It’s Sunday morning, one minute before the church bell rings. You just parked the car, unbuckled the children, grabbed the diaper bag that spilled its contents under the car seat, then checked to see if any little ones are running across the parking lot. They were! So, you gathered up your things, ran after them while keeping the baby (and you) from jiggling too much, and tried to get them to stop without anyone from church noticing. Phew! You finally made it to the pew during the first song. The circus has just begun.
Let me reassure you that you are doing the right thing. If you value worship, you need to expose your children from an early age, so they will value it, too. Children don’t learn how to sit in church, listen during the sermon, and stand for prayer if they never experience it. The “bad” news is this: While you are teaching them that church is important (and it is!) you, the parent, may not be able to worship as you have in the past. That’s okay. This faith education is very important, so be willing to give up some of your comfort to build a foundation for your children.
There are some things you can do with your children that will help them stay in church, but not distract others. You may even be able to listen to a sermon or sing a song if they are engaged for a few minutes.
1. Bring quiet, soft books or toys with a biblical emphasis. Visit your local Christian bookstore, and you will find a few books that qualify. Only bring these books or toys to church, so they are special.
2. If your church allows, bring a non-messy snack. No peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, please. Think quiet and clean. You don’t want to attract attention when your child slurps on her straw or spills dark grape juice on the church carpet.
3. Sit closer to the front. Many parents think that’s just asking for trouble, but I have seen larger families sit right up in the first or second row. They say sitting in front helps the child focus on worship, not all the other kids who are making noise in back. Good point! Try it a couple of times and see how your children respond.
4. Get or make a church bag. This is a small bag that your preschooler can carry all by himself. You fill it with things he likes, and he gets to bring it to church every time. Make sure it has his name on it, and that you put surprises in it every other week. Some things you could include are a snack bag, a plain notebook for doodling, a coloring book, crayons, pencil, quiet toys, puppets, felt books, etc.
5. Bring her favorite blanket. Sometimes the kids are tired and can’t get comfortable. If they brought their blankies, their pacifiers, their favorite stuffed bear, maybe they would take a nap, and you could listen for awhile.
6. Sewing cards can be fun. I don’t know if these are sold any more, but the idea is to take some card stock, put a picture on it (draw one or print it from the computer.) Then, use a paper punch to punch holes around the edge of the picture. Your young child will enjoy sewing the picture with a shoe string or a piece of yarn. Be sure to wrap tape around the end of the tape, so he can get it through the holes easily.
7. If your children are too much for you to handle sometimes, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Maybe an older lady will be their “church grandma.” Pre-teen girls often want to learn to babysit. Having them sit in your pew on Sunday mornings is great training. Remember that they may not know what to do, so give them some instructions.
Everyone expects that children will make noise and not always sit still. Don’t let your child’s behavior keep you from going to church. On the other hand, people in church have come to worship. So, if your child won’t sit still or is wailing, please take them out or stand in the back of the sanctuary with them. Sometimes, just standing up and pacing is all a child needs. If you implement some of these ideas, the people at your church will appreciate the fact that you are teaching your children and allowing them to worship in a meaningful way. Maybe they will even offer to help you out.
More importantly, you will teach and model for your children the value of worship. That knowledge, that training, will last them a lifetime.
Proverbs 22:6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.