Training your kids to sit in a worship service can feel a bit like taming a rambunctious pack of baby tigers. If you take up this task you will experience plenty of sweat, tears, and cheerios crushed into the church carpet. Keeping your kids in the service may be hard work, but it is worth it. There have been some great articles about the blessing of having your kids join you for corporate worship. We venture in this post to share some practical points that have helped us along the way. Please do not take them as the 10 commandments. They are simply some things that have helped us with our 5 littles:
1. Talk to your kids about your expectations on the way to church. We expect to rejoice in Jesus Christ. Sunday is a glorious day. Christ is risen! We have our children memorize Psalm 122:1 “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’” We encourage them to pay attention in their classes and the worship service. We remind them to sit still. We teach them to shake people’s hand, look them in the eye, and say “hello.”
2. Practice at home. Helping our kids in corporate worship starts at home. A large amount of our home practice comes at meal times. We enjoy one another as a family around the table and the kids sit until we excuse them. This is a daily training which helps when we are in other contexts where they need to sit for extended periods of time. Regular family worship time provides our kids with a great opportunity to listen, sing, and pray.
3. Opt for quiet toys and snacks. Our house can reach volume levels that would rival the Super Bowl. And our boys can annihilate a bag of potato chips faster than you can say Ruffles. But, in corporate worship we reach for a quiet toy or snack if it can help the younger children. We usually start them with nothing, then go for the boring snack before upgrading to the good stuff.
4. Ask your kids what they heard in the sermon. Our ultimate goal is not to get them to sit still and behave, but to hear and believe the Word of God. On the way home or at lunch, we often ask the kids what they heard in the sermon and service. This question gives us opportunity to talk about important spiritual truths and occasionally get a good laugh. Like the time one of our young girls reported the story of John the Baptist leaping in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary visited her while they were both pregnant. She said, “We learned that one baby jumped into the other mom’s belly!”
5. Teach kids not to ask or get up unless there is an emergency. Emergencies will happen. We want the kids to know we are there for them when they occur. But, we also want them to learn that there is something bigger than them occurring when God’s people gather. We need to fix our attention on God. They need to fix their attention on God. Focusing on Him is the best thing for them.
6. Husbands, take your children out when needed. In most cases, the wife will spend a large amount of time with the children throughout the week. Husbands can love their wives by taking the child out of the service so she can be refreshed by God’s Word. There may be times when the wife needs to be the one to take a child out of the service, but the husband regularly doing so is a good rule of thumb.
7. Sit in a discreet place. Especially if you are in a training phase, you may need to exit sometime during the service. If possible, sit in a place where you can get to an exit in the least distracting way. Cut a deal with some kind church members who have that sweet back corner. Tell them you will wash their car. Remind them that there will be a special place in heaven if they take up their cross and switch spots with you.
8. Set an example by the way you worship. We try to pray for our own church and other local churches on Saturday evenings. We want to signal to our children that we are preparing our hearts for worshiping the risen Christ on the Lord’s Day. In the service, we want to sing, pray, and pay attention in such a way that shows them the serious joy of worshiping the Lord. We pray that God might strengthen you as you raise your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord!