Guest Blogger: Jason Helopoulos

This is a follow-up on yesterday’s post…

  1. Focus on this moment throughout the week: Talk about Sunday morning worship all week long. Help your children to see that each week begins with this privilege (Acts 20:7; Hebrews 10:24-25).
  2. Model excitement about the Lord’s Day: Children learn a great deal by watching their parents. If Mom and Dad reluctantly go to church, then the children will reluctantly go to church. If Mom and Dad are critical of the preacher, sermon, etc. then the children will most likely be critical. Wake up early on Sunday morning and prepare for worship. Let the children see your joy and excitement.
  3. Implement family worship at home: A family that worships together at home will find it much easier to worship together in corporate worship. A child will find it natural to hear the Word of God, to read the Word of God, to sing the hymns, etc. This will also help our children to learn to sit still, to understand the importance of worship, to focus during prayer, etc.
  4. Read the passage during the week: Most sermon series are an exposition of one book of the Bible. This means that you know what you are going to hear read and preached in the week’s service—the next passage. Read it throughout the week and converse about it around the dinner table or during family worship. The children will then be familiar with the text that the pastor is preaching on. With this knowledge, give them some things to listen for in the sermon.
  5. Start early: Many believe that it is harder to introduce a five year old to corporate worship then a twelve year old, but this is not true. A five year old is in the formative years of training. They are not yet “set in their ways.” A few months of struggling with a four or five year old teaching them how to sit in corporate worship yields benefits for the rest of their lives.
  6. Use Moments in the Service: Use transitional moments in the service to whisper in your child’s ear how much you loved a certain verse in a hymn, how you need to remember to pray for the sick person mentioned, or how you were convicted by that application. It keeps them engaged and allows them to see you participating intently in the service.
  7. Use the Obvious Helps: We often forget to use the helps that are already available to us. For example: have an older child find the Bible passage or guide your finger over the text as it is read for a younger child. Use the bulletin and show your children where the service is at. Have them read the confession as you point along with each word.
  8. Sit near the Front: Children are easily distracted, so sit near the front where there are less distractions.
  9. Create an atmosphere in your row: Encourage your children to pay attention, to stand when everyone stands, to sing when they are to sing, to bow their heads in prayer when the congregation is to pray, etc.
  10. Enlist the Support of Other Members: Ask another member to lend a helping hand by sitting with your family. Surround yourself with other families that you have enlisted to provide you encouragement and not to fuss if your child is a little restless.
  11. Stop Worrying: Many parents are concerned about what other parents or members of the congregation think of their parenting skills or how annoyed someone else is with their child’s fidgeting during the service. DON’T! Commit as a congregation to welcome children into your services. This means that not only do our children have to adjust, but so do the adults. In reality, it is adults who have to adjust the most! Let’s just learn to have a little more tolerance on this front. If a baby is a little fussy, papers are rustling, or a few things are dropping on the floor it is o.k. As congregations, we need to willingly and joyfully join in this great privilege of welcoming our covenant children into corporate worship. And that takes some minor adjusting on our part.
  12. Affirm Your Children: When you leave the service and are on the way home, affirm your children. Ask them questions about the service and relay how the Lord blessed you. Encourage your children if they were well-behaved and let them know how wonderful it was to worship alongside of them.
  13. Be Consistent: It will take time for your children to learn how to sit still, sing the hymns, etc. Be consistent in your expectations and desires for them during the service.
  14. Do Not be Overzealous: Be patient with your children and shower them with grace. It takes children time to adjust and different children adjust or accept on different time tables. Your child may come into the service and sit attentively and quietly within a few weeks or you may have to help your child with this for months or even years (as has been our case!). Be patient! Love them and do not compare them to other children. God has blessed you with this little bundle of joy!
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35 thoughts on “Children in Worship–Mom Tested Tips”

  1. Jason,

    I applaud the practice of families remaining together during church gatherings. However, one problem I see with both these blog posts is the assumption that children need to sit through worship services. Worship services are foreign to scripture. If a church gathers together in simpler, non-ceremonial ways, following the model set forth for us in the NT, then many of these issues simply disappear.

  2. Ell K B says:

    May I humbly disagree my dear brother. From my own experience, and from what I believe God’s own view is, unregenerate children are no less worshippers than adults…I was saved at the age 22, after 18 years of going through the motions, followed by four years of trying to outdo my secular friends in their worldliness (and in many cases succeeding), while all the time being affirmed as a true believer. We don’t want to keep raising hypocrites!

  3. Jeffrey Brannen says:

    Eli – so, what should we do with children on Sunday?

  4. David Axberg says:

    These are some of the best points I have seen anywhere. Start them young and watch the Lord grow them. We will be praying for all of you who attempt this and know that there is nothing sweeter to our ears than a snoring child in the arms of their parents in the pew next to us. Been there done that. if it happens now to any of my children they are in trouble though;-). We now ask our children if they had any good ideas come to mind while they were listening to the sermon. We can tell if the sermon was good or bad by whether or not the ideas were sermon related or if they had to do with tractors, horses, school, or trucks. God Bless Now!

  5. Katie Young says:

    Thanks Jason. I especially liked points #11 & 14. We need to be gracious and patient with our children as they learn and not worry about comparing ourselves to other families. We will never achieve the goal if we don’t try. Good things to think about for our children.

  6. Andrew says:

    “Parenting in the Pew” is a great resource for helping parents to think through worship training.

    http://www.amazon.com/Parenting-Pew-Guiding-Children-Worship/dp/0830823409/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1331161527&sr=8-1

  7. Steve D says:

    “Model Excitement”

    Either you’ve got excitement (enthusiasm) or you don’t. If you do, your children will see it as genuine. If you don’t most kids can spot a phony a mile off. Also, if you don’t, it might be time to reexamine your own relationship with the Lord.

    You missed the most important pint, be genuine and be authentic.

  8. Hanneke says:

    Great articles! Our four girls have been in church from day dot. Here are some of my tried and tested methods. As soon as they can write (even just a few words/sounds) encourage them to listen to the minister and write down what they hear, ie the, God, what, a etc. This trains them to listen from an early age and of course once they get older, provide them with writing books (we cover ours in nice covers) and expect more of the sermon written down. All of this helps ofcourse if the parents lead by example!
    I’ve tried taking toys, they are more of a nuisance than entertainment, so I leave them now and instead sit at the back so that I can ‘train’ them to sit still and are not a distraction to the whole church family.

  9. R McG says:

    Ell K B –

    Why should Christian parents assume that their children are unregenerate?

  10. Ell K B says:

    Jeffrey – I’m not against bringing our kids to church, by no means! Just not having them go through the motions. We want them to listen to the gospel, not be desensitized to it.

    R McG – I think it should be assumed until we have sufficient evidence (as they are our own children) that they believe the gospel. I know that the LORD can save whoever, and many ‘church kids’ are born again, all the time. But in my experience, the majority are likely not to be- it seems like some of us assume they have a free pass to heaven because they are the children of believers…

  11. Ell K B says:

    I think what I meant in the first comment is that we take it for granted that our children are born again, thus all our ideas start from that point. My own church is like this- many parents complain that their kids, from about 8 to 18, are just not interested in church. Why don’t we consider the doctrine of regeneration?

  12. Clarice says:

    Totally agree with Eli.

    I’m learning that we train and discipline our children NOT so that they can learn how to be righteous but to show them that they CAN’T be and that Jesus IS their righteousness. My goal as a parent shouldn’t be well behaved children who are interested in church. It should be their salvation, which is only achieved through the power of the Spirit through the gospel message. My children won’t even be interested in church if they hate God. And they won’t suddenly love God if I try to convince them that church is cool and fun. And they won’t become better Christians if they think that they can will themselves into a good attitude about church.

    I think I SHOULD teach my children to behave in church–but again, that’s just another opportunity to teach my kids that they need Jesus.

    I recommend Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick. The book revolutionized my goal in parenting and it changed my spiritual life in a huge way.

  13. Leila says:

    These tips are great! I think we SHOULD instruct children in the way they should go. I don’t pretend that my unsaved kids are Christians and they know the difference. I don’t think these hints will mislead little ones.

