Kids in Worship
In our congregation, children begin attending worship once a month in kindergarten. We believe that after learning Bible stories in Sunday School for a few years, children are ready to begin growing as worshipers. But this comes with a challenge: how can such a young Christian focus during the service?
Praying in Church
Prayer is all about talking with God – like having a conversation with your best friend. But for kids in worship, we know that it can be hard to sit still and be quiet, and that can make it hard for the whole family to focus on talking with God. Here are a few ideas to become prayer partners with children:
- Pray in Color. Prayer doesn’t have to be in words; drawings and doodles can also express our thoughts and feelings to God. Try this strategy at home first, using a wonderful resource as inspiration. Then when the “long prayer” comes during worship, you can encourage your child to draw their prayers while the pastor prays out loud.
- Help Your Child Join In. At our church, we will sometimes have a prayer with a repeated response, such as “Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.” This will often be printed on the screen. You can whisper an explanation or nudge your child to help them know when they can join in on this response.
- Learn the Lord’s Prayer Together. Each Sunday, we pray the Lord’s Prayer in worship and elementary Sunday school. You can help your child by practicing this prayer a phrase at a time at home and encouraging them to pray it with you in the sanctuary.
- Write Down Your Prayers. Listen with your child to the “long prayer” by writing down important words or phrases as you hear them. You can also work together to write your own prayers down on a prayer card, lifting up a specific concern in your family. Enjoy passing the pencil back and forth as you listen and write together.
- Move Your Body. We don’t have to keep our eyes closed or hands folded during prayer. Try picking one thing to look at during prayer, such as the cross, or holding your hands open to receive God’s spirit. Teach your children to try these, too.
- Pray Outside Church. The best way to help your child pray in church is to pray at home. Talk to Erica or one of the pastors if you need more ideas – we would love to resource you!
Listening to one person speak for 15-20 minutes without interruptions is not something children do often, but that doesn’t mean they cannot do it. The truth is that most people tune in and out from sermons. They often listen until they hear something that sends them off on a thought, then return when they have run that idea or when something breaks through their thoughts calling them back to the sermon.
Children do the same thing. We can teach them how to tune in and out and to think about what the preacher says. Here are a few strategies for teaching your child to listen to the sermon and apply it to their lives:
- Your attitude is critical. Let your child know that worship and the sermon are important to you and that you are excited that he/she is now old enough to share it with you. Whenever possible talk more about the content of the sermon and worship than about worship behavior and focus on what a child did hear rather than what was missed.
- Avoid giving a child a book or other diversion that clearly says “The sermon is not for you.” If your child is currently used to playing games or doing activities, this might take some transition time.
- Make sermon listening an activity. Encourage them to think about God’s presence and how it applies to your life. Listening to a sermon is an active thought process.
- To encourage thinking about God’s presence with the preacher, look for “Sermon Take Aways” and “Windows.” Here’s what we mean:
- A Sermon Take Away is something the preacher said that you think is important and want to remember. It may be a new idea, an idea that speaks to you right now, a joke, or funny story
- A Window is something the preacher says that makes you think about something important that is going on in your life and that you need to think about with God. It is an opportunity to crawl out of an imaginary window, think what you need to think, and then crawl back in when you are done.
- Have a written conversation about the sermon with your child during the sermon. Write notes or draw pictures about what you hear and think in the margins of the bulletin or in a worship journal you bring to worship every week.
- Talk about the sermon in the car on the way home. Share some of your “sermon take aways” and “windows.” Ask your children about theirs. When this happens every week, over time children learn to be ready with at least one contribution to the conversation.
Talking with Your Kids About Worship
Here are a few tips for how to keep them thinking about the experience after they’ve left the sanctuary:
- Savor worship together in the car. We know you have more things to do after church, but the car ride after worship is a great time to share your reflections on worship and listen to what your children thought about the morning.
- Don’t wait for the kids to ask the first question. Just dive in with your own thoughts: “When I sang or heard ________ in worship today, I wondered… What do you think about that?”
- Talk in specifics. What’s one thing you saw, heard, or did in the sanctuary today? See where that conversation goes.
- Don’t worry about having an answer or a goal when you start the conversation. That will actually make it easier to encourage and listen to what your child is thinking.
- If your child responds, listen. Say something positive about what they said, and then ask them another question. Remember – the best questions start with “why” or “how” or even “could it be that…?” Then listen some more.
- Remember that short conversations matter. Some of the best conversations about worship or God or faith take place on the run. It doesn’t have to be a long talk to be meaningful!
- Start somewhere. Any conversation about church or worship or God is better than no conversation, so just dive in!
- Feel free to say, “I don’t know” or “I may be wrong, but this is what I think now.” This will allow you to talk about something, even if you’re not 100% certain, and will give your children the freedom to do the same. And don’t forget – if your child asks a really tough question, you can always ask a pastor, staff member, or Sunday school teacher for help. We love to answer tough questions and talk about faith!