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8 Tips for Teaching Children How to
Worship at Church with the Family

8 Tips for Teaching Children to Sit Still at Church

Why We Ditched the Church Nursery

I think we attempted to put our first child in the church nursery about 3.2 times before we decided we were just going to keep her in church with us and teach her to sit still. She cried a lot in the nursery, and so I kept having to be called out with the little pager to go and calm her. She missed me, so keeping her with me seemed the natural thing to do at the time. Seven kids later we still keep our children with us, no matter their age through the entire worship service.

In the beginning, we chose to keep our children with us out of convenience. As we were blessed with more children and our children grew, we chose to not participate in the Children's Church, Sunday School, or even separate Wednesday night or summer activities themed for children. We were treated as odd and even rebellious by some at the church we attended for not going along with the flow.

We did not think others were necessarily sinning for participating in these activities, but we did have questions concerning the genesis of constant, expected, and seemingly compelled age segregation in the church. We wanted to know if it was biblical or helpful to the overall mission of the church and family. It was also very disconcerting to be confronted with so much resistance on something that should have been an issue of conscience. What began as a preference developed into a much deeper principle with time, experience, and study.

Choosing to Worship at Church Together as a Family

Many families are making the choice to worship together instead of sending their children away to learn alongside their peers. This family integrated style of worship was practiced for all of Christian history up until about a 

century ago. With so many children growing up to leave the faith in recent decades, many concerned families are attempting a shift back to more historically proven models of discipling children.

Because many children have not been taught to sit still and listen from an early age, parents who are new to family integrated style worship may want some advice on how to help their children whether young or old to learn how to worship at church together with the family. No parent should be made to feel guilty if their children do not immediately fall in line. In fact, I would encourage other church members to be very understanding, patient, and encouraging while parents and children work through this period. Other church congregants ought to offer to help if the parents are open. The church is a family and therefore should joyfully walk alongside each other in the commitment to have families together in the worship service.

I am going to recommend you pick up a copy of Family Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham forthwith. This is really a practical guidebook to the paradigm shift that is recovering a multigenerational biblical vision for the family. I am sure you didn't begin reading this article expecting to be issued homework, but it is necessary to define the problem before addressing it.

Read the article: The Case for Worshipping Together as a Family at Church

Podcast Episode 6: The Case for Family Integrated Worship:

For those who see how many kids grow up in the church and then flee the first chance they get in adulthood - that is a complicated issue with layers of answers - but one of the primary concerns should be the modern church's absolute neglect in equipping parents to disciple their own children.

It wasn’t until the latter half of the twentieth century that Christian parents began wholly relegating the discipleship of their children to the Church. This shift in church practice coincides (not so coincidentally) with a huge shift in mandated government education and welfare. Instead of equipping parents for their God-given duties, the Church, just like the State, co-opted a role that was not given to them by God. And in like fashion, parents became accustomed to others caring for their child’s souls and forgot their God-given purpose.

This is a hard conversation, but it is an important conversation. We hope you will join us, and let us know about your experience! The Bible is our authority for all faith and practice. We need to get back to what the Bible has to say concerning role of the Church and the role of parents. We should never settle for what is culturally acceptable or convenient.

Tips for Teaching Children to Worship at Church with the Family

Here are a few tips I have gathered over the years from other large families, as well as from my own experience, to help teach children to worship alongside their families during the church service.

  1. If You Can, Start Teaching Them When They Are Young. You cannot expect a child at the age of 5 to suddenly sit still if he has not been expected to before that time. It is a process of learning, so start immediately if possible. One helpful trick is to practice “blanket time” even with a baby. This is a training tool that teaches the child to stay on a blanket space by simple repetitive action. When the child goes to crawl off, just move him or her back to the designated spot while also gently directing with words to explain your expectations. This repetitive action, while taking much patience, is useful for many who want to train a child from an early age to respect a physical boundary. If you do not have the luxury of starting young that is okay. Look below for a few tips!

