When the Four-Year Old Gets It

Yesterday as we were pulling up to church, Vivienne decided she didn’t want to go to her class. She wanted to go to “big church” with us.

In my mind, I was thinking, “I’m not prepared for this! I don’t have any paper or coloring books or anything to ‘distract’ her during the sermon! Why???”

But instead of letting her see my panic, I tried to prep Vivi as best as I could. She’s an observant kid. She stood and watched as everyone sang, then she watched as the offering buckets were passed. (In hindsight, I should’ve given her some money to put in.) The whole time, though, she kept asking when Pastor David was going to get onstage.

Once our pastor began preaching, I could see Vivienne getting restless. I let her follow along in my Bible as he read from the book of Joshua.

I answered her loudly whispered questions.

I worried about being a distraction to those around us.

Then she grabbed a notecard from the seat in front of us and decided to take notes. I kid you not. The sermon was from Joshua 1:6-10. Go read it. Then check out what she wrote.

Jesus     God     God is strong     Joshua     I love you     Greater

Y’all. This is proof to me that little ears are always listening. She picked up on the most important thing from the sermon.

God is strong.

God is strong. Not me.

I can’t do this hard thing He is asking me to do. But God is strong and He can help me.


Did you have children’s church when you were little?

I don’t think Children’s Church was a thing when I was a kid 35 years ago. I can remember sitting in “big church,” being shushed a lot, and being bored to tears. (Sorry but it’s true.) I can remember being so sleepy, wishing I could lie down in my mom’s lap. I also have vivid memories of one of my brother’s friends sleeping on the pew behind us, snoring loudly. Now that was funny!

When Peter and I started having kids, Children’s Church was becoming a thing. And I loved it! Who doesn’t want a place for their two-year old to go where they can hear stories about Jesus, sing songs about God’s goodness, and play?

A few months ago, a friend on Facebook posted about a book she was reading which really intrigued me, and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. The book was called Parenting in the Pew and the premise of the book is that we should have our children in the worship services with us instead of in children’s church.

I decided to read this book, particularly because the church we’ll be attending when we move to Tennessee has done away with children’s church for kindergarten aged kids and older. I was hoping to gain some serious wisdom from this author. (Really, I wanted a step-by-step guide to how I should handle my kids in church – particularly Jonah.)

In the book the author talks about the importance of Children’s Church for young children up to about age 4, but she notes that children should be doing many of the same things in their service that the adults are doing – learning the tenets of the faith and the traditions of their particular denomination so when it’s time for them to actually attend “big church,” they are prepared for what is happening.

This book was so good for me, giving practical ideas for helping young children participate in “big church.” Here are just a few examples:

  • Expect high standards. Prepare your children by telling them exactly what will happen in the service. Most kids are capable of sitting for an extended period of time.
  • Have a printout of the worship songs for that particular day. Many churches now choose to project lyrics on a big screen, but kids have difficulty reading from a screen. Having words easily accessible will encourage them to sing and participate.
  • Have your child sit closely to you, and let them follow along in the Bible as the pastor reads.
  • Answer as many questions as possible that your children ask. If a question requires a longer answer than you can give, make sure to answer it on the way home.
  • If possible, find out what the sermon will be on and then look for coloring sheets or activity pages relating to that passage of Scripture.
  • Give your child a notebook and allow him to take notes or draw pictures – but only if they relate in some way to the sermon.

I know that kids get bored in worship service and frankly, I worry how Jonah will do when we move. But even if your child only gets one thing out of the sermon, like Vivienne did yesterday, that’s still awesome in my book.

What are your thoughts on Children’s Church versus children in the worship service?

Do you think you would have better success if your church equipped you with knowledge and resources before expecting kids to sit with you?

What are some things that make you nervous about having children in the worship service with you?

And for the record, I’m not against Children’s Church. At all! I actually love it for preschoolers and younger elementary kids. But I think there are pros and cons to anything we do, and everyone has to choose what they think is best for their own family.


2 thoughts on “When the Four-Year Old Gets It

  1. This is my thought on it!! Our older kids Bre and Alex were always in children’s church since coming to our church until they became in 6th grade. They didn’t know what to expect, what to do, they weren’t prepared for “big church” because of the leeway they had in children’s church! But as they grew the more they understood how to act in it. Now with Britain (our middle boy who has aspergers and ADHD) went to children’s church a couple of times but because we only get him every other weekend it was hard for him to adapt. And now that he is in 6th grade-he is loud, doesnt know what to do, is always fidgety (that’s a whole nother situation), that’s not fit for rite now. So we are very regular with how he to act and what we expect him to do..
    Then, Aleigha!! Aleigha was never able to go to children’s church…
    she also ADHD and when we wouldn’t give her anything to do she was fidgety, always wanting to get up, never could tell us what the sermon was about. But, we started giving her things to do (color, math facts worksheets) she could almost tell you word for word what the sermon was about! She sings and is off key sometimes but everyone around us is ok with that….
    I think every child is differnt and unique in there own way and they will get it and I think you are doing any amazing job by bringing them into service with you! You may want to start bringing them in more often so they can get use to it and the transition won’t be as bad.

    1. Yes! I am definitely planning on bringing them into service with us more often. I’m worried about Jonah (definite attention problems and high functioning autism) but he won’t know how to act if we don’t start showing him. Thank you so much for your comments! I love that you were able to give your daughter some things to do and she could better pay attention to the sermon. That is amazing!

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