How Does Your Church Do Sunday School?

Updated on May 09, 2013
L.O. asks from Sterling Heights, MI
20 answers

We go to an episcopal church. They have sunday school for ages 4-7 at the same time as the regular service ---but they bring the kids back to the church for the last few minutes... so the kids are there for the peace and communion. ... the 15 minutes the kids are in worship service.. it is tough to keep them quiet ..

we only do sunday school for the school year.. so in the summer there is no sunday school and the kids are in the worship service for the full hour.. it is so hard to keep them quiet and also they do not enjoy the service. an hour is a long time for little ones..(my daughter 7 is ok.. my son at 5 can not sit still and quiet...)

Most likely we will attend a Lutheran church in the summer that has year round sunday school.

what do other folks do??

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answers from Jacksonville on

Our Sunday School is during the Adult Bible Study hour prior to the service with Holy Communion. During the worship service, everyone is in attendance. Most larger churches have a cry room, so that moms (or dads) can take babies out if need be, but the other kidddos pretty much learn to behave.

I am a logical person. Think about it. If your kids ages 4-7 are never required to sit and be quiet for a full service, how do you think they will learn this skill? And why can't a 7 year old do this? They do it at school for longer than that, don't they? I think it is more the perception of today's generation that kids "are kids" and should not be held to any sort of standard... let them be what they are. Well... if we want to mold them into productive members of society, we have to teach them how to behave in certain settings.
My husband used to have to work Sundays, so I had the kids on my own going to church every week. My daughter was 3 1/2, and my son was 7 1/2. They sat with me, just the 3 of us. No extra help. No leaving part way through. They learned to follow along with the service. When to stand, when to pray, the various parts of the liturgy, etc.
My kids are not "special" nor are they little angels. But they knew what was expected of them, and I reminded them before the start of the service each week. We sat down front, so they could see better, and I think it also made them a little more conscious of other people watching/seeing them if they misbehaved. They didn't take toys in, either. I'd let my older child use a pen to write in the bulletin if he wanted. Otherwise, he was expected to participate in the service, the same as me, and my daughter was learning the ropes, too. She was an early reader, so by 4, she was belting out hymns along with everyone else. She'd often earn a smile from the Pastor and the Elder who could clearly hear her on every hymn.

Unless your child has ADHD-hyperactive, and is unmedicated and it is uncontrolled, then there really isn't a reason he cannot be taught appropriate behavior.


Also, wanted to point out: I can't speak for all denominations, but I am Lutheran, and in our services, the longest a child has to "sit and be quiet/still" is about 20 minutes at one time (during the sermon). The rest of the service is smattered with bits of activity. Standing for hymns, prayer, responsive chanting/singing, Confession/Absolution, the offering, Holy Communion, etc. The 2nd longest chunk of time of "sitting and being quiet" is during scripture readings, and even that, we rise for the Gospel reading, and there is liturgical responsive singing in between each section.

If you have your child actually participate (expect them to, not ignore them crawling around in the pews and on the floor, turned the wrong way looking at people instead of paying attention to the service), not only do they learn the service (which I find beautiful), but they are busy! It's not at all like going into a lecture hall and sitting like a bump on a log for 60 minutes without being able to so much as clear your throat. And by the time your boys are around age 9, they are likely to be really participating (as in being an acolyte, lighting the altar candles before and putting them out after the service). My son began doing that (and sitting in the chancel during the service along with the Elder and Crucifer and Pastor) when he was in about 4th grade. Now, he is Crucifer (at 14).
Bringing the kids in at the last 15 minutes deprives them of understanding what is going on! And when they miss the beginning of the service, what motivation do they then have to care what they have essentially walked into the middle of?

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

Sunday School at our church (Catholic) begins with preschool (so 3 year olds). The preschoolers attend during on of our Masses. So, until they are old enough for preschool, you just have to deal with them being in church with you or take turns going to Mass. My husband and I tended to go together most of the time, but go to different Masses about once a month. Our youngest just started preschool this year, but last Sunday was the last day of Sunday School for they year. Funny, I was just thinking about how this weekend we'll have to take him to Mass with us.

I noticed a couple of people said kids will never learn to sit still if you don't teach them. I agree that that's true to an extent, but with both our kids I noticed a huge difference the first time they had to come to Mass with us again after going to Sunday School. We don't have Sunday School every week (not during 3 day weekends), so there have been Sundays that they had to go to Mass. I can't say it was perfect, but they do get better as they mature.

Seriously, consider giving yourselves a break once a month and go to different services. You'll each get some alone time and a chance to really focus on the service. I love being in church with my family, but once in awhile it's nice when it's just me.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Every church does it different. Some have the kids go out during church services only on Sunday morning. Then all the other services they are together.

Some have them go to the church meeting and then everyone divides up for the different classes of they do classes first then do the church meeting.

Some churches have a cry room in their chapel so the moms can take the kids back to play quietly and not bother the other people.

I think that if you work with your kids during the week to teach them to sit for a few minutes per day then they'll be able to do it and increase that time as they get older.

No kids can sit quietly unless they are taught.

A friend of mine who had numerous children would have them all sit down on their little chairs each day. The little ones would sit for less time of course and the older ones would sit longer. They practiced each day. Her kids, ranging from ages 2 up to teens, were all able to always sit quietly each and every Sunday.

By practicing at home they got used to quietening their bodies and control themselves. They never disrupted the services and they were over an hour long each week. Then a couple of times per year they were several hours long and they were still able to sit quietly.

One of the things I have seen many mom's do is have a quiet bag that the kids cannot touch at any other time than in the sanctuary. This way they get something they aren't used to to play with.

This bag might have those cloth books that have buttons, flaps, zippers, some have Velcro but it's rather noisy. They have coloring books with colored pencils, they have workbooks, scissors to work on cutting, there are so many things to do.

If you google quiet time during church activities or some form of that sentence then you should be able to come up with a great bag.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

i attend lutheran church. for a long time, it was a nightmare keeping my son still and quiet. he was diagnosed with adhd about 6 months ago (and it all made sense...) once we got him on medication he did loads better. i think for the "average" 5 year old, church should not be an issue. but they have to be taught.

when i was growing up (also in the lutheran church) there were 4 of us and we NEVER caused a rumpus. we just didn't. we were raised to sit still and quiet for that 1 hour every week. then sunday school was afterwards.

having said that - the way the services are at your church, is not setting these kids up to succeed. first off, 15 minutes per week, coming in right in the middle of church service - IS going to cause a disturbance, no matter how you do it - and 15 minutes is not even long enough to get them to settle down. so yeah i can't see how that could do anything BUT cause a disruption.

i chose our church because of family ties. if my family chose a church like this (and had for 4 generations) i would try to work with their system. if it was just us and our little family and i had fewer reasons to continue going there, i'd find another church.

while our church is pretty somber (at least during early service, late service is more contemporary), we have our kids with us and we don't frown on it if they are wiggly or make the occasional noise. they're kids. my cousin has a 1 year old and a 3 year old. they're not always silent. but they are learning. they have been going since birth so the congregation loves them as their own, just like with my son. i love it.

ETA - i noticed someone mentioned coloring pages and books. my 6 1/2 year old has graduated to a pen and a small notebook. but YES, having something to keep their hands busy is a huge plus. if you start going to the lutheran church, make sure you have something to keep your 5 year old busy. simple things like i threw in a pink highlighter the other day - you'd have thought it was a gold mine, my son was happy as a clam. once i threw in a mini pad of post-its. your son will get it. but it is something that has to be taught. honestly, i was pretty hard on my son - pre-adhd-diagnosis. i really thought that he was being defiant and obstinate. i didn't know he actually COULDN'T help it - but if he didn't have adhd, i don't think it's too much to ask for a 5 year old to sit somewhat quietly for an hour a week. keep at it mama. he'll get there.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

At my church, a Methodist church, there is a nursery during the church service..... However, the nursery is for children 4 and under. They feel that a 5 year old child is capable of sitting mostly quietly at that point.

There is enough going on (singing, greeting, responsive readings) that it isn't like they have to sit absolutely still for an hour.

Bring coloring sheets, crayons, and quiet toys for the church service. Also bring quiet snacks (cheerios, etc.) to help alleviate the boredom.

(Sunday School is the hour between the 8:30 and 11:00 am service... they have Sunday School for all ages... preschool to adult... we have MANY adult Sunday School classes at my church. We also have 3 different church services..... 2 traditional services, and 1 praise service. Many of the families with younger children attend the praise service.... it is led by a praise band, and has more current songs.)

I totally understand your problem, though... I would like to bring my grandson for sunday school, but at 5, he would then be expected to be in the Sanctuary for the church service.... and my hubby runs the sound system, and I sing in the choir..... it is too hard to keep him quiet.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

We have Sunday School for an hour before church for everybody, kids-adults. Then children's church for babies through Kindergarten. 1st on up come in the main service.

