Posted: Jul 08, 2014 9:00 AM
 
Within the faith community, there is an ongoing debate as to where children belong during worship. Should children be required to attend service, and sit quietly through something they may not fully understand? Or should they be kept out of service, in Sunday School or kids' rooms, until they are old enough to participate? We talked with moms from around the web and asked: Do your kids attend service with you, and why?
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For families with young children who attend weekly worship services, the decision of where to put the kids is real and daunting. Bring them to services with you, and you may be subjected to side-eyes and judgmental whispers if they get too loud. Put them in a playroom or faith school, though, and they could miss out on the benefits of worship — which are real and plentiful. So what should you do?

The pros

Having your children in service with you — regardless of age — lets them recognize that life doesn't always have to be hectic and rushed. Intangible lessons abound: The friendly "hellos" and "good mornings" whispered by everyone who walks through the doors. The joy shared when a parish full of voices — many off-key — lift up in song. The giving which occurs when offering baskets are passed person-to-person. The humbling of oneself before God by kneeling or bowing your head for communal prayer. These lessons are valuable, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a single event which teaches them so effortlessly, all at once.

Also, never discount the benefit your children bring to the church as well, from the little old lady who looks forward to their smiles weekly, to the young ministers who see in your family the future of their faith. Your children's presence at worship is as valuable to others as it is to your family.

The cons

Small children, in a confined space, required to be quiet for a long period of time as something boring (to them) takes place — eek. It's tough to occupy little minds and bodies for an hour plus, especially if your service is first thing in the morning when kids are still full of energy. Some parents feel their children are better served in an area where they can either play with others or learn about faith at their level — neither of which occurs during most services. And other parents just want the time during worship for themselves, to be able to fully focus and absorb the word of God.

What real moms are doing

^Anne, mom to Maria, 8 and Michael, 6

"Our kids come into church with us. They sit in the pews and participate along with us in everything. We used to bring along church-related activities for them, but now we just have them pay attention to the service. We figure they will need to for the rest of their lives, might as well make them start now."

^Charlene, mom to Carson, 6, Landon, 4 and Luke, 3 months

"We do whatever is best for our kids at the time. Carson is an old soul, who has always been interested in what was going on during Mass. Landon is more active, though, and has a harder time sitting still. Right now, with Carson coming up on his First Communion, he's with us all the time so he can learn the rituals and why we do them, while Landon is usually in the kids' room. We've done it all though, both with us, both in the kids' room and one in, one out. And of course, for now, Luke is always with me."

^Sue, mom to Brody, 5, and Cooper, 3

"Our kids come into church with us, they always have. As Catholics, we believe God is wholly present with us during Mass — why would I deny my children the chance to stand in His presence? There is a real beauty to communal prayer, a grace which is present no where else. From birth, our kids have witnessed that togetherness, and have benefited tremendously from the experience. Our faith teaches us that people are people from conception on, therefor their place is in the pews with us, not relegated to some other room until they are 'old enough' by someone else's standards."

Keep it in the family

The old adage "families who pray together, stay together" may not always hold true, but families who worship together experience a unity like no other. There is true grace in God's holy spaces, a grace which can transcend into your family through the togetherness of worship and prayer.

Ways to help your child through service

  • Let your child know what your expectations are. Tell them them gently that they will be expected to sit still quietly while worship is in progress.
  • Take them to the sanctuary when it is empty, so they may experience the silence and stillness of God's house. This will help them understand better why quiet is important during worship.
  • Show them the level of volume they should use if they need to say something or ask a question, so they know in advance.
  • Go over what will happen during church, so they are familiar with the ritual and stages.
  • Walk them around the church, showing them all of the special places contained within. Show them where the choir sits, where the Host is kept, where the candles are, etc. It will give them something to look for during worship, and help them better understand their faith home.
  • If they can read, see if your church has available a large-print missal, so they can better follow along with the prayers and readings.
  • If they are old enough, ask if your child can somehow participate. Many churches are thrilled to have little helpers, and it gives your child a sense of togetherness when they are given a task, regardless of how small.

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