For many months Covid kept most of us from attending church. While many have returned, fear of how children will behave is keeping some from reattending. For the next few weeks on this blog we are going to discover how to introduce your child to church and how to enjoy corporate worship even with little kids in tow.
Several years ago I reviewed the book Rufus and Ryan Go to Church! which beautifully introduces a child to church. To aid in the review the publisher shared ten important tips to help prepare a child to attend church. Although not all will apply to every situations, these tips, along will my added suggestions, are a great place to start.
Introduce Your Child to Church Tips #1-4
1. Attend a child-friendly church.
Child-friendly churches invest in programs for their children. Look for quality Sunday School classes or children’s sermons where children are taught the Bible.
2. Introduce your child to the church building on a day other than Sunday morning.
This can be especially helpful for children who battle fear and change. Call the church office and make an appointment with a pastor, children’s director, or the child’s Bible teacher. Go on a tour of the church facility and locate the rooms your child will use, as well as the bathrooms. If your child will attend the adult service, let your child respectfully explore the sanctuary and see how it feels to sit in the pew. Look behind the pulpit, Communion table, and baptismal, and explain the use of each.
3. Ask for the worship schedule and go through the service at home.
Show your child that there are times to sit, to stand (and in some places, to kneel), to sing, to pray, and to listen. Similarly, if the Lord’s Prayer or other route prayers are used, practice at home so the child is familiar with the passages. Discuss and prepare an offering allowing the child to put the money in the collector at the appropriate time.
4. Role-play church at home.
Practicing the worship service at home will help your child feel more comfortable with what happens during the service. Use stuffed animals or action figures and allow the child to pretend to be the toys’ parent during the pretend church service.
Introduce Your Child to Church Tips #5-7
5. Read the Bible and pray at home.
Purchase an age-appropriate Bible for your child and read the stories. Let your child handle the Bible and encourage questions about God’s Word. You can explain that the Bible is where we learn God’s story, and how we are part of that story. Letting prayer be a part of your everyday life, not just something you do at church, aids your child in understanding its importance.
6. Sit near an aisle, in the back, or in a place where you can make an exit if needed.
If your child needs to use the restroom, is feeling overly stimulated, or having a disruptive day, don’t be embarrassed. Quickly walk your child out of the sanctuary and then quietly return when the child is able. Sitting in a place that allows for a quick exit will cause less of a disturbance and stress.
7. Be prepared with quiet activities.
Colored pencils can be used to check off the parts of worship in the bulletin as you go through them one by one. Get to church a few minutes in advance and bookmark the hymns that will be sung. Contact the church to know what Bible story will be covered to have the child color a worksheet from a Bible coloring book that represents the sermon passage. On blank sheets of paper let your child draw a picture to represent a song sung or the focused Bible story. This is not disrespectful and can help your child listen more attentively. More on quiet activities next week.
Introduce Your Child to Church Tips #8-10
8. Teach basic church etiquette.
First, speak to people before and after worship, and teach your child how to shake hands and greet others. Practice at home and let your child see you greeting others. Second, explain to the child why we don’t run in church and that musical instruments on the stage are not toys. Third, let the child place the hymnbook and Bible away after use, and be sure to take any papers or trash with you, rather than leaving it in the pew. Meeting other people, respecting the church and others, and taking care of the church facility helps a child feel a sense of belonging. More on church etiquette next week.
9. Get to know the pastor.
Introduce your child to the pastor, children’s ministry leader, and teachers. Also, participate in other church activities so that the pastor and church leaders become friendly faces.
10. Don’t give up!
It may take a while for your child to become comfortable attending church, and to learn how to sit quietly. The best way for this to happen is to attend worship on a regular basis. While there may be days when it doesn’t go well, don’t let this stop you from coming the following week.
Next Week: Setting Expectations for Attending Church
Easily explain to your child that the Bible is where we learn God’s story and how we are part of that story with the ABCJesusLovesMe Bible Curriculum. Your child will love the fun learning and you will treasure the easy-to-follow curriculum.