Bible reading with toddlers

This is an area that I have yet to become very consistent in. I desire for my children to grow up in a home where the reading and understanding of God’s word is more important that pretty much everything, school, housework, or whatever other activities we allow them to be involved in, knowing and understanding the Word of God is first.

This past weekend Chris went to a men’s meeting and had a great conversation with our pastor regarding disciplining young children. He was sharing some of his experiences as a new parent and how he came about to teach his children to sit through church (this is one of the things we are working on right now and we are making progress but at the same time it has seemed to us that the kids are just not quite getting it). He shared his belief with Chris that children can be trained to do anything, if you want your children to sit for two hours quietly and not need to play with anything, they can be taught to do that but you need to train them.

This conversation brought on a conversation between Chris and I and we decided that I would start training the children everyday to sit quietly and listen. Here is what I did. This morning I explained to the boys what we are going to be doing everyday, so that they knew what was expected of them and they knew this wasn’t going to be a one time deal. Chris told me yesterday that you can download the Bible online for free! So I did that this morning, I downloaded Genesis so we started there, and got through 6 chapters in a little under a half hour. The boys did great. I decided that I would start at a half hour but they are somewhat used to sitting for a half hour at church (if your toddlers aren’t used to sitting at all you might start with one chapter or five minutes and work your way up). I’m also going to start having them listen to our parts of our pastor’s sermon every day, I want them to know that when they hear his voice it means they need to be quiet. I’m doing this routine right after breakfast cleanup, and after I’ve gotten them dressed for the day so they aren’t still in their jammies (partly because they wouldn’t be wearing their jammies to church and part of my goal is for it to assimilate church).

Here is what I expect from the boys while they are sitting listening: they are to be quiet (if they need to ask me something they need to whisper), they aren’t allowed to play with toys, they are to sit up but can lean on mommy if they want but not lay down on the couch as I wouldn’t necessarily let them lay down at church, they need to stay on their bottoms facing forward(not turning around looking at the people behind them). There is a time and a season for everything, a time to play and a time to work, a time to talk and a time to listen. We feel that if we don’t teach our children how to work or listen at a young age, they wont listen or want to work (naturally) as they get older. So here we go, we are on a journey and I’m excited about this one because I really believe it will work. I’m teaching Guenna to sit through the reading too, which is a little more difficult but not impossible I know.

One thing I am realizing, especially with the more children we have, it takes a disciplined parent to produce disciplined children. This area of consistent discipline is definitely not my strong point. I really want to make that one of my goals this year, to become consistent in my discipline, and disciplined in my life as well, in my cleaning and housekeeping, in loving and nurturing, in my own personal worship of our Creator. I think this routine will help me and the children to become more disciplined, as we hear God’s word together and pray that God’s Spirit will write His word on our hearts.

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13 Responses to Bible reading with toddlers

  1. Sara says:

    I think its great that you are teaching them to sit nd be quiet and listen to the bible. Two hours doe seem like an awful long time though. I guess maybe I just haven’t really seen it enough though. In our church we have nursery and childrens church for kids up thru first grade. I run the nursery (along with my husband, its not a one person job!)and even with the infants thru 3 year olds (that’s nursery ages) we have a bible study thats 15 minutes and then art projects and such that involve lessons about God and events from the bible. I just can’t see my 9 month old and 4 year old sitting through a long sermon and grasping all the knowldge of that sermon when they would get so much more out of childrens church. I am not saying they can’t learn from a bible, it is just explained and taught at a different level then teaching a high schooler or an adult. like I said, maybe I feel that way because I wasn’t brought up that way. Bt what a wonderful job teaching them to sit and learn quietly, it’ll be something they’ll use all their lives!

  2. Jenni says:

    Sara, thanks for your comment :) Just for a clarification I’m not planning on my kids sitting for two hours, and our church service while it lasts about an hour and a half the preaching part is only about a half hour.

    I have some thoughts about the last part of your comment but I will comment or post an entry about it later. Thanks!

  3. Sigrun Berry says:

    I love your blog and your Christian point of view.
    BUT… we are just looking for a church community in Melbourne, Australia after being in a very family-friendly church in KL, Malaysia for 4 years. I sort of have an issue with my strict traditional upbringing [I come from German missionary stock who settled in South Africa – Lutherans]. I want my children to know that a relationship with God is interactive. I don’t want to make church time sitting in a pew for an hour or so pretending to listen to a sermon. I get boggled down by such mechanics.
    We had a church where we all sat at tables in fellowship and the kids had a wing of the building where they did drawings and played quietly. There was a lot of movement to and fro from the area to and from parents, but worship was conducted in an orderly fashion. Action speaks louder than words.
    I applaud your daily time with the boys, though. I’m so sporadic.
    You are an encouragement.

  4. Nicole says:

    Way to go Jen!

  5. Christian says:

    I think that another aspect is that we have changed how we look at the worship service. We now are of the belief that the Sunday morning service is to follow a model of covenantal renewal, instead of a time to be fed on our own level of understanding. So our children are following with us even though they don’t get it all. They enjoy the call to worship, they enjoy the singing of the psalms and hymns, they get to say the Lord’s Prayer with the entire congregation, they can now sit through 30 minutes of preaching which is followed by communion every week. As toddlers and kids they get to partake of communion the same as the big people. There is no distinction and they are not left out. they look forward to it and they get tons of play time after church with the other kids.

    So the question is, for churches that separate out according to age, at what point do they become a full member of the body with no special treatment? Some churches cant even let their young adults be on the same community level as the regular adults. As I see it, that model has resulted in immature members of the body. What we have been seeking as a family is a model that will scale for multiple generations. Thats what courtship is about, and not allowing our children to be part of government schools. This is just another step in that journey.

