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Children like to run, and they should run!
That children want to run in church is a sign of many wonderful things. It is a reminder that we are blessed with many children here at DSC, a sign that they are comfortable in the building and think of church as a fun place to be. And it is great that kids are forming friendships in the context of church even at a young age. All of this is wonderful.
But on Sundays, running children present a number of difficulties. Since there has been a growing crew of little runners in the Worship Center and hallways, Ryan addressed the issue at a recent Lord’s Supper service. Here are a few reasons why we felt this was important to address:
- Counselors at the front of the Worship Center are speaking and praying with people following each service.
- Our more fragile members could be injured should a child collide with their leg.
- Visitors may be discouraged from returning if they witness what appears to be a disorderly worship environment.
- It is good for children to be courteous of others in public places, and church is an important place to instill this expectation.
So, whether in the Worship Center, the hallways, or the courtyard, walking is the new running. In addition, for obvious safety reasons (and because instruments are delicate!) children aren’t allowed on the stage in the Worship Center.
Of course, training our children how to behave within the church walls grows out of a larger project in parenting to teach our children to love their neighbor, respect other people, and think big thoughts about what happens when the church gathers to worship Christ.
On this subject, John and Noel Piper have published a helpful article, “The Family: Together in God’s Presence.” Here are several of their many practical tips for parents when they decide to include their children in the Sunday service:
Preparation All Week Long
Your anticipation and conversation before and after service and during the week will be important in helping your child learn to love worship and to behave well in service.
Help your children become acquainted with your pastor. Let them shake hands with him. . . Talk about who the worship leaders are; call them by name.
. . .If you know what the Scripture passage will be for the coming Sunday, read it together several times during the week. A little one’s face really lights up when he hears familiar words from the pulpit.
. . .Sometimes you can take the regular elements of the service and make them part of the anticipation. “We’ve been reading about Joseph. What do you think the pastor will say about him?”
. . .There are two additional and important pre-service preparations for us: a pen and notepad for “Sunday notes” and a trip to the rest room (leaving the service is highly discouraged).
What Happens During Service?
First, I let a child who wants a worship folder have one—it helps a child feel like a participant in the service.
During service, we all sit or stand along with rest of the congregation. I share my Bible or hymnal or worship folder with my little one, because use of these is an important part of the service.
The beginning of the sermon is the signal for “notetaking” to begin. (I want a child’s activities to be related to the service. So we don’t bring library books to read. I do let a very young child look at pictures in his Bible, if he can do it quietly.) Notetaking doesn’t mean just scribbling, but “taking notes” on a special pad used just for service.
“Taking notes” grows up as the child does. At first he draws pictures of what he hears in the sermon. Individual words or names trigger individual pictures. You might pick out a word that will be used frequently in the sermon; have the child listen carefully and make a check mark in his “notes” each time he hears the word.
Later he may want to copy letters or words from the Scripture passage for the morning. When spelling comes easier, he will write words and then phrases he hears in the sermon. Before you might expect it, he will probably be outlining the sermon and noting whole concepts.
My training for worship has three main goals:
- That children learn early and as well as they can to worship God heartily.
- That parents be able to worship.
- That families cause no distraction to the people around them.
So there are certain expectations that I teach the young ones and expect of the older ones:
- Sit or stand or close eyes when the service calls for it.
- Sit up straight and still—not lounging or fidgeting or crawling around, but respectful toward God and the worshipers around you.
- Keep bulletin papers and Bible and hymnal pages as quiet as possible.
- Stay awake. Taking notes helps. (I did allow the smallest ones to sleep, but they usually didn’t need to!)
- Look toward the worship leaders in the front. No people-gazing or clock-watching.
- If you can read fast enough, sing along with the printed words. At least keep your eyes on the words and try to think them. If you can’t read yet, listen very hard.
Read the whole article here. Then, consider the following resources on the subject of children, families, and the church together:
- “The Family Together in Corporate Worship,” sermon by Ryan Kelly
- A Vision for Ministry to Children and Their Parents, Bethlehem Baptist Church
- “The Family: Together in God’s Presence,” article by John Piper
- Worship: Together for the Glory of God, Saturday Seminar by Ryan Kelly