Recently a conversation came up in our church’s Facebook group discussing tips for helping our children adjust to being a part of worship with church. It’s a great question and it is something everyone with children works on frequently. Here are some very hands-on, practical tips for helping our children learn a new way of doing church while keeping us from losing heart (or our mind).

7 Practical Tips on Having Kids in Worship

[or, “How to keep from losing your mind and your kids at church!”]

7. If you expect perfection in week one of this process, you will never make it past week three. Remember that you are “training up a child”, not changing a tv channel. This will take time. Give this process commitment and effort, remembering that it is about God drawing our children’s hearts to Himself, not just a behavior issue. And be encouraged, generations of parents who hung in there are cheering for you to stick with it.

6. Talk about your expectations before Sunday. If you explain your expectations for the first time in the car on the way to church or even as you walk in on Sunday morning, you will be setting them up to fail. Train them by your conversations during the week that you have expectations of them to participate as a part of the service. Help your children build anticipation through the week so that Saturday night is filled with anticipation for Sunday.

5. Be prepared that there will be some failures. There will be times when your wonderful child will express the reality that all men are born as sinners. There will probably be lots of these occasions. When they come, it is perfectly acceptable, and even encouraged that you take your child discretely out of the service to a restroom or private place and administer a “teachable moment”. It may even be helpful to sit near a rear exit when you are beginning this to be able to get out & back in without distracting other worshipers. One common mistake here is to try to “wait it out”. Not only does this not serve those around you who are working to engage the message, but it teaches your children (and other children in the room) that you only mean it when it gets too difficult for you. Instead, be consistent with your expectation and your enforcement, even if it means more work for you in the short run.

4. Eliminate every possible roadblock that you can. Take your child to the bathroom before the service. Get them a sip of water and a second bathroom break during the greeting. Don’t feed them frosted chocolate sugar bombs for breakfast on Sunday. Also, getting to bed on time on Saturday goes a long way in giving them strength to endure. Let them run a lap in the parking lot…whatever. The point is that your planning and preparation will help remove some of the distractions that can lead to a raging case of the wiggles and squeaks. This is an area you will have to work at and be flexible with as you learn what specific struggles your little ones have.

3. Show your children that you take worship seriously. The best way to help your children understand that worship is something that is impacting you is by talking about the service together. Quietly make note to your child about an important point in the message. Softly make mention to your children when a song strikes you as particularly helpful for worship. On the car ride home, ask questions and discuss applications from the Lord’s Day with your kids. Let them hear you taking Sunday seriously.

2. Plan for your child’s success! Provide a notepad and pencil or pen for them to take notes in. Or, maybe a Bible coloring book, depending on their age. Model for your children what an engaged worshiper looks like with your note taking. Also, it is probably never a good training technique to just cut your children loose before or after church. There are no parenting-free zones in life. This is planning for failure. One helpful rule might be that they should never be out of your site or so far a way that you have to use more than a plain, unraised voice to get their attention. Then—and this is important—praise every little success and encourage more of it.

1. Regular Family Worship is a key ingredient to training a child in the fear of the Lord. If your children don’t see that worship is an everyday event in your life, it would be naïve to believe that they will want to participate in worship on Sundays. And, practically, you need a time to train a child to sit still and quiet (without a video screen). Start small and work up to 20 or 30 minutes of still time. Weekday worship or family devotion time is simply the BEST training ground for your expectations of your children on Sundays.