  6. In the churches I have been to, any person that has personally accepted Jesus as their Savior and followed in baptism is a member. Communion is for those who have personally accepted Jesus (thus I don’t know many toddlers taking communion, but certainly children can and do.) There are a variety of Sunday School classes, for all ages. And then a children’s church and an adult church during church time. The parents generally choose for their children where the children go — but that is all a matter of being a child. Not being a “full part of the church” Your children sit in church because that is what you have chosen for them. Other children get sent to Children’s church because that is what their parents have chosen for them.

    At our church, despite having programs on “age level” for children, we ALSO have children in the service and no one cares. It’s a matter of parental choice.

    But personally, my children will be learning about Jesus on their own level. We don’t expect adults to learn from Latin-speaking pastors anymore. We put the bible into the common language. I see children’s church as more of the same — putting the Bible into common language for a younger age group.

  7. Christian says:

    Oh, I forgot to mention that this is just a huge thing for us. We have talked about the kids sitting through church for over two years. And now we are actually seeing it work.

  8. Catherine says:

    I really commend you for your commitment to teaching your boys to worship right along side you and participate in church with you! And yes, children at very young ages can sit through a church service. When Brinna and Jesse were babies, we attended a church with three services, first a communion service which included sharing/singing/breaking of bread, then Sunday School, then the regular worship service. Brinna and Jesse actually enjoyed sitting through the worship service (they were about 2yr and 6 mo) and being cuddled by Edward or I or another favorite adult in the congregation. We still keep our children in the service with us some of the time, and love having the worship with us.
    In regards to being able to participate in the service, even young children can do that. As a child, I remember my mom writing down a few key words and I would listen for those words during the sermon and keep a tally of how many times the pastor said each word, which taught me to actually listen during the sermon instead of daydreaming. And at an even younger age, sometimes my parents would ask me to draw a picture of something the pastor talked about. All ways to teach a child to learn to listen.
    Bless you for what you are doing with your children!

  9. Sara says:

    I agree that it is a parental choice. Athough I prefer that my children soak in all the service possible, I don’t want them to “not get it all”, I want them to get everything out of church. but I seriously applaud our desicion. You both have so much patience and want the best for all your babes. You guys are great parents, I love reading your blog and get great ideas from you guys, on everything from cooking to parenting… keep up the good work!

  10. Pingback: Chris and Jenni » Blog Archive » More thoughts on Bible reading and toddlers…

  11. Amy Lewis says:

    Chris and Jenni,
    I commend you for endeavoring to train your children up in the way they should go. Not the way they know, the way they understand, the way of tradition, the way others go. But the way *you* desire them to go. I am concerned when others are seemingly depending on Sunday School to disciple their children. Really, 2-3 hours on a Sunday, isnt much of anything. Most biblical discipleship needs to be occuring throughout the week, as we lay down, as we go by the way….ect. This is the meat of teaching our children about Christ. Time in Church is desert, a nice compliment to what is going on for the rest of week.
    Our families experience with keeping our children with us during a traditional church service was ….difficult. We starting attending a ‘family style’ church when we had 4yr, 3 yr, 2 yr and 10 mo. We have well behaved children and I knew there would be training involved, no big deal right? We were there for 4 years. Some parents did indeed get their children to sit for the entire service, most couldnt. We had success with our children once they were about 3 or 4. In my experience, I dont believe a 2 yr old and under are very capable of being “church” quiet & still for more than about 15-20 minutes. Usually my husband or I would end up in the foyer, frustrated that our toddler/baby, wouldnt conform. Eventually our 18mo old would cry when we pulled into the church parking lot. A few times, I cried as we left. Sad! If our entire church was promoting this, it wouldnt have been a big deal, as there would have been more grace for baby noises. But that wasnt the case here, which is why there was a problem. Some did want the children out and it eventually became a point of conflict. It became one of many reasons why we left the ‘institutional’ Church and now fellowship in a home with many other families. It is soooooo freeing. They children do sit in the service but there is much grace for peeps and squeeks.
    I am happy to hear of a local church supporting this. We dont want to “suffer not the little children to come unto Him”. My children did hear many things shared in the sermons, even when I thought they werent really listening. They were. Gods word will not return void.
    Thanks for letting me share,
    Amy

  12. Jenni says:

    Amy, I agree it makes a huge difference when the church, the pastor, the congregation are all on the same page with this. Our pastor has two younger children (youngest boy 4) who sit through service, there are kids throughout the church. And amazingly even our 2 year old sits through church now, we hardly ever have to take him out! We had to focus our training on the older one first and then Eamon seemed to follow suit quite easily. He has learned to whisper and sit on his bottom quite well. I know they can do it, but you are right, it can be a difficult task especially if you don’t have the support of the congregation.

    So glad to hear that your gatherings are going well and that you have found something that really works well for your family, it is so important!

  13. Luciana says:

    deut 6:5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your strength. v6, These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. v7, Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.etc
    The thing is we are called to train our children in the Lord and I believe the way to train children is for them to watch you do it. I remenber when I first got saved I went to church every tuesday night. And I took my kids with me to every one of them. Because I certain in my heart that the Lord wanted me to. And I remenber one tuesday night My daughter said “mommy I think Jesus is calling me” so I encourage her to go up to Alter and she gave her life to Jesus that night. She was eight years old. I believe if my kids can spend all these hours in public school listening to his or her teacher teaching which is a lot of work they can certainly enjoy being in God’s presence. We need to train our children how to worship God and the best way is to learn by example. the word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. Jesus was a great example directing us back to the father and he wants us to do the same. the older women is to train the younger women. Jenni I pray that the Lord will continue strengthen you in training your children in the Lord and in due season you will weep the harvest. Greeting in Jesus name.

    Luciana

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