This time of year often strikes fear in the lives of some parents. Promotion for some means attending “Big Church” together for the first time. The two biggest concerns I hear from parents are:
1) fear their child will be a distraction
2) wonder if their child will get anything out of the service
I have learned that what happens in worship often begins with attitude. If you approach taking children to worship as a chore, it often becomes one. If you approach worship as the chance to introduce your child to God in a new way, the whole encounter changes. Too often worship is viewed as a passive time where we sing a little but spend most of the time sitting and absorbing. Worship is meant to be active. Instead of trying to teach children to sit and be quiet during the service, teach them to participate in the service. Leading them to engage in worship gives them skills to use as they grow and learn to have a personal relationship with Jesus. It also provides families with the opportunity to have spiritual conversations on a regular basis.
If you’re a preschool or children’s minister, does your church provide any training or guidance for parents on how to make this happen? I know several churches with great ideas. One recognizes all the new worshippers on promotion Sunday. They have families stand and be recognized-this gives the kids significance, but also lets the congregation know they need to be supportive. Other churches have a special time where the families meet the worship team (pastor, music leader, pianist, sound tech, etc.) and tour the worship center. Sometimes they have a simple service to show kids what to expect and how to participate.
Here are some practical tips families can use as they learn to worship together:
1) Use your worship guide. Have your child follow along and use highlighters to highlight every time you stand one color, times you are sitting another, times when there is music yet another.
2) Think about music. When the congregation is involved in music, lead your child to participate. Would holding a hymnal or lyric sheet help engage your child? You might even want to find a CD with songs you sing at church and keep it in the car. Talk about the songs as you are driving. Ask your children to shut their eyes and imagine what the song is about, then discuss it. When the music is designed for the congregation to listen, have your child draw a picture of something mentioned during the song or write down the words they heard most often. Use these in family devotional times later in the week. Ask your music leader for a list of songs that will be used in upcoming months and create a playlist for your family so you can be familiar with them before they are introduced in worship.
3) Participate in more active times such as greeting and the offering. Be prepared to have them take part in as much as possible.
4) During sermon time, work with your child to use their Bible. Underline the passage being used. Have a journal for the child to draw or write in and encourage them to connect what they put in their journal to what is being talked about.
5) For children who are more active, give their hands something to do. You can teach your child some simple sign language (such as Jesus, Bible, love, etc.) and have the child do the sign every time they hear the word. You can also give them a pipe cleaner to create something mentioned during the sermon.
6) Reference elements or thoughts from worship during the week. Use their sermon notes, pipe cleaner creations, an underlined Bible passage, or any other element as a discussion starter in the car or before bed.
Remember the goal is to teach children to worship not to simply be quiet during church. There’s a big difference!