Wiggles in Worship

Joe Willmann Teaching the Faith at Home 21 Comments

I remember our first visit to Grace Lutheran in Lafayette, Indiana. An elderly woman, who sat in front of us every single service, turned around right before worship began and told us, “Don’t worry if your daughter makes noise, we love hearing little ones during service!” It is a blessing, that is for sure—hearing the little voices in the sanctuary and knowing that they have inherited God’s gifts through the waters of Holy Baptism.

But as a parent, it’s downright stressful. No parent wants to have the loud kid in worship. No parent wants everyone to turn and look as they hear the hymnal crash to the ground, right in the middle of the sermon. Many parents of toddlers don’t even remember what a full sermon sounds like without grabbing the crayon out of their child’s hand milliseconds before it comes into contact with the pew Bible.

Those information cards that sit next to the pencils in the pew—you know, the ones in the last row on the left at Grace Lutheran in Lafayette, Indiana. Yeah, that great handcrafted artwork is from my daughter.

Why do we do it? I mean, wouldn’t it just be easier to not come to church until they can sit still?

I’m sure it could be easier. Who doesn’t love sleeping in? How about lounging around in your pajamas until lunch? The question shouldn’t be, “Wouldn’t it be easier?” The question should be, “Would it be better?” And for that, dear friends, the answer is unequivocally NO!

You see, while our children may wiggle and squirm and make noises at inopportune times, they are also learning.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17 ESV

Your children learn as they hear God’s Word pronounced to everyone in the readings and in the sermon. It may not look like they are listening, but they hear what is going on. Just wait for the first time your two-year-old begins saying the Lord’s Prayer with the entire congregation at worship. Then you’ll realize just how much they hear.

The Third Commandment: Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.

Your children learn visually when they see you come to church every Sunday, even when you aren’t feeling well. They learn the importance of the Means of Grace by watching their parents come every week to receive them. They learn about the gifts of Baptism every time someone is brought into the family of God. They learn about wonderful gift of the Lord’s Supper every time they see you go up to the altar. They learn reverence when they see you bow your head during prayer. Their little eyes help them learn so much!

So, what can we do as parents to help encourage our young children to participate with us during worship? Here are a few helpful tips:

  • Consider reading a book about worship to them the night before you go to church. Whisper, Whisper: Learning about Church is always a great choice!
  • Pick your child up when the congregation stands up. This will help him or her see more and feel connected with the congregation.
  • Consider picking up a copy of My First Hymnal and taking it to service with you. Your child can pretend to sing with you as you go through the next hymn.
  • Take your children up to the altar as you receive Holy Communion. The pastor will give them a blessing to remember their Baptism.
  • At home before bed, practice things that they will hear at church. Consider saying the Apostles’ Creed a few nights a week. Or sing the Gloria in Excelsis (LSB, p. 154), “This Is the Feast” (LSB, p. 155), or the Sanctus (LSB, p. 161) during your evening routine.

Just remember to keep it up, and don’t get frustrated! As my dear friend at Grace in Lafayette said, “Don’t worry if your daughter makes noise, we love hearing little ones during service!”

The catechism quotation is from Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation, copyright © 1986 Concordia Publishing House.

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21 Comments on "Wiggles in Worship"

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S. J. Williams

This so nicely and precisely records the reality of children being in our services. Thank you.

Pam Schallock
I remember when our son was little, in our haste to get to church early on Sunday mornings for Choir, I never seemed to get a good look at what he was wearing until we got there. Sometimes I was a little mortified and wished I could engulf him in my ample Choir robe! Then there was the time he spit in church! But I also remember hearing him speak in a loud voice the Lord’s Prayer with the congregation each Sunday. There came the time he was able to take part in the funeral service for his grandmother. Each… Read more »
Ute Swift
I had a five year old and twin three year olds. Needless to say getting ready for church was challenging. In desperation I asked God was it worth it. Later that week, my three year old son came out of the kitchen into the living room where the rest of us were watching TV. He had a very large glass of water in his hand and came up to my husband and I with the glass saying, “The blood of Christ for you.” Question answered. Bring your children to church! They’re listening, they’re learning! My children are in college now… Read more »

This is one reason many churches offer children’s church with fun activities to help them understand the Bible, translations of the Bible in language they can understand, and age-appropriate topics so that the adults in the congregation are able to hear messages that cover more adult material and parents are able to have a break to focus on the Word. Most churches I’ve attended have worship and then dismiss the children for a longer, more “meaty” message. At the same time, I think there is some value to having the whole family together for all of worship.