I agree 15 mins at the end of the service is a very short time to teach them to sit still. I had mine all hour and I did teach them to sit still and entertain themselves. I had high expectations and lots of tricks up my sleeves. There is a season of life that Everything is about teaching kids good behavior. Even this. It gets better.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

I was raised Episcopalian and attended after my daughter was born until a few years ago - but I LOVED that they brought the kids in at the end. It gives you a chance to have them with you.... rather than hidden away.

I did bring a bag of items for my daughter, books and polly pockets, to keep her occupied if she just couldn't sit still.

I would not have wanted her to miss out on getting the experience of being in the service for part of the day. 15 minutes is not too long to expect them to sit quiety - even at 5... how does your son do at school?

For the summer - can they go to the nursery until communion? that might be an option. They could play with the younger kids.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

The UU church I attend has RE (religious education - "Sunday school") for the kids at the same time as the service, and they do so year-round. The parents pick up their kids from their classrooms when the service is over.

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answers from Los Angeles on

We have a two hour long Sunday school all year for the 18 months to 11 years old. We have a one hour long Sunday school for the 12 to adults all year. Then the 12 to adults have an hour long adult classes (priesthood for the men and relief society for the women.) Plus we all go to sacrament meeting where we hear preaching and receive the sacrament.

When my kids were little my wife and I taught them to sit still in sacrament meeting (hour long). We had quiet books with a gospel theme. We expected our kids to sit quietly and listen to the sermons or read in their quiet books.

Your kids will do what you teach them to do. If you expect them to be fussy and not sit still, then they will meet your expectations. When my kids misbehaved and wouldn't sit still, we would practice sitting still at home. That worked wonders. It only took two or three practice sessions for them to sit still and behave in church.

The quiet books are usually hand sewn and made of cloth. You can buy them already put/sown together.

Good luck to you and yours.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Our church has Sunday school for all kids up to 7th grade. So the younger kids are in their classes the whole time and the 7th graders and up stay for worship and announcements and then they are dismissed to go to their class. I HATE having young kids and babies in the service with us and am so glad our church doesn't do it. It's so distracting. There is one couple who insists on keeping their 1 yo in the service with them and she is so distracting, I wish they would put her in the nursery with the other ones. So does everyone else...

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answers from Grand Forks on

At our church the children spend the first 20 minutes in the sanctuary before leaving for Sunday school. We do not have Sunday school on many of the holidays, nor do we have Sunday school in the summer. Since most of the families with children head out of town on the weekends there aren't many children in church in the summer. I like that the children join us in the service as much as they do, because I think that is how they learn to sit quietly. Have you tried giving your son a book to look at?


answers from Washington DC on

I am Luteran and have attended churches that do it differently. The one where my kids were baptized and we currently attend, has Sunday School hour from ###-###-####. There are services at 8 and 11.

The church we went to for a few years in between takes the kids out during service and brings them back for communion and the last chunk of the service, but after the sermon.

How old are you kids? My 8 year old and 9 year old sit great. Yes, they get bored, but they are fine. My 6 year old needs something to do. I'll play tic tac toe with him sometimes, let him play on my phone (on vibrate), or let him color. I bring stickies and pens with me. The church also has little scraps of papere that say "Scribble Card for Little Lutherans" on them - he LOVES those.

When my 3 were younger, I was SO thankful for them being in Sunday School during the church service!



answers from Boston on

For Catholics, religious education (a/k/a faith formation or CCD) and Mass are two separate things and families are expected to have children participate in both. In my church, we have Mass at 8 & 10:15 AM and religious education classes at 9 and 11 AM. My teens go to a 5:30 PM Mass followed by a 90 minute class. Classes for grades 1-8 are one hour and meet appx 20 times a year (weekly during the school year except for vacations and long weekends). Content is separated by grade and we have 4-6 classes per grade.

During Mass we used to have a children's liturgy where an adult leader would take the kids to another room during the readings and do the readings using child-friendly versions of the text, but kids were expected to be there for the beginning of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and the closing.


answers from Tulsa on

I think the size of the church plays a lot into what people do. Pretty much all of the churches in my religion have a Sunday school hour and a worship hour. Some have worship first, others have Sunday school first. Many of the smaller churches have a nursery for you to take the younger children if they get fussy, but it isn't staffed. Some of the medium sized churches will have a staffed nursery, and some of the larger churches will have a staffed nursery and have a staffed "children's church" for the kids during worship.

