Thursday, March 22, 2012

How to Bring Kids in Corporate Worship

Today, I'm finally going to share how it is I take my children into corporate worship services without losing my sanity.  I'm not saying all of these ideas may work for everyone, but for me, they're key to worship being an enjoyable experience for all involved.

A few months back, I wrote about preparations for Sunday morning worship beginning on Saturday night.  Getting everything ready (clothes and items that go with us) is essential to not feeling rushed in the morning.  Playing worship music helps my heart's focus.

It is better to train before you expect the desired behavior rather than be forced to correct misbehavior later.  The expectation has been laid out long enough ago now that my children normally know what to expect, but if I've seen an area they need to work on, I will remind them to do so before we go to church.  My expectations for worship include speaking kindly to adults, shaking hands, sitting when we sit (and looking straight ahead), standing when we stand (such as during singing and through some prayers), and being reverent in behavior.  Being reverent for us is being appropriately quiet and mostly still.  I also do not allow my children to eat or drink in the worship service. 

Potty before church.  And it doesn't hurt to avoid drinks that have a tendency to flow through our systems quickly.  I only give my kids milk on Sunday mornings rather than juice or water.  My girls (and their Sunday School teachers) are pretty good about remembering a restroom stop before coming to worship, but I always ask just in case. 

Choose a place to sit that works for your family.  For some families, sitting near the front is best because the children focus better on the service without having to look over other heads.  For others, like mine, the back is best because of access to the door.  If a bathroom exit or discipline is necessary, I don't have to carry a child out in front of everyone.  When my older children were smaller, I often had to take out more than one child at a time because my husband is the pastor and I sit alone.  With two parents or grandparents, this may not be necessary.  We also like to slip out with my husband to greet our church family at the close of service, so sitting on the end near the aisle is helpful.

Have age appropriate expectations.   I already mentioned my general expectations, but it also changes with age.  Because we sit near the back, I do allow my youngest daughter to stand in the pew during special music so she can see better.  I also allow her to color out of a coloring book during the sermon (not before), but I do not allow my older daughters to do so.  I don't allow the coloring book to come out before because any child that can sing their ABC's can be expected to learn the songs we sing in church or at least to listen. Once my kids are five, it is expected that they will follow along in their Bibles as the Scripture is read and look up at the pastor as he preaches.  I open the Bibles to the Scripture and help my emerging reader move her finger along the words.  Yes, this is a lot of work for one set of hands, but well worth it!  My six-year-old can find some major books (Genesis, Proverbs, and the Gospels) and she often wants to find the chapter and verse on her own once I've found other books for her.

Discipline when necessary.  If my child disobeys any request I make during a worship service, and I must repeat it more than once, I take her out to the restroom or outside to discipline her.  We pray and return to the worship service as quietly as possible.  Restoration must take place in our relationship in order to have happy hearts.  Loud crying is not allowed or we go through the whole process again because we do not want to disturb others.  This doesn't happen much.  If you are clear from the beginning what you expect and what the consequences are, it gets easier!

Not too much cuddling!  I know it sounds harsh, but this isn't the time for that!  I'm affectionate with hugs and kisses, but if the focus is going to be on God's word while the pastor preaches, we've got to not be too involved with one another.  I also don't allow my children to lay down in the pews.  Saturday night and Sunday afternoon are times for sleep, not during the worship service.  Eeeek!  I know that sounds cruel, but we're the ones in charge of our children's routines, so we can help them to be attentive in worship!

So, I hope this is helpful for those of you trying this for the first time.  For those of you who may have missed my reasons for bringing children into corporate worship, here's the link.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Kids in Corporate Worship

Parenting is hard work. 
If you're already a parent, you're probably thinking No kidding.

My concern is that we often hand off that hard work to other people - i.e. grandparents, teachers, the church.  When we do, we miss opportunities to share God's Word with our children ourselves, one of the greatest joys to be had in parenting. 

As far as it goes with church, I'm not saying that children don't benefit greatly from having other adults serve as their teachers during Sunday School, missions education programs, or Vacation Bible School.  My focus is on the Sunday morning corporate worship hour.  Here are my arguments for children worshiping with the rest of the church body and not off in "children's church" or something similar.  And before you read them, it might be helpful to know I'm talking about children three years of age and older.

Children need to hear their pastor's preaching.  Most of my life, I've been part of churches which are small enough they've only supported one full time staff, the pastor, but I've also been a member of the largest Southern Baptist Church in the state of Kentucky with a very large staff, and also part of a church plant that met in a trailer, and it eventually supported a bi-vocational pastor.  In every circumstance, I believe children need to hear their senior pastor preach.

The senior pastor's preaching is the uniting, teaching voice to the church.  Lead by the Holy Spirit, the pastor studies and prepares to deliver sermons each week that will be edifying to the church body.  The senior pastor is the shepherd of the local church body.  He knows the needs of his congregation.  He knows in which direction the church needs to be lead.  Every member and future member of the church should be familiar with what the pastor teaches.  A child can't truly say "this is what our church believes" if he's never heard his pastor preach.

