Surviving Church with a Toddler

DSC_0757Let me start by saying, I am not a religious crusader. I do not believe in a one-size-fits-all anything. Each family has the right to decide what does and doesn’t work best for them. This is simply my family’s story and what works for us.

“We don’t go to church because my child wouldn’t be able to sit still for that length of time.” This was a phrase spoken by a friend during a conversation we were having the other day. As I heard this, I began staring down at my own rambunctious toddler – who at this point was running laps around us while screeching at the top of her lungs. My first thought was – it is definitely not easy!

On most Sundays you can find us in church – although it always feels like a huge production to get there. As most moms will tell you, the diapeDSC_0906r bag is the holy grail of important when planning any outing. But when it comes to church, or any place that requires a fair amount of silence and sitting still – the diaper bag is worth its weight in gold!

This process begins the night before if I am on top of it and to be honest -sometimes I’m not. I make sure it has the basics, diapers and enough wipes in the event of a volcanic eruption. Then we move to Desitin, outfit change, extra pacifiers (great to muffle a cry), etc. Food is the number one important factor for a quiet, happy toddler. A full bag of Cheerios during Sunday morning service is to me what Thor’s hammer is to him – power! Or at least the sense that I have the situation under control… Number two on the checklist is toys (quiet ones). For us this means books, stuffed animals, iPod, and leap pad (with the volume on silent).

We always sit in the back, close to the door in case we need to exit before service has ended. Our time is usually spent passing her back and forth and pulling things out of the diaper bag one by one. Done with Cheerios, on to a book, doesn’t want the book, on to the iPod, iPod dies, on to the Leap Pad. It can be an exhausting experience… It is nice when people turn around after service to say she did well. It feels as if they are saying, “you did great mama!”

This week’s church outing was especially challenging. First, we arrived late and then we locked our keys in the car. Which is not so horrible, unless like us, you are new in town and know no one… Our options of people to call were limited; two of my husband’s coworkers, or Facebook message a girl I met at my first MOPS meeting the week before. While yes, there are plenty of people at church to ask, my husband and I are shy people. It takes us awhile to warm up in large groups. Plus, we are still in the process of church shopping and have only gone to this church a few times. Luckily my mother-in-law came in for a visit and left shortly before we did. Unfortunately, my husband had to exit the crowded sanctuary to make the call. Leaving me with our active toddler and a once-full bag of Cheerios that spilled onto the floor. I don’t mean the small trail we usually end up with. I mean literally half the bag spilled out onto the floor because of my clumsiness. All I could do was sigh. Ugh…. In that moment, I did the only thing I could, position my daughter firmly on my lap, repositioned the once full bag of Cheerios, and focused my attention on the message. It was a really great service, despite all of the bumps in the road getting there.

I know what you’re thinking – “they do have nurseries.” I mean, we could avoid the hassle! While yes, that is true for the most part – it’s just not for us. When my husband and I talked about taking our children to church, we agreed that having them in the sanctuary with us was the right fit. Believe it our not, we are still able to focus on the message. We usually discuss it on the way home and during lunch. Sometimes my husband and I fill in the small fragments missing while one of us was picking up the Cheerios that have fallen on to the floor.

Any parent can tell you an outing pre-child is much simpler than post- child. My husband and I find that especially true when it comes to finding the right church. When it was just the two of us, the criteria for finding a church was fairly simple. Find one that could marry our very different tastes in service. I love contemporary and my husband prefers traditional. Once we had our daughter, the list grew and once we moved here, it grew a little more with the assumption this move will be permanent. We want our place of worship to work well for us now and later, as our daughter grows. It is very important that our daughter grow up in a church where she feels safe and loved. My husband and I are pouring the foundation of our faith everyday at home. Our hope is that the church helps our daughter build the walls.


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photo credit: Captured Moments, by Sarah Fritch

One day, all too soon, she won’t always be this squirrely toddler. There will come a time when she will walk in to the sanctuary with us, sit still, and listen to God’s word. She will sing with us as the worship band plays. If we have done our job right, she will want to be there. One day, not so far off, she will be bringing us her Bible to read together and ask questions. So, for now I will enjoy all these little moments – walking into church with an oversized diaper bag, beginning to perspire because I can feel her loud cry about ensue, sitting ever so still after she falls asleep, and all the moments in between.


Nikki Wildemuth
Nikki is new to the area. She graduated from the Western Illinois University-Quad Cities Campus in 2009 with a Bachelor's of Science in Elementary Education. She married her husband the same year. Nikki loved the creativity of teaching and continues to bring that same creativity as a stay at home mom. During the day you can find her chasing after her precocious toddler. By night she is a Pinterest junkie! She enjoys getting out and spending time with her family!


  1. We have always taken our kids to church. (That’s where my friends are!) Our church no longer staffs the nursery because everyone keeps their kids in the sanctuary. It gets a little wild but my kids LOVE IT! Last week my husband and I wanted to be lazy and stay home. My 7-year-old announced she wanted to go so we quick showered and got there just in time. I’ve always gone to church but I can’t remember begging to go to church EVER. So my kids must be getting something out of it. I also pack my church bag the night before. I’ve got goldfish, fruit snacks, cereal, pretzels, etc… and then I wonder why they don’t want lunch when we get home. 🙂 Just keep doing it! By the time she’s 7 she’ll just sit and color pictures. It’s awesome!

    • Thank you Melanie! Your thoughts are a huge encouragement to us! Hopefully we find the right church so one day she will want to go. Back home my daughter was one of only two children in a predominately older based small congregation, but it was great! They all loved her and hearing the extra chatter during service. We really miss them! Especially since my husband and I are not out going, it made it easier to get to know people. But lately we have been attending larger churches with lots of young families, which is also nice because as she grows she will be a part of a youth group. We really want her to be a part of a youth group. Those were some of my best high school memories and friends!

  2. Love seeing children in church! Especially your ‘not quite as squirrelly as mine’ toddler! Great article and awesome encouragement for all those wishing to keep their children in church!


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