Welcome back for part two on our discussion about the why’s and how’s of including children in church. If you missed part 1, read it here.
Training my little ones to sit with us during the church service definitely takes some work. Sometimes I only get to hear small snippets of the sermon. But this has motivated me to be more purposeful during the week and listen to the weekly sermon or download various podcasts to encourage and strengthen my faith (Revive Our Hearts is my favorite!). Aaron and I try to watch a sermon together (Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church offers video feed) while the kids are in bed or napping some other time during the week. Currently our church service is in the afternoon, so we do this on Sunday mornings. This gives us time alone to really focus on the Word and discuss it together. This allows us to continue to grow in our faith even if we can’t get the whole sermon on Sunday. We realize that it can be a sacrifice, but it is worth it!
1. Begin at home. Training my children to sit with the church service always begins at home. We started with small increments of time sitting quietly and listening to a sermon. We would let Karis look at a book while we listened together. If she refused to sit still, discipline was in order. We began with just ten minutes and worked up from there. When we have family devotions, we have Karis look at a little picture Bible while we read together. This is practice time as well. We started this process around 1 year of age after she stopped napping during the sermon.
2. Train baby to nap during sermon. I always try to time the baby’s nap to take place during the sermon time. I will either bring a pack n play and lay the baby down in a back room or bring a baby carrier (my favorite moby or Ergo) and rock them to sleep in the back of the sanctuary. This way I can listen to the sermon with a sleeping baby. I know of others who have trained their babies to just sleep in a stroller, car seat, or on the pew next to them during this time as well.
3. Bring a snack. We like to bring raisins and nuts with us in a small baggy for a quick protein snack during the service.
4. Don’t push it. Give your children room to be kids! We require Karis to worship with us during the worship services and then sit quietly with us for 30 minutes of the sermon. At 2 1/2 years old, I don’t really feel it is necessary to push it longer than that (others may have varying opinions). After 30 minutes or so when she starts getting restless, we take her to the back and let her quietly walk around in the back of the sanctuary or lobby and occasionally play with some of the other little children that also may be present there. As she gets older, we will stretch the amount of time she is to sit with us.
5. Bring 1-2 simple activities. We usually bring an etch-a-sketch with us to church. No mess and it allows Karis to draw a bit during the sermon. We usually have a mix of sitting quietly and then doing some coloring/drawing. Our church also offers a coloring page that is related to the sermon for some of the older children to use. There have fill in the blank questions and cross word puzzles that correspond with the sermon as well. This helps the children listen carefully for the answers. (If your church does not offer something like this, talk to the leadership and see if it is something that could be developed). Growing up, my mom would keep a special church bag for the little ones. It was a small plastic manila folder container that had a elastic strap that kept all the contents in. It contained a bag of coloring pencils, a coloring book, and a few other small items. Each of the younger children had their own special container and we would just keep them in the car throughout the week.
6. Be willing to ask for help. We are blessed to attend services with extended family and they are always willing to hold a child if needed, but there are often older ladies or young single gals who would love to hold a baby for awhile. Don’t be afraid to ask for an extra helping hand. If the child needs discipline, carry them to a quiet place to discipline or talk with them.
Now for some tips from the other ladies on our panel…