Excerpted from Chapter 7 of Mothering Many: Sanity-Saving Strategies from Moms of Four or More, by Marie K. MacPherson
In this book, 25 moms of 160+ children navigate 56 challenges that mothers frequently face: menu-planning, laundry, time-management, self-care, homeschooling, intimacy, home-devotions, and much more! Conceived by one perplexed mom and gestated over eight years, Mothering Many has finally been birthed through a labor of love by dozens of fellow Christian women. Literally written between nursing babies and wiping bottoms, this book offers hundreds of strategies, insights, and ideas for strengthening your home for the Lord. So, if you're too busy from the rigors of motherhood to brainstorm for improvement, crack open this book and let these moms troubleshoot for you!
In the following excerpts, you will gain ideas for guiding children at church and saying bedtime prayers.
How do you handle getting through church services or Bible study with many little ones?
- Everyone takes a Bible and notepaper and a pencil. The younger ones draw a picture of something the pastor says. The next older ones will write single words that the pastor says. The next older group will write full quotations from the pastor or Scripture references. The oldest will take full notes. This keeps everyone occupied and listening! Also, prayer! If a child is distracting to others, I take him or her out and handle the situation. This is my job, and I take it seriously when it comes to church.—Lissa
- Practice “sit-time” at home. Start with 10 minutes a day, where they can look at Bible story books, and then slowly add time. Praise and reward them. This is a skill they need to learn for many things in life. Start early on. They can look at books but they may not talk and they may not get off their chair.—Karina
- I don’t allow any toys or playthings. Only those who are able to read may get a bulletin or hymnal. Everyone is expected to stand and sit and pray with the congregation, and participate to the best of their ability. I’m pretty strict in church, but it has paid off. Anyone who acts up gets taken out and disciplined. Leaving the service is never pleasant for them. Since my husband is a pastor and I’m handling everyone by myself, it’s really important for them to know what’s expected and have me follow through.—Ann
- It all comes down to the tone that we’ve chosen for discipline in the household. My husband and I have always enacted loving discipline, and we are strict. However, every time a child is disciplined, we follow up with forgiveness and a hug and a kiss. This lays the groundwork for our experiences out and about, traveling, and at church. The discipline that we’ve established is a big part of the reason that we can travel as much as we do, enjoy a pretty flexible schedule, and know that the children are going to have fun, too. I’ve never been the type to take toys or snacks to church. I think that sends the message, “Adults are supposed to listen, but you can play or eat in here.” It’s God’s house, not our home! The kids are expected to sit. I find that they challenge me the most when they’re 18 months to 3 years old and that’s when I have to lay it on the line. I’ve had several tests with each of the children, but we’ve learned together, and they are very well-behaved in church. Part of the reason I need this from them is that my husband never has the chance to sit with us. If a 2-year-old is being naughty, talking to her hours later is pointless and unfair. I need to enforce our rules, not expect anyone else to do it. The last reason I need the children to know how to behave in church is because I play organ about half of the Sundays. If they won’t behave for me, they certainly won’t behave for a friend! If I let my kids behave like animals in church, that takes away my opportunity to serve the Lord through music. So, the loving discipline that comes from the Lord is a comfort to all of us. My husband and I are enabled through the Spirit to serve during the church service, knowing that the children are not going to detract from the Word by anything they’ll do. And don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying it always goes perfectly, but many people make a point to tell us, “Your children are so well-behaved in church.”—Kate
- Our babies have always stayed with us in church for their first year. The 2- and 3-year-olds are in the nursery as we work with them to learn to sit quietly for service time. Then, from age 4 on, they are with our family in the sanctuary. For the non-readers, we have special notebooks that they use to copy words from the Bible or that I have written, draw pictures related to the message or quietly “read” through their Bibles. I do use faith-based stickers to reward their participation in worship, which they put on their notebooks. For the older children, they are encouraged to copy the Scripture passage that was taught or take notes from the sermon. At home, we all discuss the sermon and ask the younger children questions.—Janet
- We have found it really helpful to train for church. I line up chairs and put on a tape recording of the Bible for 20 minutes. All the children are expected to sit still as if in church. If they did not, I could discipline them more immediately than I could at church. After a while, they all did really well. The baby sits on my lap.—Amy
Editor’s Note: I have found Amy’s “church practice” tip to be really helpful for our family!
