Let’s be honest. Typically, adult worship services are geared toward… well… adults. Here are our strategies when we take taking our kids, especially our very youngest, to worship that help make worship meaningful for both our kids and us.
Strategies for Worshipping With Kids
Keep realistic expectations.
Your kid is not going to sit through the service like a forty year old might. Kids just aren’t designed to pretend to be adults. But you can make clear what you expect of them. They should stand up and sing. They should be quiet during the sermon. They should not crawl under the pews.
Take them to the bathroom before going into the worship space.
Yes, they will still ask you later. But the older they are, the more capable they are of making it through the service if you include this preemptive step.
Sit around people who like you.
Social distancing rules will mean you can’t sit real close to people anyway. But you will still be nervous that your kid is disturbing someone else. The truth is that most everyone will be understanding during this season. You will feel better, though, if you know the people you are disturbing.
Recruit a teenager.
This suggestion probably breaks social distancing rules, but if you have several littles, consider borrowing a teenager from another family. (They are probably ready for a break from their family anyway). Coach the teenager to help keep the kid engaged and quiet, not just distracted. Teenagers are often miracle workers when we are at the ends of our parenting ropes.
Let them wiggle a lot during the music.
All kids can participate in the worship time. This is the perfect opportunity for them to move before the sermon. Make them stand up. If you can find out the song list from your worship pastor ahead of time, listen to the songs throughout the week so your kids will know them and can participate.
Prepare ahead of time.
Have some things for your kids to do. Bring paper and crayons. Encourage them to draw or write something that they hear in the sermon. You can give older kids a note-taking sheet like this. I’ve also been coaching older kids and teenagers to try their hand at sketch noting.
Snacks are excellent bribes.
When my kids were small I had two levels of snacks. Level one was for when my child started to get restless and just needed a distraction. Gummies, cheerios, or other small snacks work for this. Level two snacks were when I could feel we needed a stronger incentive. M&M’s or Skittles worked well because I could slip one or two them every now and then and the bribe worked longer. Sometimes a lollipop works too because they have to keep their mouth closed.
Use technology as a last resort.
Kids rarely can watch YouTube or play a game and also pay attention to what is happening. Yes, screens will keep them quiet. But screens also bring a high level of disengagement from everything else. However, I will never say never on this one. Sometimes you are just trying to survive.
Take them out if needed, but do your best to bring them back.
You do not have to be the martyr to the cause who is going to stay in the worship space no matter how loud your child is. Don’t be that parent. When they become a distraction, go ahead and take them out. Try your very best to get them back in, though. Some days you will just have to throw in the towel. And that’s ok. There is always next week.
Talk about the service on the way home.
Do not create an inquisition. Rather, look for common ground to discuss. Ask kids what song they liked and why. Ask what they remember from the sermon. Ask what they thought about a verse that was read. Tell them what they did really well during church. Encourage the positive behaviors. Challenge them, in a positive way, about what to work on next time. Thank them for worshipping with you and tell them why it was special.
Parents, you CAN do this. It will be harder. You may have many have weeks where you feel like you wrestled a bear rather than worshipped. I’m praying for precious memories to be created over these weeks of family worship throughout our country. Your kids will be different because of it!
This article originally appeared here.