The pastor also can't be more than a preacher if he doesn't regularly see his church body, even the littles.  Most pastors stand at the door to greet the congregation at the end of each service and often at the beginning.  Even the big 'ol church I was part of, the senior pastor did this.  This is a time for handshakes and hugs, words of love.  Kids need to be a part of this.

It encourages intergenerational bonding within the body of Christ.  If our children don't get to know the adults of the church, how then are they to find Titus 2 men and women?  On the other hand, most older adults are encouraged by seeing the coming generations learning to love God. 

At this point, if you haven't already, you may be thinking about some snooty adults that don't want to be bothered by children in the worship service.  They may say they're distracted.  Your pastor may address this, but we do know that not everyone who attends church is saved.  And even among Christians, we are all growing at different paces and to different levels in our Christian faith.  Distraction can be a real issue when parents don't make attempts at dealing with minor behavior issues before they become big ones, but most of the time, distraction is a heart issue for the one being distracted.

It is a form of discipline for the parent.  Yes, I mean that as a positive argument.  Kids might make it hard to focus on the sermon for a season.  They may test your patience.  You may have to learn to say what you mean and mean what you say.  Are you one that makes threats?  It won't work without follow-through.  Parents will undoubtedly have to take their children out of the service, lovingly correct them, and return to worship.  Sometimes more than once.  Bathroom breaks may occur.  I am convinced all of the momentary issues parents have to work through makes them better parents and better children of God.  "No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it." - Hebrews 12:11

Sitting in worship is a spiritual discipline children should acquire earlier rather than later in life.  Spiritual disciplines aren't easy.  Fasted lately, anyone?  Teaching a child how to participate in corporate worship may not be pretty at first, but notice that last scripture applies here too.  The first several times a child is in worship, it may not be enjoyable.  Give it some time, and it may not only be enjoyable for you, the parent, but also for the child and those other church members surrounding him. 

How pleasant it is to hear my three, five, and six year-olds sing along with the Chris Tomlin and Laura Story songs our choir sings, the Doxology we sing each week, and other hymns.  My three-year-old walks around the house singing, "He will save you, He will save you, He will save you now."  How awesome it is for my children to participate through passing the offering plate!  How satisfying it is to help my daughter's find the scripture for the sermon, and guide my five-year-old's finger along as she learns to read God's word!  This is the fruit of peace.

What do we get when children are delayed in coming to corporate worship?  Tweens that haven't learned to potty before church (yes, I know there are emergencies even for adults), teenagers that haven't learned the sanctuary is a place consecrated for the purpose of worshipping God and need to learn to care for it, and young adults that still desire to be entertained rather than know how to be still before the Lord.

Still, you may be wondering, how do I do it?  How can I possibly take my children into worship?  In the next few days, I'll share the tips that have made it possible for me to sit alone in worship with three of my four children so far.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Bon Anniversaire, Dr. Seuss!

No matter what goes on with my daily household chores, however sparkly or grimy my abode may be, at the end of each day I can measure some success as a homemaker through a very important activity.  Did I read to and with my children today?  If I did, wonderful, even if the house suffered.  If I didn't, but my home is spotless, I'm bound to feel like I missed out on one of the greatest ways to nurture my children.

Today is Dr. Seuss' birthday, which is what primarily has me thinking about reading with my children.  But yesterday, my son gave me a bit of a pat on the back in this department.  My husband stepped in to wash the dishes I had begun to work on (Yes, I find him quite hot!), when my son (20 months) walked into the kitchen wanting me.  Taking me by the hand, he led me to the den, and finally to his corner of the room with a basket full of board books.  He began to point and say "uh, uh" (not yet saying book too often).  I told him I needed to do some other work first, but that I would read with him later.  Walking back to the kitchen, he followed with a book and cried. 

My husband commented, "Congratulations, Mommy, you've made our children readers.  I never thought my son would ever cry to read a book."  Success!  Of course I read him the book.

In the hustle and bustle of all we have to do, it's nice to be reminded from time to time that the simplest of activities are usually the most loved and cherished by our children.  So I also encourage you to end your days as mothers by asking yourselves two questions:

      1)  Did I teach my children of God's ways (both his just and his merciful ways) through the use of Scripture and prayer with them?
    2)  Did I read to my children, the smallest of infant his board book and the older child from a chapter book?

If so, I think you can give yourself a pat on the back!

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;" -Proverbs 1:7a

Thursday, March 1, 2012

First Blogiversary!

Happy first blogiversary to Titus 2 Moments!  Thank you to all who've read my thoughts!  It has been so much fun to write here and to hear from those of you who've enjoyed reading! 

We've been without internet access for the last three days, so I've felt very out of touch, and I've meant to post sooner, but this was my first chance.  I hope to write again soon!