Sometimes the difference between enduring a worship service and enjoying a worship service with your child is simply a matter of preparation and training. At Faith, we encourage parents to bring their kids (4 and older) to our Church Family Night services. This service is a bit more informal than our Sunday morning services, and it serves as a good setting for parents to teach their children how to participate in corporate worship. Our hope is that these services will help your child to actively engage in worshipping our Lord with the body of Christ.
Here are a few suggestions* that might help you in training your child:
Be Prepared for Worship
Get ready early. If your child takes a nap, you may need to put him to bed and get him up earlier than usual. Get dressed, get offerings ready, gather everything you need to bring with you, etc. with plenty. Because Sundays can be rather full days, you may want to plan this out on Saturday evening. If necessary, give your kids a snack to tide them over until they can eat after the service. Leave the house with time to spare. Remind your child of your expectations of his behavior during the church service.
Model the Right Attitude for Your Child
Start with a positive attitude, a cheerful tone, a spirit of anticipation and enthusiasm, and a heart for worship. Attitudes can be contagious. If you’re excited about worshipping the Lord, that will help your child to develop the same kind of attitude.
Walk Your Child Through the Service Before It Begins
Our services typically include times of singing, testimony, giving, teaching, and celebration of the Lord’s Table. Talk to you children about what they should expect and how they should participate during each segment of the service. You may want to pray with your child before the service starts.
Encourage Your Child to Participate
By teaching your child hymns and worship choruses at home he will be able to participate in the service. If he cannot learn the whole hymn, teach him the refrain and signal to him when it is time to sing the part he knows. Encourage your child to sit and to stand at the appropriate times, to clap when appropriate, etc. Have your child bring an offering and place it in the plate.
Help Your Child Become an Active Listener
Help your child to focus on testimonies and teaching by quietly whispering instructions to him– i.e. “Listen to this story”, “Can you draw a picture of…” This is not a time of long instruction, but just very short statements to focus their attention. It is also not a time for your child to whisper back to you.
Encourage a younger child to listen to the sermon and to draw a picture that reflects the content of the teaching or testimonies. If your child is very young and has a hard time sitting for long periods of time, you may want to let your child look at a small (non-distracting) Bible storybook once he has listened to the content of the service for a while.
As your child gets older and learns to write, model for him how to take simple notes. Let him copy your notes at first; then encourage him to take his own. Keep a spiral notebook that is specifically for use in worship services.
Stretch Your Child’s Ability to Sit Attentively
If you have an active child, you may need to take your child out of the service for a break. Just sit near an exit and quietly slip out as needed. Keep stretching him until he can sit through the whole service. You may need to be firm. Reaffirm positive behavior. In a previous post, I mentioned some things my wife has done to help prepare our son for corporate worship.
Talk About the Service After It Ends
Speak positively with your child about the service, and ask him if he has any questions. Encourage him to share his drawings or notes. Praise him for the ways he succeeded during the service, and discuss the improvements he needs to make next time.
* These suggestions are a modification of some training materials prepared for parents by Sally Michael of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN. © 2005