Worship is the time Christians enjoy praising their Lord and reflecting on His goodness. It's a time when we remember the sacrifice of Jesus, meditate on His word, and call upon Him for salvation.
...at least, that's what worship was before my children came along.
Worship, which use to be a time of quiet reflection and praise, is now a time of wrestling, potty breaks, and snack-management. Children change the dynamic of worship. So much so that many parents enter the time of worship with a brace-for-impact kind of attitude thinking about all the ways they'll need to quiet-down and handle their children.
Children are not as disruptive to a worship service as we think they are, I say this as one who has heard many a crying child during his preaching, but that does not keep us from being concerned about how our children are behaving during worship.
With the help of my wife, who often gracefully bears the duty of watching three children alone during worship, I wanted to write down some ways you can train your child to listen and participate in worship, thereby allowing you to worship with your kids instead of wrestling with them in church.
As always, this is written from a place of humility knowing that I do not have all the answers and that these suggestions may not work for everyone. That being said, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section or by email (StrongChurchMinistries@gmail.com).
Worship at Home
Since they were very little I have read to my children every night before bed with only the occasional miss here and there. A little over a year ago we added this children's Bible to the rotation reading one story every night during dinner. These times of reading, both at dinner and before bed, are joined with prayer. Here are some habits we've seen develop over the last year:
Every time we eat dinner our children will remind us to read the Bible.
Both my son and my daughter ask if they can pray before dinner for our food.
During both times they sit and listen to each other and to the reading of God's word.
During worship on Sunday mornings my son will often come over and sit on my lap during communion and the sermon. Why? Because he has learned to sit and listen through the reading and praying we do at home.
If you want to train your child to worship, read the Bible and pray with them at home.
Give them Materials on their Level During Worship
We recently placed some children's study pages out on a table in the back of our auditorium. These pages encourage children to listen for certain words like "God" or "Bible" during the sermon and tally up every time they hear it. There is also space to draw an image corresponding to the sermon that morning.
Giving your child things to do during worship on their level will encourage and reward them for listening to the sermon and will teach them to sit and behave during worship.
Prepare Your Children Mentally for Worship
My children ask me nearly every day "are we going to church today?". They are excited to worship! Why? Because they know mom and dad are excited to worship. Saturday nights when we put them to sleep we tell them "we need to get some good rest because we have Bible class and worship in the morning!". Positivity is infectious, and when your children hear you talk about worship in a positive way, they'll buy into that positivity and learn to be excited themselves.
Be Consistent in Worship Attendance
If you want to train your child to sit and listen in worship you have to actually be at worship. Being spotty in your attendance marks it harder for good habits to stick. When attending worship becomes a regular event in the life of your child, patterns will develop in their behavior. Make worship a weekly event on your calendar and children will start developing a pattern for how to behave when they are there.
Children do not magically learn to listen and behave. It takes parents, working intentionally, to accomplish this task. I hope that these suggestions help you to do that more effectively. To the parents who wrestle with their children every week in worship: what you are doing matters! Your actions are raising up the church of tomorrow. Thank you for your hard work in training your children to worship their God.