In our church, all the children are in the church service until the message. The nursery is staffed so some babies and toddlers go during the early part of the service but most of the time, all the kids are in the service until just before the message, when the 2-5 year olds head off for junior church.
I've been reflecting lately on how much I love having the kids in church. There's some "buzz", especially on some Sundays, but it's so wonderful to hear them. And what's been really exciting is hearing them sing out. There's a couple of little guys, about 5 years old, who have been singing out loudly lately and I love hearing it! It's so great to know that the children are learning to worship with their families and that they can participate in worship with the adults.
There seems to be a trend in churches to have the children out of the service entirely until they are older. But I wonder what the children are learning. They can learn about the Bible, they can sing together, and do all those types of things. But what they aren't learning is how the body of Christ functions together in corporate worship and I think that's a shame. It takes effort and training sometimes to have your kids in the service with you but in the long run, it's worthwhile as the children see and hear how the church works together in song, prayer, Bible reading, preaching, Lord's table and baptisms.
If you have little ones and are looking for ways to train them to sit in church, the Deputy Headmistress at The Common Room had a really good post a while ago about training children.
We have found that it works best to not bring a lot of toys with us as the more choices we had, the more busy the kids seemed to be. One or two little things worked well but the more important thing is to help them participate in the various parts of the service. Stand up to sing, follow along with Mommy in the Bible during the Scripture reading and try to listen during other times. My kids are allowed to draw during the message. It's amazing, though, how much they pick up, even when it seems like they aren't listening.
And the best training? Attending regularly. Even if it seems like they aren't learning to sit, try to look at it in terms of months (and maybe years) rather than weeks and you'll soon see how much your kids are learning and growing.