Our five children are all grown up with children of their own. Happily they are all church-going people, some a little more actively involved than others, but all are exercising to one degree or another the faith they learned as children. Some were not involved in attending for a while, but then returned. It was our custom to take the family to church every Sunday from the time they were born.
Even though it's difficult, and we have first-hand knowledge of how difficult it can be, it's well worth all the effort. Getting five little kids ready for Sunday worship service takes planning, patience and persistence. Sometimes we thought, "If this wasn't so important we'd just stay home until the kids are older and better behaved." But, of course, we knew in the end that if they didn't go when they were young, they were far less likely to go when the choice was theirs. We knew we had to give them this foundation of faith.
A pastor's wife's blog
Every parent with young children can relate to this challenge. We were impressed by a blog written by a pastor's wife, as reported in The Anglican Church of Canada newsletter. She starts out by saying to parents, "You are doing something really, really important. I know it's not easy. I see you with your arms overflowing, and I know you came to church already tired. Parenting is tiring. Really tiring."
She comments on the struggles of bouncing the baby to keep him quiet while finding a seat, wrestling with the infant seat and all the paraphernalia, as well as keeping the other young ones in tow. Then trying your best to keep them quiet while you and others do your best to worship God. Not an easy task.
She said, "When you are here, we are reminded that this worship thing we do isn't about Bible Study or personal, quiet contemplation but coming together to worship as a community where all are welcome, where we share in the Word and Sacrament together. When you are here, I have hope that these pews won't be empty in 10 years when your kids are old enough to sit quietly and behave in worship. I know that they are learning how and why we worship now, before it's too late. They are learning that worship is important."
Some practical help
Here are a few ideas to help your young ones enjoy their time at church, allowing you to find at least a few moments of peaceful worship.
1. Take a few picture books with you that you save only to be looked at during church time. Choosing ones that are in harmony with the teachings of Christ will further your child's spiritual development and Biblical knowledge. One of our favorites is an open-the-windows book that reveals the animals on Noah's Ark. You might want to take a trip with the kids to a Christian bookstore and let the children help you select a few favorites that will be kept for church only. The anticipation will make going to church even more fun for them.
2. Keep a few non-sticky treats to be opened up at about the time you anticipate your kids will be most wiggly. You may be thinking, "That would be from the moment we sit down til we go." If the kids know the treats come out at a certain time, perhaps right after communion or another portion of the service that fits, they'll know what to expect. Prepare them by saying, "If you sit quietly during the first part of church you can have a little treat during the last part."
3. Prepare the children for what is going to take place during the service. A family we know does this with their children by playing church at home. They even have a small homemade pulpit where the kids take turns being the pastor or another speaker. Some sing a song. They practice hymns that will likely be sung. It acquaints them with the procedure of the meeting so they can know what generally comes next. Then when church time rolls around they look forward to participating in what is familiar to them.
4. Make sure the children are fed before you leave home. Hungry children can be real trouble makers. Also, make a potty visit before the meeting begins so you eliminate restroom excuses. If kids know they can wait until after the meeting, they are more likely to do so. It's back to that word "preparation." Preparing and reminding kids of proper church etiquette will make all the difference.
The promises of God make taking our children to church worth all the effort. We were motivated by the Bible verse, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when his is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6) That's a promise we can all hold on to.