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Now what? Age cutoff for pew snacking

At what age should children participate in worship?

Q: My wife packs snacks and toys in her purse to keep the kids calm during church. Our daughter is now 10, and my blood pressure spikes when I see her scarfing Goldfish crackers and playing games alongside her little brother. Shouldn’t she participate in worship by now?

captA: It’s normal for kids to get antsy at church, which is why Cheerios, quiet toys and crayons are Sunday morning staples. Playing and snacking in the pew, though, can be hard habits for parents with older kids to break. Leave at home the things that bug you and lay out your expectations before you head to church. Sit up front. When kids have a better view, they’re more likely to pay attention and participate. Plunk down between your kids to help keep the peace. Think twice, though, before you ban doodling. Artwork can be a creative expression of worship for children and teenagers.

Send questions to Diana Dworin.


Comments

Loren

Loren

Posted at 8:50 pm (U.S. Eastern) 1/30/2009

A ten year old should be learning but is still a child.  This is a lot less disturbing that adults who can't get through worship without their coffee mug.

Richard Winkleman

Richard Winkleman

Posted at 7:36 pm (U.S. Eastern) 2/4/2009

Loren is correct about the sudden influx of beverages in the worship hall. Nothing is more disturbing than the crackel of water bottles that also find there way into worship. This also goes along with the buzz of cell phones and pagers.

Bette McCoy

Bette McCoy

Posted at 12:48 pm (U.S. Eastern) 2/7/2009

I took Cheerios to church once to pacify my very young daughter and she looked at me like "Why are you trying to feed me when I just ate breakfast?'  Good point.  No one is going to starve before fellowship hour.  I believe that children should be taught that the church is a holy place, not comparable to a football game or school function.  The focus should be on God, not what keeps you busy or entertained.  And I totally disagree about young children sitting up front with their food and activites.  It's very distracting to the rest of us who want to focus on the sermon and the service.

Debby B.

Debby B.

Posted at 3:15 pm (U.S. Eastern) 2/17/2009

When my child was younger, I allowed 'playing' - coloring, children's books, etc. - during most parts of the worship.   However by 4 years old he was required to stand during the Lord's Prayer and sit quietly with us during the sermon.   Usually that was when he was given a piece of gum or ONE piece of chewy candy.   He was given an at-home time-out for the amt of time he did not sit quietly during the sermon.  I strongly agree that church should not be treated as 'everyday', it is special with special expectations.

Katherine Harms

Katherine Harms

Posted at 4:05 pm (U.S. Eastern) 2/17/2009

You will know how old I am when I say that I never saw any food in the sanctuary until my children came along. Mine didn't get any of it, however. I already knew that it was entirely possible for a child old enough to go to kindergarten to sit quietly during worship. I can remember being allowed to draw or write on a piece of paper during announcements and the offering when I was small, but the rest of the time I was expected to sit quietly. As a result, whether or not I wanted to pay attention during song, prayer and sermon, I did pay attention. There wasn't anything else to pay attention to. All my friends were required to sit quietly also. We were told to be reverent and respectful in God's house. We knew about the rules for somebody else's house, because we were expected to be quiet and respectful when our parents visited other people's homes, too.

The word "reverence" needs to be dusted off and polished for more regular use in worship services where children are in attendance.

Julie

Julie

Posted at 6:52 pm (U.S. Eastern) 2/18/2009

As a parent of three children 6 and under (who are also the pastor's kids) there's no where else I'd rather be than in the back row where I can get out quick, but my children insist on sitting in the front row. And they are right!  When they're in the front row, they can see everything--not just the backs of people. And I really believe they participate more and pay attention to what's being said--even if they are doodling, which I'm totally OK with. If it's an especially rough morning I profusely apologize to those behind us, who ALWAYS communicate graceful things like, "I remember those days," or "they weren't so bad," or the wisest yet: "we're just glad they're here!" 

Jennifer Ohman-Rodriguez

Jennifer Ohman-Rodriguez

Posted at 10:59 am (U.S. Eastern) 4/1/2009

 I think churches help parents when they set reasonable guidelines for worship. No liquids except for bottle feeding infants is a very good guideline as is only dry snacks for children under four.  Once children are in formal schooling, parents can skaffold worship participation adding a bit of participation year by year. My eleven year old son knows that when he turns twelve, full participation in worship is non-negotiable. At eleven, the only part of service he does not participate in is the sermon. He reads during the sermon. 

 We began asking for his participation in worship in conjunction with what he was learning in Sunday School.  Particpation in the creed and the Lord's Prayer where the first worship parts we added to his weekly experience. With my seven year old son, we began with standing for the Gospel Acclamation and Gospel lesson. We began here because once again, it was what he was learning in Sunday School. 

Every child is different, yet reasonable and appropriate benchmarks help parents help children to move from passive to active participation in worship.



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