HOW TO HELP YOUR CHILD LIKE CHURCH
By: Marjorie Burch
“Put that thing away until you learn how to play it.” Dad used to say that to us when we practiced the piano – but we knew he was teasing. No one learns to play a musical instrument without a lot of practice – and mistakes.
The same is true when it comes to kids and church. Keep your children away until they’re “old enough,” and they probably won’t attend then either. So here are some tips for teaching your child to enjoy an adult worship service.
1. Make getting ready a happy time. Lay out clothes the night before. Plan a simple breakfast. Leave the breakfast dishes in the sink if washing them means a hurried trip to church. (After your children leave home, you will have plenty of time to keep a spotless house – if you still think it’s important then.)
2. Take a break. If your child attends a class or a children’s meeting before the worship service, take time out for a break between. Take the child to the bathroom, to the drinking fountain, or outside for a brief walk, if possible. Be careful not to make this break too exciting, however. Roughhousing or running may make it more difficult for your child to sit during the service.
3. Find a good place to sit. When my daughter was young, I found she would sit quietly and enjoy the service when she could see the choir and the speakers. That meant we sat up front. If services regularly run past the time you can reasonably expect your child to sit still, however, you’ll probably want to sit near an exit.
4. Encourage your child to take part. Teach your child the hymns and share the hymnal with him or her. (Even children too young to read enjoy pretending.) Teach your child to stand or kneel when the congregation does so.
5. Give your child something to do during the sermon. Very young children may need to bring a quiet toy or book to keep them busy. An older child might like a small notebook for recording specific facts of the sermon or for tallying the number of times the minister says “faith” or “church” or some other word.
6. Praise your child after the service. Be very cautious about mentioning bad behavior and even slower to punish. Children who associate church with spanking are not learning to like church. It’s better to emphasize what your child did that pleased you – “You knelt so quietly during prayer,” for example.
7. Go to your church’s social functions. Attending church is a religious experience; we want to teach our children to worship. But it is also a social experience; we worship together. Your child will enjoy church more when he or she meets friends there. Church social functions are a good place to develop those friendships.
8. Accept the fact that your kids will make mistakes. Even adults sometimes find church long and the pews uncomfortable. And in spite of your best efforts, you may find yourself sitting, as I once did, behind an elegant lady wearing a fox stole – complete with heads, tails, and tiny paws. If you find, as I did, that your children just can’t stifle their giggles, you may need to take them out of the sanctuary until they can pull themselves together.
At a time such as this you need to remind yourself that your task is to teach your child to know God and to worship Him – even if this sometimes means “disturbing” older people in the service.
As a matter of fact, you’ll find that most people are sympathetic with your efforts to teach your child to worship. Most, in fact, accept the nurturing of the church children as the responsibility of the entire church. Far from being disturbed, they are glad you are there – and that you brought your children.
(The above material appeared in the October 1992 issue of Signs of the
Christian Information Network