- My children have their own church classes that they attend, but I keep the youngest with me until at least one year of age.—Sharon
- We have never used the nursery, other than to change a diaper! I used the “cry room” to nurse a fussy baby. Otherwise, we kept the dear children in church or walked the back hallway where we could still usually hear the service via a speaker system. We did allow snacks sometimes, but wasn’t a regular occurrence, nor were toys. They just learned to sit during the preaching, and we encouraged them to join in with the group parts.—Karol
- I like our children to be with us, but I leave it up to my husband. I always have my nursing baby with me until about 2 years of age. Then, they start going to Sunday School with an older sibling. We have children in Sunday School until about grade 3 or 4, and then they come back into church with the adults. We feel they get more out of the Sunday School lesson from 3 years to 9 years. At about 9 years, they are ready to listen and gain wisdom from the adult message. This has worked for us because of our church set-up.—Tina
- My children were allowed to bring crayons, coloring books, and toys to church until they were 3. Once they turned 3, they could bring one doll or stuffed animal, but were expected to sit and pay attention through the whole service, although I did let them stay asleep if they happened to fall asleep. Once they turned 4, they were no longer allowed to bring anything to church and were expected to stay awake throughout the whole service.—Lyn
- We sometimes use snacks at church or Bible studies for the smallest ones. We also sometimes allow quiet toys and coloring or drawing. The smallest ones are often on Mom or Dad’s lap for easier management.—Laurie
- Church is a struggle! I’m usually in the “Catechetical Nursery” we have set up at our church. We moms sit in the back room, with a big window, and try to teach/talk/catechize our kids through the service. During the sermon, we moms try to listen while the little ones clamor about. We have a student who keeps the children who are 4 and under in the nursery during Bible Class. The other children sit with parents during Bible class and quietly color or play with puzzles. When my son turns 4, I’m not sure he’s going to be capable of sitting for Bible class. I may have to throw in the towel and go home after services, as I did before. We’ll see.—Reba
- I bring books or a snack to keep the little ones occupied. Many times, we end up in the cry-room. Kids will learn to sit still eventually. The older kids help with the younger ones, and sometimes people from church help.—Betty
Do you pray with each child before bed?
- We all pray as a family in the living room at night before bed.—Sheri
- We pray after family worship, and then we tuck them each in bed individually.—Lissa
- I do it if Daddy isn’t around, but this has become a special time for them. I’m done by the end of the day. So is he, and he often just falls asleep with them, but that’s okay, too.—Karina
- Bedtime is, thankfully, Daddy’s time. I read the bedtime story and then he brushes teeth and says prayers with everyone, usually the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and Luther’s Evening Prayer. I say goodnight and give hugs and kisses afterward.—Ann
- We don’t do this individually. We say Luther’s Evening Prayer together with all of them together, allow each to add their own extemporaneous prayers, sing a hymn, and have kisses all around.—Kate
- My husband blesses each of our children and prays over them every night.—Janet
- Daddy does that—maybe a small devotion with all, then prayers, sometimes separate with the boy and the girls.—Dana
- Honestly, I don’t, although I should take more time to pray for, and with, my children.—Sharon
- This is not necessarily an “every night, every child” occurrence, but most nights either my husband or myself or both of us spend time in the children’s bedroom praying, teaching, and talking with them. And at least once a week, we lay down with all of them and “soak” in worship music.—Karol
- We pray with all of our children either together or individually every night depending on if the baby is crying or what the other needs are. They will remind us if we are occupied with another child—they won’t let us forget to pray with them!—Tina
- We all start our day praying together as a family and end our day praying together as a family.—Lyn
- My husband usually puts the children to bed at night. He takes time, if possible, to read to them for a few minutes before tucking everyone into bed. He then takes time to pray with them and allow them time to pray as well!—Laurie
- I pray in the doorway of their room.—Diana
- Yes, my husband and I always say prayers with our children and tuck them in before bed.—Mery
- I do get the kids ready for bed and say prayers with all of them. After our hugs and kisses, the kids usually listen to music, books on tape, or the Listening to Luther CD.—Reba
- We all kneel beside the bed and pray together. Then, they all crawl into bed and we give each of them hugs and kisses. If they have questions, then we talk a bit. After we leave the room, they are given freedom to sing or talk quietly until they fall asleep. There have been some times when they’ve felt the need for extra cuddle time. So, I’ve sat by their bed and had them each take a turn cuddling on my lap for a bit more prayer time.—Sarah
For more suggestions from Christian moms who have “been there,” read Mothering Many: Sanity-Saving Strategies from Moms of Four or More.
Mrs. Marie K. MacPherson lives in Mankato, Minnesota, with her husband Ryan and their children, whom she homeschools. She is a certified Classical Lutheran Educator (Consortium for Classical Lutheran Educators), author of Meditations on the Vocation of Motherhood (2018), and editor of Mothering Many: Sanity-Saving Strategies from Moms of Four or More (2016).