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kids in a church surrounded by a church family of all ages

Taking kids to church without using children’s ministry


bright empty church sanctuary

If you want to take your kids to church without using the children’s ministry, then I have a few tips!

Some churches don’t offer kid’s ministry during the service.

Some families choose to forego the children’s ministry and keep the kids with the family in the worship services.  

Either way, keeping kids in the church service can bring some unique challenges!

But it’s totally worth it. 

The first priority…. Prep the kids!

Give them a pep talk.

Sit them down and discuss with them (age appropriately) what you expect from them.  Tell them WHY your family goes to church.  

I remember leaving church one Sunday morning, and telling my kids, “Do you understand we don’t go to church so you can play and eat fruit snacks? We go to worship our Lord and Savior with our beloved church family!”

It was a funny moment because I sincerely believe the kids were under the impression that we only went there so I could dole out treats and help them rotate through busy toys.  

Kids are so smart. I think often we underestimate what they are capable of understanding. It doesn’t hurt to have this discussion and have it often!

The next order of priority… Be on time! 

parents taking their kids to church

Hear me out.

I totally understand how hard it is to get out the door with kids in tow (especially if you’re flying as a solo parent!) But it will make all the difference.  

If you can manage to get to church on time, you will have enough time for the kids to get a little of the wiggles out.

You can take everyone to the bathroom before the service begins. You can choose where you want to sit, so as to best accommodate any quick retreats you will have to take!

It’s really tempting to sit in the way back, but some kids actually act out more when they feel like no one is watching. But sitting too close to the front can be extra stressful because no one wants to feel like they’re disrupting the whole service.  

It’s key to find your sweet spot. This could take a little experimenting, and that’s ok!

Next up, the biggest one…. Busy bags! 

This is where it can get really fun…or really messy! 

I have run the gamete of busy bag ideas for my little ones, as I often take the kids to church without Daddy (shift worker).  I have done tons of research, and purchased a myriad of toys for busy bags.  Here’s what I have come up with.

-No tiny pieces.  

You are probably giggling at the visions that come to mind when I tell you how this plan backfired.  

Honestly, a small sandwich baggie of little LEGO would work for some kids.  Not mine. You know your kids best and get to make the call.  But in my experience, the small pieces just end up getting picked up by me when everyone is completely done with church.  I’ve needed to make everything as streamlined as possible.

-Quiet toys.

buckle toy being buckled by children's hands

This one seems like a no-brainer.

But I’m not just talking about toys that don’t rattle or make music.  

What are the toys that get your kids especially riled up? For us, we can’t bring cars (VROOM!) or action figures! Some of our favorite quiet toys are lacing toys, fidget spinners, coloring books, and buckle toys. 

It’s also fun to think outside the box for busy toys. We have had a lot of fun with nuts and bolts and lock and keys. 

This next one is a bit controversial….. I’m talking about snacks.

Now, if you feel a conviction that there should be no snacking in the sanctuary, then please forego this one. 

For our family, and what feels appropriate for our Church Home, we bring a tiny snack. This is not a meal-snack.  

Our favorites are: dye-free fruit snacks, cashews, or a small piece of chocolate. We aim for no-mess. minimal noise. We also enjoy goldfish crackers, but depending on the ages of the kids, crackers can be a huge mess. Have mercy on the custodian!

​Bringing snacks can amp up the kids if it’s not done strategically.  

We hold off on giving out the snacks until the kids have participated in the singing portion of our service.

Kids love music, and we expect them to learn the worship songs and participate. After the singing portion, when it’s time to settle in for the sermon, we will give out the snacks and busy bags.  

I’ve learned if we let them have the busy bags and snacks at the beginning, then they’re already bored when it’s actually time to sit quiet.

The snack is their reward for joining in the worship time.  

-I understand that every church and denomination has different flows to their worship services, but I believe the goal is to use the bulk of “entertainment” for the preaching segment of the service. 

Give some feedback!

After church, preferably as soon as possible, give feedback.

Praise your kids for a job well-done!

And if there is room for improvement, let them know what you’re hoping for in the future.

Have you ever heard of a “poop sandwich”?

As vulgar as the expression is, it’s a great visual for loving correction. Start with a positive note, thank them for something well-done.

Follow it by the ….inside of the sandwich… the thing that needs improvement. Let them know what you’re not impressed with.

After the unpleasantness of the correction, follow with another compliment as the end cap.

If you make it a regular occurrence, they will get used to hearing a loving critique once in a while. This is a healthy thing to learn for any person, not just kids!

The fifth and final note on this is … consistency. 

If at first it’s an absolute nightmare and the kids are little terrorists during church, you might want to give up. 

Don’t give up. 

many hands holding up the block letters spelling "CHURCH"

The more you go to church with the kids, the more it will become the “norm”.  They will know what to expect.  

The older kids (as they grow up) will encourage the younger kids to behave in an appropriate way.  

It will get easier I promise. But I can almost promise it won’t be easy at first, especially if it isn’t a current habit of the family. 

As I have mentioned, I am often taking the kids to church without Daddy, because of his work schedule. This means I have carried a naughty toddler out of the service surf-board style more than once.

So I completely understand not wanting to go back to church until the kids are older.  We believe if we wait until they’re more mature, they will be able to sit better. We tell ourselves we “don’t get anything out of church” when the kids are young.

These may all be true. BUT….

But we are cheating our kids and ourselves if we deprive them of a church experience because it’s too much work.

It is absolutely invaluable to our children to have older Godly men and women in their lives. These church family members are amazing, and tell your kids beautiful stories, encourage them in their faith, and (most importantly) pray for them!

people of all ages in a church, all smiling and clapping

The Christian walk is meant to be done in fellowship with other believers.

A church that is alive with the wiggles of youngsters is a beautiful church.  

“but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’”

Matthew 19:14

Hi, I’m Stephanie! I’m a Christian wife, mom of 4, homeschooler, and a technically trained chef. I love creating a simple, beautiful life with our sweet family.

I’m so glad you’re here!

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