How to...Encourage Your Children to Worship: Part 2: Tips for parents
Sunday morning has arrived. The children are dressed in clean clothes. Once seated in the pew, mom and dad breathe a sigh of relief and worship begins. Or does it? In our attempts to keep the kids quiet, most parents pass out the candy and become adept at the meaningful glance. The result? Kids become skilled not at worship but at daydreaming the hour away. So even though the family can make it through a service of worship, they may not be worshiping God together.
Many adults don’t realize that children have the need and the ability to worship God, and that worship involves more than just “getting through a service.” Jesus said, “Let the children come to me and do not stop them.” He took them in his arms and blessed them. Worship is a time for Jesus and his children to be close to each other. A child’s faith is nurtured and expressed during this precious hour. So it’s important to be very intentional about helping our children worship on a Sunday morning.
Sometime during the week, at devotions or bedtime, discuss worship with your children.
- Let them know that family worship is important to you and especially to God.
- Explain that worship is a time to pray, sing, and hear the stories of God as a family of believers.
- Talk about the parts of worship your children enjoy the most and remind them that church is not a time to be entertained but a time to give God thanks and praise.
- Let your children know you want to help them really worship God in the church service. Admit that it won’t always be easy because our church family is large and diverse.
Consider purchasing an attractive blank book for each child to use as a journal during worship. He or she will also need a pen or pencil, some bookmarks, and a Bible. Place all these items in a bag and keep it ready for church use only. You may want to suggest some of the following ways to use the journal:
- Make drawings of banners and other visual elements in the sanctuary.
- Draw pictures based on the Scripture readings.
- Write words you hear and like.
- Write the titles of the songs for the day.
- Record the concerns shared by the congregation.
- Write out verses or passages from the Bible.
- Illustrate or write anything that connects you to worship.
Make your expectations about your children’s participation in the worship service clear. Encourage them to participate in some of the following ways:
- Stand when God’s people stand.
- Sing whenever possible.
- Pray with God’s people.
- Give during the offering.
- Greet people and allow others to greet you.
- Use the journal during the other times in worship.
Once you arrive at church, you are ready to worship God with your brothers and sisters in the Lord. Find a place to sit where your child can see and hear well. Let your child find hymn numbers or Scripture passages. Check the bulletin to help your child anticipate what is coming in the service. If your church uses large-print bulletins, plan on using one. They can be easier for new readers to follow.
Following the time of worship, bless your children. Say something like, “I’m so glad we could worship together today.” Let them know your joy in worshiping God together. At some point, perhaps at a meal or at bedtime, ask if your child will share something with you from the journal. Encourage him or her to look at it during the week to follow up on questions or thoughts or prayer requests. It might be appropriate to use crayon or marker at home to color an illustration made at church. You may also have to acknowledge that you were disappointed that something did not go well. It is important to let your children know if they disturbed your worship in some way.
Remember that you are an important model for worship for your child. Does your child see your need and desire to worship as you sit side by side in the pew? Are you singing and reading Scripture and praying? Your child is listening and watching.
Finally, be an advocate for your child at church. Invite the pastor to your home to get to know your child. Provide information for what works and what does not work during worship to the worship planners. With your child’s permission, submit drawings from the journal to be used as bulletin covers or prayer requests on behalf of your child. Remember that good worship takes time, planning, preparation, and participation. When your family can worship with the greater family of God, blessings abound!