If you ever drop by our church for a Sunday morning service, you might be surprised at how many children we have scattered through the crowd. We’re not a large church, but we’re a church filled with little ones, and these little ones love being in the service with us (and we love having them)! It is a joy to watch them join in with the songs and lift up praise and most of them can relay something after the service that they learned.
We encourage parents to keep their children in the service with them, but know that this can be a challenge at first. Today and tomorrow I’ll be sharing with you some thoughts on why this is beneficial to your child and also give you a few tips on training them for church service.
God’s House is a special place.
Training children in how to experience church is really preparation for them experiencing God in a personal relationship. It is important for children to understand that coming to “church” is an opportunity to come to “God’s house” in the sense that this is a time and place intentionally set aside for us to “meet with God” together: to sing to Him, hear lessons from His Word, and to be with our church family.
Explain to your children that we can “meet with God” anywhere, talk to Him, sing to Him, share with others about Him—anywhere, but the church is a place that is set aside as “special.” This provides us an opportunity to teach our children the importance of respecting God’s things (His Word, His church, His work) as special, as something to respect and see as “different” in the sense that God is “different” than we are. It is important to start making this distinction early in their development. By approaching church and sacred things as “different” than other activities, it helps to provide the child with a context for understanding God’s “otherness.”
God is holy and we need to respect Him as God.
One way we can convey this to children of any age is by demonstrating to them a respect for “meeting with God” at church—arriving on time, joining in with the body to sing and worship, taking notes and listening intently during the message, singing and praying with the body. All of these actions help to convey to our children that the time of meeting with God in church is special. It is different than play time, meal times with the family, or even school time.
To help your child develop an understanding of the “specialness” of this time (and really the “special nature” of God) it is good to teach them the difference in times when we are quiet, times when we play, times when we can be noisy and vocal, and times when we sit still. It can be helpful to practice this distinction at home by holding family worship times through the week.
Spiritual training for your children should begin at home.
Set aside ten to 20 minutes a day (immediately after meal time is a great way to make this a regular part of your routine) to have a family “home worship service.” If the children are infant and preschool age, one of the parents can read from a child’s Bible (I like The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. Click here for more info.) Adding a song or two to the family service is fun and educational for the children.
Holding this “quiet time” at home (where the child is required to sit still in a parent’s lap and listen) can provide great training for the Sunday service, but it also is a vehicle for early self-control training. Parents are charged with the responsibility of providing spiritual instruction for their children, but for decades now, many have left that responsibility to the church and we’re now reaping the fruit of abandoning our most important role as parents.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. (Deuteronomy 5:6–7)
How are you fulfilling this? Do you have a family devotional time through the week? I’d love to hear how your family does this!