The church I'm at now will have singing, scripture reading, prayer, and communion and will then dismiss the kids for children's church during the sermon and closing songs/prayer part of worship. They do skits, children's songs, a mini lesson, and usually finish up with coloring if service runs long. My son is obviously more engaged with that at age 6 than sitting a listening to a sermon. Now when we visit my parents, they are at a smaller church and there isn't a class for the kids during the service. My son can take one or two soft toys (usually a Mario/Luigi plush) and something to write with/on. If he gets too loud, the toys get taken away and he has to sit quietly with nothing to do. He's learned not to get too loud! Plus, my dad is usually the one preaching, so I can always tell my son that Granddaddy can see if you aren't behaving. That warning usually works too.



answers from Washington DC on

HI. What I did for my children was to bring something to occupy their time, quietly. I think it's the sit and do nothing that makes it hard for the little ones. Bring along a child's bible with pictures that your son can read and look through, they also have bible story books that are "leveled" for new readers. They also sell coloring books with a biblical theme.

There are different parts of church on Sundays, not just straight preaching. Times when we sing a few songs they open the doors. People can go to the restroom, I would sometimes take them out during that time. Sometimes to take them to use the bathroom, esp when potty training, others just walk up and down the hallway for a quick second and that usually did the trick.

The children who are the same age as yours can go to children's church. It's the same length as regular church, they still do offering and sing, but everything is done on their level and they stay more attentive.

Every third Sunday, barring something big falling on that day, is children's Sunday. They testify, give little sermons, sing songs, little skits etc for the entire congregation. During the other Sundays they are often working on these things. I always enjoy it and some of the older ones show great potential for delivery of the Word.

An hour isn't that bad or long, we are in church several hours. I would try the quiet bags with your son, but I think he is getting to the age where he needs to learn to sit and listen. My son is 6 and does fine. He does get bored sometimes, most of the sermons are over his head, and will sometimes fall asleep, but that's about it. He loves the music portion and always sings along.



answers from Detroit on

I'm 59 and I love Sunday School. I miss it. Have for over half a year because I no longer drive, after an accident. My church has SS for all ages. There are two for adults. And it's from 9:45 to 10:30, then the regular sermon service is at 11. During that, there are kids service in another part of the church. If it doesn't appeal to be in the sanctuary, that's available. But at a certain age, the idea is that individuals should be able to be still, join in, listen, be quiet during the church service.


answers from Minneapolis on

Everyone attends the beginning of service (I'm Lutheran) for announcements, prayer of day, couple hymns, lessons and then there's Children's Chat (short youth directed sermon) and then the kids up through 2nd grade can go out for Sunday school. It is only during the school year.

We have activity bags with crayons, coloring books, etc. and also a children's prgram given out at the beginning to keep them occupied.
Also, in each pew is a short poem about the importance of children being in church and that they may not always be silent, its important for them to be there. We worked very hard at changing that mindset in our congregation.



answers from Washington DC on

In our church, the kids start out in the sanctuary til the Children's Message, which is usually in the first part of the service. They stay in Sunday School until we pick them up at the end. My DD is 4 and her classmates are 3-6 (and then there's another class for the 7-9 group, etc.). We have a very small Sunday School at the moment. When I was a kid, it was not at the same time so you came for church at 9:30 and stayed after for Sunday School (we shared a pastor and the other church had Sunday School while we had church). Our church offers something we call an "interactive worship experience" for the kids as a combined, larger group in the summer. When I was a kid, we took summers off.

I allow my DD to have a small backpack with a book and a quiet toy (no plastic dinosaurs!) or two for the time she is in the sanctuary. Our nursery only goes up to preschool, so she's at the age where it's not really appropriate anymore (or will be soon). She is allowed to draw on the announcements or play quietly, but she is not allowed to talk to the people in another row, play with her friend two rows back, or anything disruptive.

You might ask the education director why the children return to the sanctuary and if that could be changed.


answers from Chicago on

Our current parish (Catholic) has 9:30 and 11 am Masses, with a nursery open for ages 6 mos-5 yrs. They also have Sunday school from 9:15-10:15 for ages 3-5; and a Children's Liturgy for Kindergarten-3rd grade. The kids who go to the Children's Liturgy sit with their parents for the opening of the service, but then are led out by their teacher for child-centered worship, and then they return about 20 min before the end of the service.

During the summer there is no Sunday school, but the nursery and children's liturgy still operate. This is working wonderfully for us, especially since our oldest child has ADHD and has a very tough time sitting through Mass.

Do you bring things to help keep your son occupied? Water bottle, coloring book, stickers, a quiet fidget toy, small figurines, kids' religious books, etc.



answers from Portland on

When I attended an Episcopal church here they had the same schedule. Another church had activity bags for the kids. If your church doesn't I suggest that you put together of bag of quiet activities that you children can do only at church.

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