Marie Koehlinger
They do listen! My two year old had been taught to say his new baby brother’s name as PeTer not PeDer. So when the pastor said “Peder,” in his sermon, in a church where we were visiting, our son looked up from his “Sermon Illustration” (art he did during the sermons’ time — to keep hands and body busy) he corrected the pastor from about 100 feet away in a very instructionally loud clear voice, “That’s PeTER!” You can imagine the congregation’s instant reaction! There was a wave of soft joyful laughter. This congregation did NOT welcome children under 10,… Read more »
Christine Beck

My Pastor husband thought little children should be in front rows so they could see what was going on at the altar. No one else wanted to sit there!!

Marie Koehlinger

We were the pastor’s family, having three boys 3 and under. We sat on the front row for a few reasons, one) because we always knew it was going to be open; two) the boys could see their dad leading and loving worship, and pay attention; three) we got a couple of elderly couples to sit with us lending a loving hand to each child. They loved being church grandparents, especially since our families were so far away. The front rows weren’t empty anymore! Others followed suit!

Paula Walker

Couldn’t agree more! In God’s house is where our children should be. It IS amazing how much they are absorbing/hearing/retaining at worship. When our granddaughter (age 2 1/2) is with us, she will respond to rhetorical questions our pastor asks during his sermon!

Lorene Haertling

You are so wise for bringing your child to church, the saying if we don’t teach them right principles the world will teach them worldly principles!


Also, sit in the front pews so they can see and know what is going on. Don’t be afraid. Also, buy a small real hymnal and find the page for them. Then they really know that they are a part of the service. Thanks, Joe.

Dustin Krystowiak

Thank you so much for the encouragement!

Oh my goodness this hits home!!! My husband and I have been raising our now 7 year old grand daughter and bringing her along at the tender age of 10months old wore me out! Most of my time was spent trying to keep her from bring loud or sometimes falling asleep on my lap… I just felt what is the point!? I was certainly missing so much and didn’t think my grand daughter was getting anything at all out of it. UNTIL at the age of about 2-1/2 she loudly joined in The Lords Prayer!!!! I almost fell over!! I… Read more »
Tom Schmidt

This is my home congregation. We joined less than a year ago and absolutely love this church. Everyone is so friendly and we welcome every child that is brought into the house of the Lord.

David R. Mueller
I understand the initial thinking that leads some churches to do “children’s church” usually about at the sermon in the regular service. But in the end, it’s a very misguided practice. First, as is noted by several comments here, the kids are absorbing FAR more than we give them credit for. All the way through the liturgy. Second, the divine service is for *all* the baptized children of God. Third, the historic liturgy of the church, with its “learned by heart” ordinary is tremendously kid-friendly, pedagogical, and old-age- friendly. To divide the baptized, the Body of Christ, literally, during the… Read more »
Pastor Dave Paape

Outstanding article! It’s going right on our church’s FB page, on my own too. THANKS!

Pat in Florida

You are so right about learning by listening. Just when you think your child is distracted with a toy, that’s when they surprise you the most. Our young pastor in Little Rock, AR years ago started his sermon with a story about a race. “On your mark, get set, ” but before he could say ‘go’ his young daughter said it for him from the back. Her parents were embarrassed, but we all got a chuckle out of it. Her father said, “Well, at least I know she’s listening!”

Val Reed

Of course little ones hear and learn more than we realize. When my little great grandson was about 3 or 4 years, the pastor was speaking about fewer and fewer people attending church and remarked the church is shrinking. My grandson looked up immediately all around the sanctuary and belted out “The church is NOT shrinking!”

Brenda Stewart

What a great reminder to all young parents, as an older member I love seeing the kids in church.

T Anne
You KNOW what the answer to this is………………………..Sit up front where the little ones can SEE what is going on……I had 5 under 8 yrs old and I finally realized that all they saw in the back row was someones NECK so, we started sitting right up front under pastors nose………….He could plainly see every thing they did and everything changed dramatically………………… People say “WHAT IF YOU MUST TAKE ONE OUT to potty?” I say so what? I always made mine go to the restroom at the church before going into the sanctuary…..EVEN if they said “WE ALREADY WENT” Never… Read more »
I whole-heartedly agree with this… as a mom of four, sitting in the third pew from the pulpit every Sunday, I have been there, time and again, grabbing cherrios and crayons to occupy them and whispering in their little ears and praying I wouldn’t have to take them out (and it’s not always the youngest that needs direction) . Just recently though, my three year old was busy coloring the kids’ activity sheet when Pastor transitioned in his sermon saying “let me throw this out to you”. Instantly, my son turned around, zeroed in on the pulpit, and had his… Read more »

This is great. I remember saying the creeds and singing the hymns before I could read. The words changed a little once I learned to read! My daughters went through the same ordeal when they were young and now are dragging their children and husbands through the same process. Blessings all over!