We parents often have our work cut out for us on Sunday mornings, don’t we? In addition to getting everyone “church-ready” and out the door on time, we have to focus much energy on keeping our kids engaged and well-behaved while sitting in the sanctuary. As a mom of four (with kids’ ages ranging from 10, 9, 5 and 2), I know full well the challenges and blessings of having my children worship alongside me in church. Some mornings, it’s a beautiful thing. Other weeks, it’s quite a challenge! I want to encourage all of you with small children: it’s okay. Everyone in the congregation – from the pastors to the choir to the members sitting in the pew near you – wants your children there. They are not only the future of the church – they are the church NOW. It is a blessing and a privilege to worship with young ones, and it is important for them to see adults engaged in worship, too.
I don’t feel there is any one formula for successful family worship experiences, other than consistency. The more frequently you bring your families to the service, the more quickly the children will acclimate themselves to the routines and rituals of worship. Clearly set expectations for behavior also allow kids to know their boundaries and function within them. In my experience, it is helpful to communicate these before you arrive, rather than in hushed whispers in the sanctuary (but I am an expert “hushed sanctuary whisperer” by this point, for sure!)
The Children’s Ministry provides quiet bags to help with the Sunday morning routine (these are cleaned out and replenished once a month). I would encourage you to use these. There are materials inside that can also aid in worship – like laminated booklets with the lyrics to all of the refrains we sing on a weekly basis. In addition, there is Children’s Church available to children through Kindergarten age, after the Children’s Message during the 11:00 service. Look for the shepherd’s staff to lead the kids!
Recently, Dave and I decided to require our older kids (in 4th and 5th grades) to participate in almost every part of the service, from singing to praying to reciting the Apostle’s Creed. We allow them to draw during the pastor’s message, but they’ve been listening anyway. It always excites me to hear them refer to the sermon later on. They take in far more than I realize!
Hang in there, dear parents. It is not wasted energy or time to bring your children to worship. God is at work in their hearts, even when it doesn’t seem like it. Trust the Holy Spirit to use their time in church to grow their faith – and yours. It will bear fruit that will last!
Matthew 18:2-5: Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.”
If you are interested in reading more about this topic, I recommend Parenting in the Pew by Robbie Castleman (I have a copy if you would like to borrow it). Also, check out this post: Secrets of a Pew Whisperer: Let Your Children Pick the Seat.
Blessings to you all this October!