My daddy shouted those words as a little boy as his daddy snatched him out of church service. He'd been 'not minding' as my granny said. His daddy had had enough of his not minding, so as he whisked out my daddy, my daddy yelled, "SOMEBODY BETTER PRAY!"
The church erupted in laughter.
I've imagined that happening with our brood. Thankfully, it hasn't. Not yet. And, I hope, not ever. We've come close though.
With that being said, lately, I've found myself in conversations whether online or in person about kids being in 'Big Church.'
I've been asked lots of questions.
Can they handle it? How do you make them sit there? Are they learning? Why do we have them sit with us?
So, I'm going to share what we've learned, what's worked for us, and also note that our kids aren't perfect. They are wiggly. They talk to each other or us. Sometimes someone has to go to the bathroom. (By the way, they are given the chance to go before we go into service and after, so we're talking about a little over an hour from the last time to the next time. Unless it's an EMERGENCY- and they can't use the E-card every week or even every month.)
I'm a firm believer in sharing what we've learned and confess that we haven't gotten it down perfectly. They can be wiggly. And talk-y. And....kids.
First, can they handle it?
Yup! You better believe it! God's Word is meant for e'rybody-babies, young children, teenagers, young adults, middle aged adults, senior adults- you get the picture.
They may not understand every concept. That's ok. I'm still learning, too. For example, the idea of grace....just when I think I'm grasping the concept, I realize how much I can't comprehend, how much I don't understand still.
So, just as we are learning, so are they.
How do you make them sit there?
Let me first say, I regret that we didn't bring ours in 'Big Church' earlier. We did when our oldest was a toddler. We thought it was a miserable disaster. Truthfully, it wasn't. It was par for the course.
First, we start them before they 'have' to. With our oldest, we started 6 months before he was out of the preschool department. With our others, we've started a bit earlier. (Our two youngest were 2 and 4 when we started bringing them with us regularly.)
We do a lot of coaching before we get to church:
- When someone says, "Good morning," you say, "Good morning!" and smile.
- When it's time to sing, you stand. You don't have to sing, but you do have to stand. (And we have leaners sometimes, so a gentle reminder to STAND is needed for those occasions.Usually just a touch on the shoulder and a subtle hand motion to rise is all that is needed. Repeat offenders get a 'Stand up! We're in church!')
- When it's the time of the service to greet others, we shake hands and greet others. (A good, firm handshake and looking someone in the eye, that is a biggie in our home. But that's a blog for another day.)
-Opening the Bible to the appropriate passage for those who can. (We're still working on this; however, the passage is on the screen at the front of our sanctuary. He reads along. Still, it's a work in progress, like I said.)
- Standing whenever we stand corporately- during the music, greeting others, reading of the passage, and at altar call and any other time it's appropriate.
-Once the passage is read and we sit down for the sermon, then and only then are pads of paper and pens allowed. Not before. They are active participants in service. I've learned that my crew listen better when they are allowed to draw, doodle, write. They are listening! They are, in fact, better listeners when they draw and write.)
-We also have a service-only treat that they enjoy- a soft peppermint. (Sometimes they got two.) Another note- I take them out of the wrapper at home so as not to make a lot of noise for others.
-Also, if we think that they aren't ready for 'Big Church' yet, we observe what other families do to glean insight. We also talk it up weeks before. The age is different for each time. There are definitely seasons where having a place for a crawler is definitely a blessing!
-We also start when bringing a 'newbie' into church by sitting in the back. Particularly if we have a potty training little one. Should we need to take someone out, then we are close to the exit and will disrupt as little as possible. If they've done well, we move up a few rows until we are a few rows back from the front. If it's a rough week, we'll move back or stay in the same place until we can move forward.
Are they learning?
You better believe it!
Questions abound. Sometimes in church. (To which we reply, "We'll discuss it later.") Questions on grace, justification, sanctification, the Trinity.....just to name a few.
They will pull a quote or paraphrase at the most surprising of times- driving down the road, bath time, swimming, the dinner table, at night when they become philosophers and theologians at bedtime.
Why do we make them sit with us?
Well, why not? There is no one who keeps us more honest than our kids. They need spiritual training as much as we do. Although I'm pretty certain, we need it more. No one can hold up a mirror to me like my kids. And they don't even do it on purpose. God is definitely using them to refine me and make me more like His Son.
I used to feel like it was 'my' time. I got to be with my husband uninterrupted. I was getting fed.
Truth is, God convicted me of this. My reasoning was selfish. It was all about Me. My needs. My wants. My desires.
I want them to see the adults they love and trust and do life with alongside our family, worshiping the Lord, knowing how to participate in corporate worship, how to sit quietly and listen, how to analyze what the pastor is preaching on in light of Scripture....Is what he's preaching from the Bible or is it his opinion or some other agenda? So that they can stand strong in their faith and claim it as their own. I want them to be grounded in the Word and attend a Bible believing, Bible preaching church as they mature. How better to model this than to give them that as they grow up than the church they grow up in?
I don't want my kids to have religion.I don't want them to lean on my faith. Or my husband's.
I want them to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Also, we like having them with us so that we can worship as a family. There are times they are not in service with us. Our son's Sunday School meets at the hour we attend worship, so there are Sundays he goes to his class. Fortunately, our church records the service, so many times he is able to catch what he missed in service when I re-listen to the message later in the week as I cook supper or fold laundry.
And, we like their company.
There's that, too.