This post is one in a series about the adventure of finding a new church to attend after moving to a new town. You can find the others with the label "Church Shopping".
Of the "qualifications" that my husband and I initially discussed regarding choosing a church, one of them was whether or not the church had good children's programs. So far, each church we've been to has something for all ages, although the only "program" we've experienced is using the nursery for our 2 year old! There is no way he would sit still and quiet during the service, so we drop him off to play with his new friends for that day and our almost-5-year-old sits with us during church. In some churches, there have been "children's worship" programs that meet during the second half of the service, but we only attempted to send him one time; the very first time we visited a church. He is hesitant to join in new experiences with new people and he came back to us after a few minutes, crying. We didn't make him go again.
Some of the nurseries have had some type of sign-in and pager system; some have had nothing (those made me a bit nervous). They've all had a good number of workers in the room and he has had fun playing with the new and different toys.
As for our older son, I am not sure if he will join in with the "children's worship" even after we choose a church (see above reasons). Although he has expressed at times that he is bored, he generally does a good job (is not disruptive) during the service. At times, he has even shown that he is listening to the sermon because he asks questions about it. One morning, we wanted to make sure he watched the baptism of two babies that was happening, and he did. We then had this conversation:
Z: He didn't baptize them.
Me: Yes, he did; why do you think he didn't?
Z: They didn't disappear.
Me, wondering, ummmm...huh?: He baptized them when he scooped up water and put it on their heads.
Z: And salt?
Me: No, no salt.
Z, to my husband: Daddy, he did *not* put salt on them.
While I have no idea where the idea of using salt came from, I thought afterwards that he probably thought they would disappear because prior to this, he had only seen full-immersion baptisms (our most recent church was Baptist).
I have read articles both about keeping kids in church and having children's worship (both partial service and through the full service) and while I do not have a definitive position on it, I am glad that Z is experiencing "adult" church with us. While he may not understand everything, there are some things that will stick with him, and possibly more than if he was in a "fun" children's worship.
So after all this, I still don't know what priority to place on children's programs. Maybe it's not as important as I thought it was. Well, except for having a good nursery, that is!
What has been your experience with children's programs/children's worship? Do you prefer children staying in the service or leaving for their own? For the entire time or just part of it?