In general, we’d suggest that parents who want their kids to develop a life-long love for worship should probably introduce them to adult church services as early as possible. Naturally, only you are in a position to determine exactly what’s “possible” for your child and what isn’t. There are several issues you’ll want to bear in mind as you try to come up with a plan best suited to your family’s needs:
- Developmental maturity. As everyone knows, “big church” services require a fair amount of sitting and listening. If your child is too small, too immature, or too squirmy to keep still and stay quiet, you should seriously consider leaving him at the church nursery or in an age-appropriate Sunday school class. He can join you in worship when he’s old enough to control himself.
- Service “style.” What kind of church do you attend and how does it approach worship? Is the emphasis on free self-expression and interactive participation? Or is the atmosphere quiet, contemplative, and liturgical? Does it include ingredients that could be expected to hold a child’s interest – a children’s sermon, children’s choirs, colorful visuals, simple illustrations given in simple language? Or is it the kind of thing that little ones might find boring? In short, is the adult service “family friendly” or not? If it isn’t, forcing your child to sit through worship could turn out to be counterproductive. You certainly don’t want him to grow up thinking of church as a kind of unbearable torture.
- Purpose. What are you hoping to accomplish by bringing your child to church? It helps to have a specific goal in mind. If you know what you want to achieve, you’ll be able to prepare for the experience. You’ll also be in a better position to gauge the success of your efforts. Your purpose could be something as simple as, “I want him to learn how to sit and be quiet.” In that case, it would be a good idea to bring along a picture book or some crayons and paper to keep him occupied during the sermon. If, on the other hand, your aim is more spiritual or educational in nature – for instance, “My child needs to understand what it means when we take communion” – then you’ll need to do everything you can to help him pay close attention and focus on the various elements of the service.
- Preparation. In connection with this last point, we’d suggest that it can be helpful to prep your child for worship by taking time to explain what happens in the service before you get there. In other words, put out an effort to teach and disciple him at home. Find ways to incorporate certain key aspects of Christian worship, such as Bible-reading, prayer, and song, into his daily routine. Expose him to other Christian traditions. Talk about the ways in which their worship styles differ from your own. Stir up his curiosity. Answer his questions. Help him cultivate a genuine interest in spiritual things. Then, when he does accompany you to church, he’ll be better equipped to appreciate the service. The goal is to lead him to the point where it becomes a true personal expressions of his innermost heart.
If you need additional help understanding and applying these ideas, call our staff of counselors to discuss your questions and concerns over the phone.
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Spiritual Growth for Kids