Using Sunday Mornings to Train Up Your Children

Dear Parents,

As we engage in this new format of church - whether you are participating online or in the building, it can come with its own set of challenges. However, it can also come with some excellent opportunities to train our children.

Proverbs 22:6 tells us to “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” The definition of the word train is to “develop or form the habits, thoughts or behavior of (a child or other person) by discipline and instruction."

God doesn't tell us to just hope our kids turn out okay. He tells us to train them.

There are so many things that we train our children in:
• How to sit and stay in their chair during dinner
• How to keep their hands to themselves
• How they shouldn’t touch items at the store
• How to tie their shoes
• How and when to buckle and unbuckle their seatbelt
• How to share
• And so much more...

What I’d like to focus on today is training our kids in how to obey and worship in church.

I know this may seem a daunting task, and you are probably tired. So much has been asked of us during this time. We have had to retrain our kids with changes in daily schedules, how to celebrate special events with parades instead of parties, schooling at home, and social distancing (which that was a new term to adults, too!). Hopefully, you can look back and see the growth in you and your children. It has been no small task lately, but you and your kids are doing it!

As we continue in this bizarre time we find ourselves in, let's embrace the opportunity we have to train our children to participate in church services. As the Lord disciples and disciplines us because He loves us, let us show love towards our children by training them to be obedient and how to worship the Lord. They are capable of participating in church services. It will take work, but you and your kids can do it. It is so worth it!

Let me ask you this, “Have you ever been amazed that your child was able to do something that you had no idea they could do?” Maybe they sat and listened to someone read them a book, or maybe they read it themselves for a longer time period than you have expected. Maybe they rode a bike before you thought they could. Maybe their teacher told you that they are so well behaved at school that it made you wonder if she was talking about the same child. Haha! Maybe as a baby, they could talk or walk before expected. Yes, all children grow at different stages and capacities, but they are all capable of the next step.

Below are some ideas to get you started and to help plan for the Sundays to come - whether you are participating from home or in the building.

When our kids were younger, once or twice a month we would call out, "Training Day!" The kids would come running!  We (Brian and I) would discuss in advance areas where our kids were struggling, and we would tell them we would practice those struggle ideas. For example, if they were struggling with coming to us when we called for them, it would look something like this:  

We would gather the kids and explain that when we call them, we expected them to come quickly and to respond with good manners. Then, we would tell them to go play with their toys in another room. We’d wait until they were engaged and call out to one child at a time by name. If they came quickly and responded with "Yes, Mommy or Daddy", they would get a piece of candy (M&M, Skittle or something small). We would celebrate their obedience, and tell them to go play again. If they didn't obey, we would remind them of the expectations. It was a fun little game that we played. They would beg us to play it over and over with different areas that they were struggling with.

We trained them in a non-struggle moment - when the kids or the parents weren't frustrated or tired. We trained in a time when everyone was receptive to receiving instruction and listening. In fact, the game made it fun to listen to their parents.  

We would do the same with church.

We would discuss looking at adults in the eyes. We taught and practiced how to shake hands with adults, how to stand up to worship through song, and how to properly sit in a chair during the message. Having a mock service in your home is a great way to train in a non-struggle moment. Let them know your expectations! It's important. Children can rise to the expectations that you set. Show them you believe in them.

  • Show them how important it is to youStand up, jump, worship, have fun praising the name of Jesus. Whether you like the song or not. He is better than any Michael Jordan basketball game (or documentary). He is better than any concert, game or anything else that pumps you up. Show them this! Your actions speak a lot louder than words. Kids like to jump and dance. So, dance with them! Show that you are engaged in the message by bringing and using your Bible and a notebook. Take notes and talk about the service in the car ride home. 
  • Show them that church is for them. It’s not just for the big people. If we just try and pacify them during worship with toys, books, food; we are clearly setting a precedent that the music this isn't for them. Have a dollar to allow them to participate in offering. Let them help you find the Bible verse the pastor is reading from. Train them to engage, and when they are old, they will not depart from it.
  • If you have more than one really little one, maybe separate them in between the adults. Don't let them sit by each other during the message. This alone will help with their distractions. Likely at the ages of 2 or 3, the message will be over their heads. However, this is still a learning opportunity. They are still learning how to obey. They are still learning that church is for them and that church is important.  
  • Have a church bag for the very young children. Things in this bag are only allowed to come out during the message, once they start getting fidgety. When my kids were younger, I used this idea when I had to take all of them to the doctors when only one was sick. I would fill a doctor’s bag and take it with. I didn’t want them touching everything, and I certainly didn’t want them making a scene. I would never let them see everything in the bag. I would pull things out as I saw that they were growing restless. It was like a new surprise every 10 minutes. Even if they had already played or seen it before, it was exciting because it was unexpected. Good ideas for the church bag: a stuffed animal, a fun pen and pad of paper, a colorful book, snacks, a figit of some sort, a Bible, a sticker book, etc. You know your kids best. What kind of things can they do that don’t make noise or cause another child to make a noise? Be creative!

Each family may have their own ideas and expectations. We also may be at different stages of training our children. That's ok! It is a process.

I would like to say that I don’t have perfect children, by any means. I don’t know it all, and I don’t want to pretend that I do. I want to also mention that I am not writing this to say that these are the expectations that the church has for you. This is simply my encouragement to you and a few ideas for training your children. One size doesn’t fit all, but we are expected to train our children. I encourage you to find what works best for you.

 Rooting you all on,
 Kristie Smith