Saturday, March 7, 2009

Kids in church...

Since I've had two people ask, I'll just put the whole text of the "Children in Worship" card I mentioned, here on the blog. I don't know if there are any copyright issues. It was apparently taken from an article published 18 years ago, and noted below.

Worship Is For Children!

Somehow we got the idea that worship is an adult activity that is inappropriate for children. Therefore, we have devised ways to keep children out of worship services, if possible, or at the very least, keep them entertained so that they don't interfere with our worship.

Our Lord disagrees. Jesus found the worship of children to be not only acceptable, but exemplary for us. The unadorned, unpretentious songs and prayer of children are exactly what God wants!

So, it is high time we find ways to include these children whom the Lord finds so delightful. How can we do that?

General Considerations

1. Sit together and worship as a family. A part of parental training includes worship training. No children should be left sitting alone or with other children; all children should be attached to some responsible adult. Keep in mind that we are one large family of believers and can help take responsibility for one another's children.

2. Be willing to allow for a certain amount of noise and distraction when children are present. At the same time, be sensitive to those around you who may not be accustomed to children's ways.

Help Your Child Worship

1. In the Worship Is For Children box you will find paper, pencils, and book-marker slips which you are welcome to use. Pick them up before the service begins.

2. Pick up a separate bulletin for your child. (Of course, this assumes that your church prints a bulletin that lists the order of the service... songs/hymns, readings, offering, etc. A more generic bulleting with a lot of announcements and 'news items' may be more of a distraction to a child.)

3. During the prelude, help your child look at the bulletin and then locate and mark hymns and Scripture readings with the bookmarks. Explain which parts of the service are congregational responses when he or she will participate. (I'm not sure what they mean by 'markers'... little sticky notes? We just follow along with the bulletin.)

4. You may wish to number the events in the Order of Worship, and as the service progresses, ask the child to check them off. This helps children keep track of where we are in the service.

5. Have your child participate with the congregation in standing, praying, reading, singing, and listening.

6. Assist your child in reading or singing by following the words with your finger or bookmark. Even if children are not old enough to read, this engages them and makes them a participant with the congregation.

7. Help your child further contribute by making sure he has his own offering, no matter now small.

8. Encourage your child to participate in prayer by saying "Amen."

9. During a Baptism or Lord's Supper, briefly and quietly explain the different aspects of the sacrament as they take place. View questions as an opportunity for teaching rather than an interruption of your worship.

10. During the sermon:
* Have the child write the sermon text and main points on his note paper.
* Listen for tangible concepts, key words or phrases, and ask your child to draw them. This will help solidify the main thoughts of the sermon.
* Listen for sermon applications appropriate for a child and have him draw himself doing those things.

Help Your Child Prepare For Worship

1. Allow time for the bathroom and a drink between Sunday School and the worship service.

2. Do not rush prior to the worship service. Your children will reflect your relaxed mood.

3. At home make it a project to learn and use things used in worship at church: the Lord's prayer, the Doxology, and the Apostles' Creed.

4. Emphasize the positive, happy things in worship. Encourage good behavior by special attention to your child -- give hugs and have physical contact.

5. After the service, discuss what happened there and listen to your child's comments and questions. Avoid making critical or demeaning comments about the worship service; your child will pick up your critical spirit and become cynical himself.

6. Give priority to worship as a family. It is difficult to convince our children that worship is important if we never read the Bible or pray at home, and the least little problem keeps us away from church!

7. Do not let worship be a Sunday morning experience only. Let your child see you personally spending time in worship; worship regularly as a family; and live in such a way that your worship is not hypocritical.

-- adapted from an article in the Presbyterian Journal, April 29, 1981

I really appreciate the gentleness with which the expectations are stated - in terms of being considerate of others. (General Considerations, #2)

FWIW, our church does have a nursery, for kids up to about age 2. Many parents keep their littlest ones in church up until the sermon, so they get to practice church behavior at a time when their little noises and wiggles are less distracting (during songs, offering, etc.) And we are not a full-on "Family Integrated" church, in that we also have Sunday School. Personally, I think it's the right 'formula' for us; the kids get taught God's Word "at their own level" (while we are in adult Sunday School), and then we are all together for the Worship Service.

Our church provides 5x7 cards and pencils, and the pastor encourages the kids to take notes. He helps by clearly noting his points during the sermon. The kids stick the notes to the refrigerator in the church kitchen. The following Sunday he acknowledges the kids by name, from the pulpit. That's very encouraging! The littlest kids leave him pictures, and when the college kids are home on breaks, they often leave him their notes too.

