Wonderful worship with small children is possible!
It’s sometimes difficult, but it is well worth the effort. Nothing worth anything comes at zero cost, and when it comes to training our small children to worship, sometimes the cost will be a few weeks of “distracted worship” for you.
Press on! Soon you’ll be eagerly anticipating, rather than tentatively dreading the church service.
Remember, preparing ahead is your best ally. The more thought you give to any potential pitfalls or areas of difficulty, the more effective your training will be and the more successful your results.
Find ways to get your children involved in the service. Even before my children could read, I wanted them to be involved in worship. Since they couldn’t read the hymnbook, (and later, overhead projected words) I made it a point to call the music leader each week and ask for the title of ONE of the songs we would be singing the next Sunday. Using our purchased hymnal, the children and I would practice singing that song all week. By Sunday, although they didn’t know all of the hymns and songs, they were able to wholeheartedly sing along with at least one of the selections. Because our church repeated songs frequently, soon they had a large storehouse of memorized music to sing in praise to God.
I never gave my children paper and crayons to use during the service. Our whole goal was to learn together, and simply coloring to kill time seemed counterproductive. Instead, using a simple tool I learned as a Precept Bible study leader, I gave each child a notepad with the words God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit written on the front page.
As the Pastor preached, I encouraged my children to mark each use of these three words. This accomplished two purposes. One, it got them engaged and listening deeply to the sermon. Secondly, after the sermon we could discuss their markings.
Were there 10 Gods and only 2 Jesus’? Then this was a sermon about God the Father. We could then discuss the attributes of God, our heavenly Father. If Jesus, or Holy Spirit, had the most markings, we would discuss what made each of those parts of the Godhead unique.
This little practice has been so helpful and it has transferred to the children’s personal Bible times. Recognizing key words is essential in understanding Scripture, and the three parts of the Trinity are ALWAYS key words.
Please! Sit toward the front of the sanctuary. Too often, parents sit in the back of the church in anticipation of necessary trips out of the sanctuary to use the restroom or deal with disciplinary issues.
Honestly, you’re just setting yourself up for failure!
Before the service begins, take all of your children to the restroom. After that is done, trust me, they can make it through a lengthy video at home…they can make it through a church service!
After making sure my children had gone to the restroom, when they subsequently asked to use the bathroom during church I simply said…No. It’s ok.They can be told to wait until the service is over and it won’t ruin their psyche!
Sitting toward the front, (and I mean in the first few rows) helps our children to pay attention and to resist distractions. If I’m sitting in the back of the church I’m distracted! There’s so much to see…hats, funny hairstyles, tags sticking out of shirts…do yourself and your kids a favor, Just Sit Up Front!
If, and when, you do have to leave the service to deal with a training issue, do it quickly, quietly, and confidently. Yes, every parent there knows where you are going. Yes, people are noticing. Yes, the teenagers are snickering. That’s ok! They’ve all probably been there themselves in one way or another.
Don’t stall before walking out of the service. You are much more distracting as you whisper hissed threats in your child’s ear. Lengthy lectures will demoralize your children and distract anyone sitting nearby. Just get up and do what needs to be done!
It’s good for our kids to have a healthy trepidation about what will happen if we have to leave the service with them. I didn’t mind that my kids thought, “That woman’s psycho! She’ll get up in front of All These People and walk out!” Sometimes, a little fear of embarrassment and of the unknown consequences to come, can help our cause immeasurably!
Here’s one final preparation tip.
Sunday morning begins on Saturday night!
I can’t stress strongly enough how important your Saturday night preparations are when you have small children! The wise mom thinks ahead to avoid the stress and craziness of a “running behind” Sunday morning.
Bathe all the children. Iron everyone’s clothes. Pack Bible bags and place them by the door or in the car. Do as much breakfast and lunch prep as you can. Set the breakfast table.
Get to bed on time!!!
Sleepy, over-tired children are just a formula for failure on Sunday morning, so plan your Saturday evening wisely.
Next time, we’ll consider ways to help your entire family, especially the children, take ownership of their own church. The more invested they feel in the body of believers, the more they’ll love their church, their worship time, and ultimately, their God.
Thanks for all of your ideas. This post is especially timely as we have just begun taking our seven-year-old son to church with us. It has been a little unnerving at times but we are beginning to see blessings too. I really enjoy reading about your family!
Hi Heather! Thanks for the words of encouragement. Yes, unnerving is a great word to describe the learning/transition period. Hang in there I’m excited for Monday’s blog! As our kids learn to love their church and take ownership of their relationship with the body of Christ, the Sunday morning worship service takes on a whole new level of sweetness. Check back Monday!