Training Our Kids for Church

This week, Anna and I are going to share about how we train our kids to behave and participate in church.  I’ll start by saying that our family’s practice has varied depending on what church we attend and the ages of our kids.  Having moved so often, we’ve been a part of many churches with very different ideas about the role of children in the service.  We’ve been in churches where even the babies stay with the parents, but I personally have found that when I’m keeping the under-3 crowd quiet, I just don’t get much out of the service.  Now we take advantage of the nursery for our younger kiddos.

Our goal is to equip our children to sit through, participate, and benefit from a corporate worship service at a reasonable age.  As always, the training for this starts at home at a very young age.  We have family worship time each night before bed, and from age 2 on, our kids learn to sit quietly and listen to a Bible story, share prayer requests (for our family, friends, and the missionaries we support), and listen quietly while everyone takes turns praying.  We read aloud to our children from birth, so by age 4 or 5, the kids are able to sit quietly listening and paying attention for up to an hour without any electronic entertainment.  It’s not just their temperament; it is very much a learned skill.  We work on narration skills–repeating back the main details of what we just read or said to them–and train them to listen for details, particularly when reading the Bible.  We learn and sing hymns and other worship songs as a family during family worship time and in our homeschool.  So by the time the kids are old enough to join us in church, they’ve had practice with sitting still, listening quietly, paying attention, and participating in corporate worship.

Right now, our church actually has an excellent children’s program, and because we’re new to the church and want to build relationships, our kids all attend children’s church unless they are sick (in which case they come to the service with us).  However, at other times and places, we’ll keep the kindergartner and second grader with us in the service.  They enjoy singing and praying with us, but sitting through the sermon can be hard.  The 5 year old has paper and crayons to draw a picture of what she hears, since she isn’t reading or writing yet.  The 7 year old is expected to take some notes and follow the main thread of the sermon in a designated church notebook.  I’ll often help him by jotting down a sentence and having him fill in the blank.  If the pastor provides an outline, my husband or I will help T fill in the outline.  Sometimes I’ll have him copy the key verse out of his Bible.  He also will often draw a picture to illustrate the sermon.  My main goal is for him to learn to follow the gist of the sermon!  Here’s an example out of T’s church notebook from this spring.  As you can see, it’s nothing too fancy:

church notebookAt this point, it seems to be working well for our son, who enjoys children’s church or “big church” and seems to be comfortable in either setting.  Our kids all love going to church, and obviously we want to keep encouraging that!

What was your experience with church services growing up?  What do you do with your kids?

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