IMO, kids miss out on much more than they gain when they are sent off to Children's Church. At an age when they should be developing an appetite for spiritual meat they are fed a steady diet - not even of spiritual milk - but all too often twinkies and soda-pop. And they miss out on things like baptisms, dedications, missionary visits, Lord's Supper, etc. But mostly, they are not (being) part of the Church Family. Church shouldn't be all about their peers. And - honestly - I know going to church isn't always "fun" for kids. I have something more important, more profound, in mind than "fun".

Something I've also found helpful, as a mom, is adopting a little bit of a Jewish mentality. To a Jew, the sabbath began the evening before. I try to prepare my house (get cleaning done), lay out clothes for my boys, and sometimes prep my meal (at least have it planned) by Saturday afternoon. I wouldn't be legalistic about any of that, but when I pull it off it frees me up to be more relaxed and enjoy Sunday without feeling rushed or harried.

One thing I've been meaning to ask our Pastor to consider doing is to post online the sermon text and maybe the hymns/choruses by late in the week. That way we could read through the verses and possibly the hymns on Saturday evening, after dinner, and let them start working into our hearts before we arrive Sunday morning. There's an old book by Karen Mains called "Making Sunday Special" that has a lot of helpful ideas. She takes the Jewish thing a lot further, with having a special Shabbat meal on Saturday night, for instance.

And - to those of you who don't know me in real life - if we can do this, you can do this. My oldest son (12yo) could be the poster child for ADHD. Sometimes I let him draw to keep his hands occupied and he actually listens better. My middle son (10yo) is profoundly deaf in one ear and has a moderate-to-severe hearing loss in his "good" ear, so he isn't catching everything that is said from the pulpit. And, honestly, my youngest (7yo) sometimes falls asleep on one of our shoulders and - not that I encourage sleeping through the service(!) - how sweet is that, to fall asleep in God's house, with God's people, hearing God's Word? At any rate, two of my three would be considered "special needs" kids, and they all manage this just fine.

(Oh good grief, now that I've said that we'll probably have some behavioral blow-out tomorrow, just to keep me humble!)

Hope that helps :0)

UPDATE, Sunday morning, 11:30: God is gracious. The boys all behaved :0)


Doug Hibbard said...

Thanks for posting that! I'm trying to encourage our church to be more family-togethered, I don't know that we're quite ready for the whole family-integrated plan.

So, I'll be borrowing heavily from this.

Julie said...

Well, like I said, we're not perfect. But if this can help anyone, GREAT :0)

I like having both the 'with your age group' Sunday School, and then the all-together-for-church system.

What I admire so much about the whole "Family Integrated" concept is both recognizing the church as a big family (and including singles, the elderly, etc.), and recognizing the individual family units, and working to strengthen the families.

I mean, no matter how good the pastor and the Sunday school teachers are (and I have great respect and appreciation for them!), they only have us for a few hours a week. We families need to be growing at home.

Deborah said...


I love this concept for church. I wish our church was ready for this. We seem to be moving more and more that way, but it may be awhile before we have the before church and the all-together-for church.

I'm glad you've found a wonderful church HOME. Blessings!!

leah said...

I'm going to start church shopping soon, because we've had major problems with the way children are (not) integrated in our church! I walked into the nursery and they had Men in Black playing on a TV. For my 3 year old. Totally inappropriate, not Sunday School related, and let's say I'm a little hot under the collar about it! Argh.

Matt does pretty well in "big church" until the sermon. Nolan stays in the nursery (we've gotten a different nursery teacher since teh Men in Black incident). Children's moment is always cancelled, though, which highly disappoints Matt. And many older people in the congregation complain about the kids being in church. Most of the congregation is older, so it makes it a rather hostile environment. I've quit going, but I really just need to find a better church for our family needs!

Julie said...

Oh Leah, that's so hard!

I hope you find a good family church soon :0) When I was growing up, the more typical model was to have everyone together in church up until the sermon, and the kids would leave at that point and go hear a children's lesson.

Now I'm more in favor of keeping kids in the service the whole time, but that's now the only way to do it :0) I'm hoping you can find something better for your precious kiddos than "MIB"!

That's so sad that the older folks don't want the kids in church. I always have to check myself (my family) to make sure we're not causing TOO much commotion, but you're not the kind of mom who would let your kids run wild ;D

I wish you well in your search,


Shinar Squirrel said...

I'm sorry, but I'm still chuckling over the spiritual "Twinkies and soda-pop" cut. Great image, and all too accurate!

The Squirrel

Julie said...

Why, thank you. I liked that my own self.

leah said...

It is a constant battle, so to speak, to keep the kids quiet. Matt does a pretty good job now- he takes a toy truck in and loads it up with a few pencils and plays with that quietly. NOlan's in that crazy 18 month stage, so he's pretty unpredictable! I usually leave him in the nursery, though. And I take Matt and/or NOlan out the minute they start to cause a real ruckus!

I'm thinking of trying a specific local church that I know has a big "family" population.