Be Prepared for Worship
A major source of stress for many families with children is the scramble to get everyone ready on Sunday morning. Minimize the stress of getting everyone ready by laying out clothes (Including all shoes and accessories) on Saturday night. Plan for a simple breakfast so you and your children are not distracted by hunger. Remind your children of the expectations you have for them during service.
Be the Example
Your children will follow your example so start the morning with a positive attitude as you anticipate the worship service. Beyond that make sure that Sunday is not the only time that your children see you interested in God. You are the spiritual example that has the most influence on them. They will only take God as seriously as you do.
Prepare Your Child for the Service Before it Begins
Look at the bulletin with them and explain what is going to happen. Tell them when they can sing and when they need to sit still. You may want to take a moment to pray with your child before service starts.
Encourage Your Child to Participate
By teaching your child hymns and choruses at home he will be able to participate in the service. If he cannot learn the whole hymn, teach him the refrain and signal to him when it is time to sing the part he knows. Encourage your child to sit and to stand at the appropriate times, to clap when appropriate, etc. Show him the words in the hymn book, moving your finger along as the hymn is sung. (Even if your child is a nonreader, this will help to focus his attention and encourage him to pay attention to the words.) Have your child bring an offering and place it in the plate.
Help Your Child Become an Active Sermon Listener
Help your child to focus on the sermon by quietly whispering instructions to him– i.e. “Listen to this story”, “Can you draw a picture of…”. This is not a time of long instruction, but just very short statements to focus their attention. It is also not a time for your child to whisper back to you. Encourage a younger child to listen to the sermon and to draw a picture of something from the sermon. (This should not be seen as a time for doodling, but for active listening.) If your child is very young and has a hard time sitting for a long time, after he has listened to the sermon for awhile, you may want to let your child look at small (nondistracting) Bible storybooks. As your child gets older and learns to write, model for him how to take simple notes– Let him copy your notes at first; then encourage him to take his own. Keep a spiral notebook that is specifically for Sunday morning.
Stretch Your Child’s Ability to Sit and Listen
If you have an active child he may not be able to sit through an entire sermon right away. That is alright. Use this as an opportunity to stretch your child’s ability to listen. If he can only make it through ten minutes one week push for eleven or twelve the next. Include your child in your goal setting and reward positive behavior.
Talk About the Sermon on the Way Home
Ask your child what he heard and answer any questions he might have. Be prepared and willing to share something that you learned as well. If your child sees that you are engaged in the service then they are more likely to become engaged as well.
Remember that Your Child is Just That…A Child
We know what it is like to bring children to church. Please understand that we do not expect your child to be perfect during the service. If he cries or is active we understand what that is like. Children are welcome here. For that reason we do all that we can to accommodate families with young children.