Through the years, we’ve chosen to keep our children in church with us rather than sending them off to age graded groups. It’s a decision we can say we’ve been glad we made and stuck by even though others often misunderstood our intentions.
We felt it was important for our children to be together as a family while we worshiped the Lord. We found that they absorbed a lot more from being in the adult service than we ever expected even as very young children. We always saw the family as the primary place for spiritual training and as such was the place we chose to teach our children Scripture memory, doctrine and character building. We would gear their memory verses to character needs we saw in their own lives as individuals. Although not opposed to such programs as Awana for others, we felt it was not the best choice for our children. Our oldest son was an excellent ‘memorizer’ and we felt sure he would win lots of awards competing with others, but strongly felt it would become a stumbling block for him, as it would be a temptation to build pride in his life. For others, not so quick to learn, we didn’t want them to feel they didn’t measure up. The goal of learning Scripture is to change our lives to be more like Jesus, not to compete for prizes.
So, the question has been asked of us, “How did you train your kids to sit still in church? Are they just naturally cooperative?” Training is the key and no, they weren’t naturally cooperative. They were all different, just like your kids are. Funny, but often the most squirmy, active children would actually fall asleep if you could get them to be still for 5 minutes.
We began “playing church” at home. We had training sessions where we sat the kids on the sofa and pretended to be in church. Sometimes one of the kids would be the song leader or the pastor, but our goal was to prepare them in advance for how to act properly in that situation. Little ones need to learn that they can sit still for an extended period of time. We would begin by having them sit perfectly still for short amounts of time, 1-2 minutes and reward them, gradually working up to longer periods of stillness. For some kids, you have to show them they can actually do it!!
We provided “quiet time” activities for them to use during church time. The Busy Bible (See above post)) was, and is, one of our very favorites, as they were learning Bible stories as well as staying busy, quietly. If one of pieces dropped, it made no noise!! We gave each a special “church bag” filled with these activities and a quiet snack although we tried to have them to simply sit still some of the time for each service and listen to the pastor. It was great when, as would often happen, one of them would whisper, “Mommy, he just said one of my verses!”
Our daughter-in-law Dusty has Luke ask the pastor each week what his text will be for the following week .She then reads it to Luke during the week and sometimes makes visuals such as the talents told of in Scripture. Luke used to not enjoy being in church, but this made him look forward to hearing the pastor read verses he was familiar with.
As our children grew older, we sometimes had them take notes from the sermon. Kelley (now age 12)now has her own journal that she brings to church to take notes in. We don’t regret our decision to train our children in this manner. I think it has given them a more serious regard for things of the Lord to be in church with the adults.