Children in Church {Book Review}

Children in Church: Nurturing Hearts of Worship
I recently finished reading Children in Church: Nurturing Hearts of Worship by Curt and Sandra Lovelace. Raising Real Men gave me the opportunity to review this as part of my TOS review position.
I really haven't had much direction on this topic and my very limited experience that it was even an option to have children with you in church came from a visit in a southern church where I noticed numerous families with young children in the service. 

When we returned back home I don't know that I thought much more about it and continued to put our oldest in the nursery until he turned 4 years old.
The other instance was when a friend mentioned that where her husband was from, they didn't have nurseries and that the parents keep their children with them in the service. I'm sure my first thought was, "Wow, that's a lot of work. I can't imagine doing that!"
Several years later, we had our third child, Caleb, and he definitely got sick a lot more often than our older children. I felt it was better to keep him with me until he got older. On top of all that, I was dealing with post-partum that made it very hard for me to cope with a lot of the pressures I was facing. It was a battle for me to even go to church, let alone be separated from my kids, although I still sent the older two to their classes.
Interestingly enough, God used that situation to open my eyes to the possibility that I could keep our children in church with us and incredible blessings pursued. Don't get me wrong, I certainly had moments of frustration or times when I about sweat right through my shirt because I was aware of the noise that my child just made.
Initially I spent a lot of time in the nursing room with our baby, listening to the messages or if I wasn't nursing and the baby wasn't fussy I sat in the back of the church in the overflow area. 
It was around this time that I started having our 2 1/2 year old daughter sit with us too. Many times, my husband had the older two with him in the pew and I was in the overflow area. It can be challenging having your children sit with you in a service and I was extremely cautious about not being a distraction to those around me. However, most areas in life in which we are training our children are challenging and just because it is doesn't mean we shouldn't do it.
Some of my absolute favorite memories thus far, include worshiping alongside our children. I can't tell you how much it fills my heart with joy when our little guy (who just turned 3) reaches over and puts his arm around me and helps me hold the hymnal while we're singing. Or I look down and see our oldest son writing out a verse from Scripture or a line from a song. It also gives me some of the best snuggling moments with our children because it is a time when I am forced to sit down and be still (which can be hard to make myself do at home when I am so crazy busy!)
Don't get me wrong, there have been difficult periods we have had to deal with so it's not all peaches and cream, but the blessings far outweigh the difficulties.
Here are a couple pictures I snapped with my phone a few months back. I just knew I wanted to preserve memories like these! The quality's not great because I was trying to be quick and discreet, so bear with me...
My two boys loving on each other and Grandpa during church one evening

Our daughter and son singing together
In order to help our family and the worshipers around us get the most out of the service, our family has a few policies that we do our best to stick by. I share them with you so that if you are considering this for your family it can give you some direction. I still have so much to learn and I am very thankful for a book like this. I have already implemented some of the suggestions!
There are certain expectations that we have for our children while in church:
  • When we stand, sit or pray, I expect them to do so also.
  • They are to sit still and look forward. I do not let them turn around and stare at the people behind them. I do allow them to snuggle with us and to sit on our lap. I love holding one of my younger ones on my lap, smelling their hair and worshiping God all at the same time! ;)
  • Our children are to keep their feet off of the pews in front of them. I remind them that we don't put our shoes on our furniture at home and we certainly don't want to  in God's home either.
  • I bring a Church Bag with stickers, papers and books (I even found a cloth book for .25 at a garage sale this summer!) to keep the younger ones quiet. However, they are not allowed to use it until the message starts. They are to actively participate in the service as much as possible. Our oldest recently turned 7 so he is no longer allowed to look at books, but he may draw quietly. I do not want his mind to be completely enraptured in a book and not on the message at hand. (More later on what I learned regarding what our children should do during the message.)
  • They need to keep papers, crayons and books as quiet as possible. I absolutely do not want to be a distraction to anyone else.
  • The older ones need to stay awake, although it is rare that the younger ones ever go to sleep.
  • When it is time to sing, I expect them to stand and follow along. It is a huge blessing when they sing along.
  • We try to arrive several minutes before the service starts so that we can have a seat in the back in case we need a quick exit and it allows us to get everyone settled and ready.
  • Everyone needs to go to the bathroom before they leave the house. It is very rare that they have to leave the service to go to the bathroom and we always accompany them on the rare occasion that they have to go (and will do so for many years to come! We are responsible for their safety as much as lies within us.)
  • If a child misbehaves, we quickly (and hopefully, quietly!) remove them from the service, deal with the situation, and come back to the Sanctuary. I remember reading a long time ago a helpful article from Noel Piper that said to bring them back to the service lest they start acting up every week so that they could get sent to the nursery or miss the service. 

