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Children in Church

Back on our old blog, I started a series that I believe hits some vital issues for Christian parents. I would like to continue that conversation here, but wanted to take a moment to catch our new readers up.

Here are the posts that started this topic:

  • Baby Goes to Church (…or Doesn’t)
  • More on Babies and Church-Going
  • Baby at Church – the Ongoing Saga

We are working with the staff at our church to create a Family Nursery / Cry Room / Nursing Room, and it is very exciting to think that we  may soon be able to enjoy our worship together as a family even when Mr. Big Baby is fussy.

I’d like to share with you the outline that Leigh, the wonderful Director of Children’s Ministries at Wayside Baptist Church, shares with the parents of kids who are promoting to K-4 each September.

She shares her vision (like mine) for teaching children to worship and be a part of the Christian community — Just as we gradually teach them to be part of all other aspects of society! — and offers some great tips for doing so.

Hitting the Mark: Parenting Preschoolers in the Pew
I. Why are 4K children introduced into adult worship?
  a.  History — Until 6 years ago 4K children went to service with their parents at Wayside.  Extended session was added for children up through Kindergarten, however it quickly became clear that children in this age need both training from their parents to sit in church as well as programs like preschool Kidz Worship to bring spiritual truths to their level.
  b.  Vision for the ministry — It is clear that parents and the church must train and minister to children at the preschool age to stimulate their hunger for spiritual things.
  c.  Leadership attitude — Ministering to small children is a partnership and the church staff and leadership are encouraging and supportive of having preschool children coming to worship.

II.  Where do you start?
  a.  Where is your child spiritually?  Objectively look at where your child is spiritually and set a plan for training and expectations accordingly.  The church is not expecting your child to be motionless during an entire service.    Nor is it expected that he/she will comprehend what the whole sermon was about, but don’t underestimate what your child can “catch” just by being there.
  b.  Attitude — positive vs. negative—Remember your attitude about having your child in adult service will set the tone for how it will go.  If you make it an exciting, positive and growing up experience your child will respond to that.
  c.  Remember what you’re doing and why — Dying to oneself is the hardest thing to keep in mind.  Adults go to church to get spiritually fed and the distractions that can take place when you have your little one with you may make that difficult.  Training your child is always the higher call and the Lord will honor it.
  d.  Teamwork — You do not have to be alone in this endeavor.  Work with your spouse, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends.  The key to the team is that everyone should know the expectations of behavior you have for your child and stick to it.  This is a family responsibility.

III.  Today we go to “Big Church” — What to say
  a.  Before — Express to your child your expectations.  Then be prepared with a plan of action  including quiet activities, where to sit, and a convenient escape route in the event you need to step out.   Discuss rewards and consequences for church behavior.
  b.  During — Involve your child in the service as much as possible including having them stand and sit when the rest of the congregation does so.  Whisper to them what is going on to help them understand big church.
  c.  Afterward — Ask them what they liked and why, what was hard, how they think they behaved, etc.

IV.  It’s a matter of judgment
  a.  Where to sit —advantages/disadvantages—The balcony has many families in it and can be less disruptive if you have to leave.  The lower level front has the advantage of being up close to keep your child’s attention.  You may have to experiment to see what works best.
  b.  What equipment to bring — Have your child bring their Bible and a bag with quiet books and paper, coloring books and crayons.  These can keep you child’s hands busy and you may find they can actually listen better.  This is an ideal time to have Christian materials that are just for church.  Help your child find Bible verses the pastor is using.
  c.  If at first you don’t succeed…come back and try again!
    i.  When to call it a day — There may be a time when you feel like it is just not working out.  Your expectation of your child’s behavior will dictate when this is.  If you need to step out of service or go home, do so, but provide clear consequences so the child does not get the idea that misbehavior will get them out of going to church i.e. no TV for the remainder of the day.
    ii.  When to stick it out — It is a good idea to hold fast to the routine you establish of going to church with your child.  It will help you to hold out when you see that you are making progress.

V.  Recap
  a.  Your attitude toward this experience will make it good or bad.
  b.  Remember the goal is training up your child.
  c.  Keep working at it.  If you are diligent and consistent in your expectations and approach you will see results.
d. If you need help or encouragement please do not hesitate to call…


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