Here are some helpful, practical suggestions for parents to aid their children in becoming more active participants in the corporate worship service.
- Be prepared for worship. Sunday morning starts Saturday night—lay out clothes (find all shoes!), get offerings ready, rehearse memory verses, gather together everything you need to bring with you before Sunday morning. Keep Sunday simple—make a simple breakfast and leave the house with time to spare. Remind your child of your expectations of his behavior during the church service.
- Be a role model for your child. Start your morning with a positive attitude, a cheerful tone, a spirit of anticipation and enthusiasm, and a heart for worship.
- Walk your child through the service before the service starts. Look over the bulletin; point out what will be happening and how your child can participate. This may mean teaching him a refrain of a responsive reading or teaching him a phrase from a song or chorus and asking him to listen for it. You may want to pray with your child before the service starts.
- Encourage your child to participate in the service. By teaching your child hymns and choruses at home, he will be able to participate in the service. If he cannot learn the whole hymn, teach him the refrain and signal to him when it is time to sing the part he knows. Encourage your child to sit and to stand at the appropriate times, to clap when appropriate, etc. Show him the words in the hymn book, moving your finger along as the hymn is sung. (Even if your child is a non-reader, this will help to focus his attention and encourage him to pay attention to the words.) Have your child bring an offering and place it in the plate.
- Help your child become an active sermon listener. Help your child focus on the sermon by quietly whispering instructions to him—e.g., “Listen to this story,” “Can you draw a picture of…” This is not a time of long instruction, but just very short statements to focus their attention. It is also not a time for your child to whisper back to you. Encourage a younger child to listen to the sermon and draw a picture of something from the sermon. (This should not be seen as a time for doodling, but for active listening.) If your child is very young and has a hard time sitting for a long time, you may want to let your child look at small (non-distracting) Bible storybooks after he has listened to the sermon for a while. As your child gets older and learns to write, model for him how to take simple notes—let him copy your notes at first; then encourage him to take his own. Keep a spiral notebook that is specifically for Sunday morning.
- Stretch your child’s ability to sit still and be attentive. If you have an active child, you may need to take your child out of the service part way through. Keep stretching him until he can sit through the whole service. You may need to be firm. Reaffirm positive behavior.
- Talk about the service on the way home. Speak positively with your child about the service, and ask him if he has any questions. Encourage him to share his drawings and notes.
(The Righteous Shall Live by Faith Family Devotional Guide, copyright ©2005, pages 59-61)
(Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)