PLEASE keep in mind that our family is not pretending that we have it all together just because I shared these tips so if you happen to go to church with me, please extend grace if our kids act up! I'm sure they will now that I've shared some tips. :)

So, that's a little bit about our story as to how we got started having our children sit with us in church. It was a blessing to read a book like this because it encouraged us in our endeavor to point our children to Christ and it gave some very practical tips, encouragement and suggestions.

Let me give you a more detailed description about the book now that I've told you a little about our story.

Children in Church

"...What does the Word say about the role of children in the church? What will the other families think? How can you manage several children and get anything out of the sermon at all?"

The authors, Curt and Sandra Lovelace were discipled by Francis and Edith Schaeffer and have served as missionaries in the Cayman Islands, worked in a small rural church in Maine and have led homeschool conferences in Bosnia (if you can believe that!). They currently live in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, where they minister to homeschoolers in Europe and Africa.

The Lovelaces write with a loving, Scriptural perspective on the topic of children in church. There is no condemnation if you don't do it, however there was a lot of Scriptural support as to why you should seriously consider having them with you.

The authors, as far as I can tell, believe you should have your children with you every time there is corporate worship. They do not come across in a judgmental way about this, however, and use numerous Scriptures to support this.

"While we encourage alternate classes for children to be as valuable as possible, we do not agree that they are a proper substitute for the corporate setting. Rather we see such offerings as a way to assist parents in integrating their children into corporate worship. The coming together of the body of Christ before our heavenly King holds blessings galore of which children ought to be partakers and participants as early as possible." --Children in Church, page 116

Personally, what we have chosen to do, is to place our children in their class if there is a lesson for them. I do believe there can be huge amounts of blessings that come from teachers working specifically with them and I have been incredibly blessed by the Sunday School teachers that our children have had. That being said, our children are with us every Sunday evening and on special occasions as well. I do not believe it is necessary for them to miss their Sunday School class in order to be with us. I suppose it would be nice though now that I think about it if we all went to our Sunday School classes and then met for worship in the auditorium.

The concept of having even young children in church with you is something that some people may not be familiar with, and as a result, not comfortable with. "The concept has moved so far outside the common experience that most people see it as impossible. We've also noticed that the general opinion of the abilities and value of children has decreased dramatically. It's at the point where most adults don't even consider the possibility that youngsters might benefit in any way from the corporate setting for worship..." -Children in Church, page 85. And as a personal testimony, it has been easier training our child that has been in the service with us since birth than it was the child who didn't start coming with us until he was four years old.

As a result of reading this book I am going to be more intentional about what I have in our Church Bag. For example, it is suggested that you draw a picture of the main topic for little ones and let them color it. For slightly older children they could write a verse from the passage that is being preached, draw a picture of something from the message or write out a song from the hymnal. It was also suggested they might keep track of how many times a main word was used in the sermon. Older children of course can even jot down notes from the sermon.

Children in Church is more than a how-to manual (although it does include some of that), but is also a book that provides discipleship for parents, who in turn, can better disciple their children. It is a blessing and encouragement. "Curt and Sandra Lovelace share real, practical answers from their thirty years of ministry and as parents. This book will refresh you, strengthen you, and give you hope and help for bringing your children to the feet of the Savior in the body of believers in worship." source

If you attend church and have little ones, I encourage you to read a book like this to at least consider if this is an area the Lord would lead your family in. Although my reasons for first keeping our children with us were not spiritual, the Lord used that situation to draw us in to worshiping as a family and I have not regretted it one bit. I only wish I had started sooner.  

How to Get a Copy

Children in Church is intended for parents with children ages 8 and younger. Advance Reader Copies are now available for $12.00 with free shipping. You can place your order here. You can also find Children In church on Facebook, too.
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Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

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