    It’s devastating for kids who grow up in the church to believe that they are “good.” Pride is a great stumbling block for our obedient kids. We can help our kids recognize their sins through God’s word. When we see good character in our kid’s, God should get the credit! Sometimes children in Christian homes get the praise that God deserves and that just breeds self-righteousness. He is so good, He does the work in our children’s hearts.

    I’m going to feature this on my blog tomorrow. Thank you so much!

  14. Ell K B says:

    Clarice – Thanks, I’ve read some reviews and a description of ‘Give Them Grace’. I don’t have children of my own, but it’s one for the future :)

  15. Ell K B says:

    Clarice – Thanks, I’ve read some reviews and a description of ‘Give Them Grace’. It looks good! I don’t have children of my own, but it’s one for the future :)

  16. R McG says:

    My dear sister Leila,

    I do not know your children or their hearts, but it’s clear that you as their mother love the Lord. I would just like to encourage you to consider why you assume that your children are unsaved.
    Do they refuse to confess Jesus as Lord and Savior? Do they live in gross sin in which they refuse to repent of when confronted? Or are they tender, immature shoots who profess faith in Christ and yet struggle daily to grow, mature, and live in a Godly way, and like the rest of us, need spiritual guidance and strengthening? God has clearly declared throughout the Old Testament that He is God to His people and to their children and the Gospel narrative expounds on this in Acts 2 that the promises of the Gospel are for us and our children and all who are far off. Jesus suffered the little children to come to Him commending childlike faith and the apostle Paul confirmed that the children of believers are holy. Timothy learned the Holy Scriptures from infancy and King David affirmed that Yahweh caused him to trust while at his mother’s breast. Deuteronomy 6 commands God’s people to teach God’s law to our children.
    Based on these examples and numerous more, Scripture in no place teaches that the children of believers are to be regarded as heathens separated from God’s people unless they apostasize from the faith. We teach them to believe in Jesus and teach them of their need for the Gospel. We teach them of God’s wrath and punishments for disobedience and faithlessness, urging them to persevere in their faith. Of course their salvation and ours is all of grace, and so we must not presume upon God’s graciousness. We must teach them to worship the living God, which is why these suggestions are so helpful. And like you said, we must teach them that any growth comes from the Lord and that there is no room for pride.

    Grace and Peace to you in the name of Jesus our Savior.

  17. Leila says:

    R McG,

    To be honest I don’t know the state of any of my children’s souls. I guess I’ve been parenting this way because I don’t want to give them a false sense of their salvation.

    My oldest (age 9) child confesses Christ as his Savior. My other kids three (ages 5-8) have not. They talk about God and believe that He exists but I think that’s different than trusting in Him.

    When they come to know Him it will be because God did a work in their hearts and not because they knew that it would please mommy or that mommy pressured them to say a “sinners pray” I think our pews are full of nice people, kids and adults alike that have never had a true conversion.

    But I’m a young mom without all the answers and I value your encouragement!

  18. Josh Jacobs says:

    I’m glad to see the growing trend of intergenerational worship. While I believe that each church body should decide its own strategy for discipling children, I am so glad to have my children alongside my wife and me every single Sunday. Our older daughter has confessed Jesus and has been baptized, while the younger (4 yrs) has not. We praise God that she is surrounded by men and women who love Jesus.

  19. Luis Matthews says:

    I must disagree with your statement that 5 is starting early. Of our three children, 2 started attending worship the day after they came home from the hospital, with the middle attending worship on his way home from the hospital. My 9 year old was quietly sitting through service by his first birthday (not that he was all that noisy during the first year), and currently actively participates in every aspect of worship other than the sermon. Our sermon topics are typically over his head so he reads quietly. I do agree that 5 is better than 12, but 5 is not starting early.

  20. Mel says:

    Not to start a war here, but I was wondering — how are these mom tested tips when they are written by a man? Perhaps a better title might be family-tested tips as many of the excellent suggestions are things that both MOM and DAD could be involved in. Just a thought . . .

  21. Leila says:

    @ Mel Maybe he got his inspiration or “data” from moms ;)

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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