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.


Michele said...

I totally agree! I believe it is vitally important for kids to be taught from an early age how to be part of the worship service. We've started using "listening pages" at church where the kids listen for certain words during the sermon and mark when they hear them. They are specific to each week's Scripture and sermon topic.

Leah F said...

These tips are great! Thanks for them, Lauren.