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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Should I Allow My Children to Doodle in Church?

What’s your philosophy about church behavior? Have you ever thought about it? What do you allow your children to do? What should you not permit in church? May kids be allowed to use their phones to access the Bible? 

When I was a child, my family went to a formal church. When we entered the “sanctuary,” we were expected to be quiet and reverent. That meant no talking and no wiggling. The organ played, followed by the choir’s “call to worship,” and the service began. In those days, there was no junior church. When we were old enough to sit still, about six years old, we sat in church next to our parents.

I confess I am a doodler to this day. If I’m taking notes, I’m also drawing flowers, leaves, checkerboards, and stripes along the page. Yes, I’m listening, too, and I usually doodle whenever I’m listening—even when I'm on the phone.

What should we expect from our children in church? Is it okay if they draw or color? Is it okay if they have a digital Bible? 

Here's my thinking. It’s fine if you differ with me. In fact, I’d love to hear what works for you with your children. Please feel free to comment.
  1. I have no problem with children coloring and drawing, as long as they are quiet. Sometimes, coloring or doodling actually helps children to listen. As children get older, you can encourage them to take notes on the sermon, and the family can talk about the sermon on the way home. 
  2. I think that it’s a huge temptation for kids with cell phones to do anything but follow the sermon. I personally prefer that they look Bible references up in a real paper Bible and take notes manually as well. There’s something about actually reading the words and writing out notes that enforces what the child is hearing. I think that cell phones should be turned off and put away during church. (That goes for most adults, too!) It’s so easy for anyone to be distracted by social media or chat notices. Teens might be very tempted to text their friends and respond.
  3. I love it when the family sits together in church. You may think this is radical, but my opinion is that most junior churches—while teaching well and on a level children can understand—are unnecessary, unless the church building is too small to keep the children in with their parents. There is something about the whole family singing and worshiping together that makes a deep spiritual impression on young people. There’s nothing wrong with junior church, of course, but there’s also nothing wrong with the family sitting together in church.
  4. I think children learn proper church behavior when they are next to their parents in church from a young age. They can listen, and God can speak to their hearts. You’d be surprised how much even very young children can understand!

It seems that, in Bible times, children were encouraged to go and listen to Jesus, along with adults. Consider these examples:
  • And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children (Matthew 14:21).
  • And they that did eat were four thousand men, beside women and children (Matthew 15:38).
  • But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:14).
  • There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? (John 6:9)

Let children doodle in church? Yes, or no? What do you think?


  1. Yes, of course. I think it is too much to expect very young children to sit for 1 1/2-2 hours and listen. When ours were little, the nursery only went up to age 2, and there was no children's church. We'd take a notepad and pencils or maybe very small books for them to use. Once when my oldest was little, he was doodling along, and when the pastor asked a rhetorical question, my son answered out loud - that encouraged me that he was indeed listening! Now, we knew a couple of people whose kids brought decorated boxes with a plethora of art supplies for church. That seemed a little much to me. But as long as it wasn't distracting to other people, I guess it was ok. But I'd want my child to understand that the purpose wasn't so much to create art as to help them to listen and not get fidgety during the message.

    I think as they are old enough to, it's good to have them write down notes from the sermon (or even draw pictures related to the sermon if possible). But I don't mind if they still doodle.

    If I am in church, I can listen without writing (though it probably would help me to jot down notes. I got out of the habit when it became a distraction to try to write stuff down. I think the key there is not to try to write down every point, but just the main ones or what particularly stood out.) But if I am home sick and listening to a sermon online or on the radio, I cannot stand to just sit there and listen. I listen better if I am doing something with my hands. I have even occasionally played solitaire on my phone while listening to a sermon online (shocker!)

    I think the use of electronic devices for Bible reading and taking notes is the wave of the future. I don't necessarily get more out of my Bible when I turn paper pages: in fact, I get very frustrated when there are a lot of references to look up because I'm usually just finding them by the time the preacher goes on to the next one. I do know the books of the Bible in order, so that's not the problem. I just have fumbly fingers. I usually end up just listening to the references read - I get more out of that than flipping pages back and forth. Personally I do still take my Bible to church and have my devotions from a paper Bible, but I my husband and son use their devices, and my husband uses his for notes as well. I think it's less likely to be distracting to use something other than a phone, like an ipad or small electronic notebook - you still have email and games on them, but there's not quite the pull to check messages or other things with them.

    I have mixed emotions about children's church. I think the children do gain from hearing something on their level, but they also gain from being in church with their families. I think it is especially bad when churches have something for kids every single service from toddler through the teen years - I think kids just don't know what to do with themselves in church when all their lives they've been in services directed especially to them.

    1. I agree with you about children's church. It's especially a shame when kids never have the chance to be in church until they're adults. Thank you so much for your observations. God bless you, Barbara!

  2. We do let them draw or write notes...most of the time. If Ben is preaching and I have all five by myself, the crayons and pencils are usually more of a distraction than a help, because they get dropped or the kids fuss over them, or start whispering questions. Elaine (age 7) is allowed to write notes, and she does VERY well! Nolan (almost 6) is learning to read, so he is interested in finding words he knows. We urge him to copy verses from his Bible, write words the preacher says, or draw a picture about what he is hearing. The twins (almost 4) have small coloring books (I like the Dover Little Activity Books for about $2 or less on Amazon) and 8 crayons in a little bag.

    We have been to churches on deputation that had a children's outline to go along with the adult sermon outline handout. Loved that! I have also seen DIY note pages for little people where they make a tally mark everytime they hear a word (Jesus, God, Bible, pray, etc.) which has helped my kiddos stay attentive. Our kids go to Sunday School but not Children's Church because we want them to learn the hymns, to sit still, to pay attention to God's Word, and "church etiquette".

    My kids know that when the doodling becomes noisy or distracting it gets put away! (I too am an incurable doodler...)

    1. LOVE the idea of children's pages that go with the sermon! How cool is that! Yes, when I wrote this, I wasn't thinking of five little ones at the same time. I can feel the challenge! Thanks so much for your input, Andrea. God bless your family.


Please share your thoughts.