  2. Start Teaching Them At Home. Consistency is one of the most effective tutors. Schedule opportunities for sitting still at home each day during the week to help train your child and increase these times incrementally. Meal times and family devotions are more obvious times to utilize for this purpose, but consider planning extra times of reading aloud and or listening to audio books to help train your child to sit still and to listen at the same time. Engage your child about the content read or listened to in order to reinforce comprehension skills.

  3. Explain the Ground Rules. With smaller children this is much more difficult if they do not have the ability to converse with you yet, but it is always good to get into the practice of explaining rewards and consequences for behavior with your children so that they know, “If I do this then this is going to happen.” Explain these ground rules OFTEN, at home and on your way to church each Sunday. Give your child every opportunity possible to succeed!

  4. Limit Warnings. Often, the more a child is warned that they “are about to be in trouble” the more they will misbehave. They are seeing just how far they can stick their big hairy toe across that line. Also, the parent will often become more flustered with each warning issued. Do not provoke your child to anger, but also understand what provokes you to anger as well. One or two warnings at the most is sufficient, because children should learn to obey immediately in the same way that we are called to obey the Lord immediately. Let your child know how many warnings you will give before expecting obedience, and what the consequences will be if direction is not followed. Outlining your expectations sets a standard for you both.

  5. Guard Your Children. When a child does misbehave guard them with love. Do not make a scene about their misbehavior. Quietly remove them from the room and talk with them in private. Depending on the consequences needed those are usually best explained and delivered not in the public eye. We are not called to shame our children, but to discipline them as the Lord disciplines us - for our good with love and mercy.

  6. Advice for Small Children: Do not obsess over the obedience of your small children. This is a marathon not a sprint. For ages two-and-a-half and under when conversation is not going to happen, sometimes you might need to just have a reboot session. A child at this age is difficult to keep still and that is okay. This is completely normal for this stage of development. Work with them in patience. If you need to, leave the church building and let them run a few circles outside, then come back in and try again. If helpful, consider keeping snacks on hand or something for their hands to do like a fine motor skills book or sensory toys to assist in keeping them quietly busy. Some children and adults listen better while their hands are moving.

  7. Advice for Older Children: Engage these children about the sermon. Ask them to take notes if they are of age. Talk as a family about what you learned that day. Encourage the children to think of a question to ask you about the sermon later. This will keep them engaged if they know they will have to show how well they listened.

  8. Starting Late? Is this a new conviction that you would like to have your children sit with you in church, but you are just not sure how to go about it? It is not too late! Explain to your children from the Bible why you are making this shift. Outline your expectations for how they should act during the service. Have patience and PRAY! Pray with your children that God would help them to participate in and enjoy the service. Engage your children about the sermon, and help them to understand that church is not meant to be boring. Church is meant to be a time to come together with our brothers and sisters in Christ and learn from the Word of God.

BONUS Advice: Try not to expect each of your children to be the same. We all grow and learn at different rates. You know your child the best. Have patience and try different methods to find which fits that child best. Snacks or sensory toys might work with one child when a little reboot session in the church hallway may work for another. Every child responds differently, and we must be flexible as parents.

Parenting is not a one-size-fits-all kind of deal.

I think it is always important to remember that without the Holy Spirit working in our children, our children are unregenerate. We cannot expect the unsaved to act saved. We want to be very careful in this area to not exasperate our children to the point where they despise both us and church because of legalism, yet we want to train both their bodies and hearts to be fertile for the Word of God to fall upon. It is such a fine line, and it is why we must rely on the Holy Spirit fully. You cannot train your children up in the Lord unless you are saturated in the Word of the Lord and prayer, yourself. We implore you to seek the Lord for wisdom and trust Him for His goodness and faithfulness to His covenant people.

Tips for teaching kids how to worship in church

Print a Copy of These Tips for FREE!

Whether you are transitioning to worshiping together as a family or in need of an aid for your church to instruct parents, I have compiled in this brochure, a set of eight simple tips and encouragement to guide parents in training their children for the worship service. You will find these tips to be full of grace for the struggling mom, as well as creative ideas to engage both younger and older children in the church service.

What Is Your Experience with Training Your Children to Worship at Church with Family?
I Would Love to Hear Your Advice!

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