow up and never see how adults worship, how they listen to a sermon, how they baptize, how they take communion, etc. And when they “graduate” from their youth services, they don’t know how to join the Body. That is our biggest concern. I do not think that training a child from babyhood to join the Body is the only way to do it, but it is the way that we chose to do it, and I do so enjoy worshiping with all of our children now that the training part is over.

      With that said, we are *not* anti-Sunday School. We went through times where we all went to Sunday School. Our church currently only offers children’s church, which is during the sermon. I know there are reasons why some families choose to use this–and we oh so appreciate that junior high and high schoolers are expected to join in the main service (there is no separate service for them)–but since our children are already trained, there is no reason for us to utilize those offerings.

      I missed church on Sunday due to my ankle, so my six-year-old narrated the sermon to me when she got home. It was precious. 🙂

  • Reply Dawn September 15, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Oh, Brandy. I am so sorry to hear about your miserable ankle sprain. I hope that you are able to delegate care of the goats, etc until it is feeling a little better! On a lighter note, your comment about a suntan being the great healer of wounds gave me a nice chuckle. Thanks.

    As for the true depth of your post – this is an encouragement to me. My boys notoriously don’t want to be left in child care at church – especially early on/when we first find a church – and now that we are in “church hopping” mode once again post-relocation to find the right fit this is timely for me.

  • Reply Beth Starr September 15, 2013 at 4:27 am

    Your post just gave me some enlightenment to why my kid’s behave in other settings that require them to wait. My chiropractor calls my kids the “perfect children” because they sit and are quiet the whole time I am being seen.

    For your other commenter who’s husband is a pastor–My husband is a pastor and I’ve had my kids with me in church by myself. Yes, I have had moments that I’ve had to be out of the service with them, but for the most part they sit with me or when they were very young (since I play the keyboard, also) sat with a saint who volunteered to watch them for the singing.

    Being a mom with babies in church isn’t easy. During these time I didn’t feel very spiritual and wondered why I even bothered, but I knew in my heart it was what God wanted. Training kids in church is a process. There will be times you get something from service and there will be times you will spend the most of the time training your child. I can say that God has always met me in these desperate and frustrating times.

    Oh, and if one of my kid’s are extremely disorderly in church there is usually a meeting with Dad when we get home.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 17, 2013 at 3:00 am

      Beth I am so glad you are here to offer encouragement as a pastor’s wife! I admire that you were able to train them without your husband being able to help you!

  • Reply dawn September 15, 2013 at 1:18 am

    I have sprained ankles (each of them on different occasions) and it is miserable. We’ve had someone who could watch the kids and I’m so thankful. However, I recently had some chiro appts where they sat in the lobby and they did great with a book or school work … I hadnt made the connection with knowing how to behave in those situations.

    Thanks for the encouragement and hope you’re feeling better soon.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 15, 2013 at 2:36 am

      I really can’t take credit for making that connection! I was at a CM reading group meeting and one of the moms there was explaining how she took three very young children {none school aged} to a funeral without her husband, and how well they all did and how she never could have done it if they didn’t sit through church. And then I thought: oh my! This is why Si’s grandma used to say that she could tell which children went to church and which ones different {she meant to the worship service–she was old school}. 🙂

  • Reply Mystie September 14, 2013 at 11:41 pm

    I hope you recover quickly!

    I’m glad God granted you the fruit of your good works when you needed it. 🙂

  • Reply Jo September 14, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    Would you have been able to train them without your husband? I would like to have all my children in the worship service with me, but I’m married to the preacher, and I’m unable to do it alone. We don’t have a glass-walled mother’s room. Even with my youngest in the nursery, I seldom hear an entire sermon. I’m glad your kids’ training kept your Bad Day form being Worse.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 14, 2013 at 10:53 pm

      That is a good question! Do you have other family members in your church who would support you? My parents were also available to help us during that hard time where most of the children weren’t trained.

      I honestly think it can be done, at least in most cases, but it is much, much harder. Did I mention I think it’d be much harder? 😀 I probably would have waited until the preschool years instead of starting them right out as babies. The mother’s room helped immensely, too.

      I have a friend who trains her children at home first, so that might be an option. She starts with five minutes, or whatever they can do. They have to sit on her lap while someone reads a story, or fifteen minutes while she checks her email, etc. And she works up from there. We did a little bit of home practice, but nothing like what she has done, and she has now trained many children, with many different personalities, to sit in church.

      But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with waiting until a child is older if you have to!

    • Reply Hayley September 16, 2013 at 4:28 am

      We started having our children sit in church with us at ages 3 and 4. It was a really great age to begin. We also practiced at home. We actually listened to sermons for 5 minutes and then built up to 15 minutes. I tried to choose sermons that they would somewhat resonate with (when our Pastor preached on Psalm 23 and they had recently memorized Psalm 23). We still do this little training two times a week at home for our now 2 year old, but I also spend the entire time out for the sermon with the 2 year old and 1 year old. It just works for us to sit and listen to the sermon without feeling the stress that we’re being distracting. Our 2 year old still likes to comment things such as “He just said Jesus!” or “He said AMEN!” so we’re working on this outside of the worship service.

      I also will share that while I am still working on helping our 2 year old to sit and listen. I have her sit with me for 25 minutes while listening to the sermon on Sundays in the nursery, and allow her to play for 10 minutes, before spending the last 10-15 minutes back on my lap. Everything is a process, and it won’t happen in just a few weeks. We will eventually omit the 10 minutes of playing on the floor in the nursery when it’s time but at the moment that is their reward for sitting quiet the first 25 minutes and it gives us a boost for the last portion of sitting. It really just takes time and patience and their growing up helps too.

  • Reply Laura Witten September 14, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    So glad they didn’t make it worse for you! Get well soon!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 14, 2013 at 10:48 pm

      Thanks for the well wishes! I am on crutches right now and trying not to be frustrated by all that I cannot do…

      I have seen my children at their very worst and know exactly how bad yesterday could have been; so very thankful the Lord had mercy on me yesterday!

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