Build child-friendly worship.
Parents have come to expect church to be fun. There are several other adjectives that seem more important: spiritual, educational, and enlightening are a few. Church is a time of holiness, an opportunity to grow in our understanding of God’s love for us and his desires for our lives. Children can experience and appreciate this if given the opportunity. Children of all ages are able to enjoy music and prayers and begin to learn valuable lessons, even from sermons aimed at adults.
Build into parents’ lives.
Children’s moments during worship are a wonderful way to integrate the family into worship time. Link your children’s moment with the main sermon and give them an activity that’s related and can involve their families. If the sermon is on tithing, have kids write or draw nice things they did during the week that they can put in the offering plate. Their kindness is their offering. The family can then do this at home together each week.
Build an expectation for worship.
Sitting in church can be difficult for young ones who’ve never experienced it before, but when prepared, children can meet high expectations. Let them know, lovingly, that you expect them to sit still, stay quiet, and pay attention during the service. Practice this. Take children into the sanctuary when it’s empty. Sit in the pews and experience the silence. Show them the quiet voice to use when speaking in church so if they have a question, they can ask it appropriately. Tell them what’ll happen during the service, where the choir comes in, where the candles will be lit, and how children get to the front for the children’s moment. If available, take a tour of your church. Let children see how the choir enters through the special doors or why the candles never get blown out accidentally. They’ll love knowing these secrets. The more they know about the church, the more they’ll respect it.
Always remember kids are kids.
We all have restless days and fussy moments, and children don’t have the ability to control that as adults do. There will always be days when worship just isn’t possible, and the nursery or cry room needs to be taken advantage of. It’s those days that we simply honor Jesus’ words to “let the children come.”
Every family must decide what’s right for it, but I remember the days when I sat in church with my parents. I remember the excitement the first time I looked up a Bible verse in my own Bible. I cherish my memories of church and family togetherness, and I’m sad when I see churches encouraging parents not to spend this special time with their children.
Jessica Nelson is a children’s minister in Plano, Texas.