There is more to engaging your children in worship than taking sermon notes.
Music also plays an important role in our corporate worship.
You can help your children with songs that are unfamiliar to them by teaching and discussing them at home. My music pastor lets me know what songs or hymns we will be singing the coming Sunday by e-mailing the service schedule to me once it is planned, usually mid-week. If you are not able to obtain this information in advance, it can be helpful to teach and discuss the songs even in the days following the service.
My favorite resource is The Complete Book of Hymns. It contains back-ground stories for many of the most frequently sung hymns and praise songs. Full lyrics are included but if you prefer to have the music, you will either need a hymn book or another resource such as another of my favorites, Then Sings My Soul. However, this one does not include praise and worship songs/choruses that are now popularly sung in many churches. Then Sings My Soul also has a special edition of Christmas and Easter hymns.
What I typically do is read the story behind the writing of the hymn, sing the song to the kids, and talk about portions of the lyrics. As often as I can, I will load the songs onto the ipod so we can listen to and learn the songs as we go about our day.
Another thing that will help you even while in the pew, is to ask your child to listen for what the key words or theme are of each song. It’s fun to see if all the songs sung have the same theme or not.
A fun little thing I do for my daughter that thrives on touch and sensory input, is to draw a cross on her with my finger every time we sing the word “cross”. You know my finger will be busy drawing a lot of crosses on her back and arms this month with Easter just weeks away!
Please comment with any tips you have to lead our children in worship through song.
Most weeks, I discuss the meaning of the songs and hymns that will be sung in the upcoming Sunday service. This week, we are talking about a lesser known hymn titled "May the Mind of Christ, My Savior".
Are your little ones wiggly? Here are some things you can do regularly at home to help prepare them for sitting in the worship service.
I have 4 kids ages 7, 10, 10, and 12. (Yes, the 10 year olds are twins!) The oldest 3 have been sitting with us in the pew for over 3 years. There have been very few challenges; for the most part, they have been very attentive.
My 10 year old girl was a bit wiggly when she first began sitting with us. We learned not too much later, that she has some minor sensory “issues”. If I hold her tightly, her body calms down and she is capable of sitting still for long periods of time. Give her space, and her body starts moving as though it is searching for something! Her squirmy was an easy fix.
It’s my 7 year old, Macy, that has not sat with us much because she is so wiggly and struggles with being attentive for more than a few minutes. We have decided to have her attend the children’s church program while we work with her at home.
If you have a wiggly young one, I would like to give you some ideas as to what you can do at home to prepare them for sitting through a service.
1) Family Worship – If you already do a regular time of family worship or devotions, this is a great opportunity to teach your young ones that they, too, are capable of sitting still for more than a few minutes. Each family will have different structure and routine. Here’s how ours looks:
My husband, Jim, does a study with the kids in the evening after dinner. Jim’s style is more relaxed and casual and his time is usually lengthy. He expects the children to be attentive but not necessarily sitting still.
Since I homeschool, I have opportunity to do a morning Bible time with the children. My time with the kids is more structured and kept to about 20 minutes. We sit at the kitchen table so that everyone is forced to sit up and stay in their own space.
2) Blanket Time – This is what I called reading time during their preschool years. Every day I would have my first 3 children sit on a blanket for a few minutes to look at books. The blanket was spread on the floor (one per child). They were not allowed off the blanket. I would set a timer for 5 minutes and slowly increase the length of time as they became capable.
3) Meal Time – Each child should spend the entire meal time in his seat. There is not reason for constantly getting up from the table or doing acrobatics in the chair.
What I hadn’t realized before bringing Macy into the church worship service with us, was that she was also very wiggly at home. She lacks the discipline and self-control that the other children had at earlier ages.
- I hadn't paid any attention to the fact that she was constantly out of her seat during meal time. I now require her to sit in her seat during the entire meal time - every meal!
- For some reason I never continued a Blanket Time with Macy. I think it did much to help my older 3 learn to sit still and quietly. I just started Blanket Time with Macy in an effort to "catch up"!
- Previously, my morning devotional time with the kids took place in the family room. Too comfortable! Too easy to be wiggly or to lie all over the place. I now do our time at the kitchen table.
Those are 3 suggestions for training your young ones to learn the discipline of sitting still and quietly.
Do any of you have suggestions to share or ideas that worked for you?
Remember - it takes time! And children are children!!
Remember.....children are children.
Most will be squirmy to sit through an entire sermon. It's ok! Their endurance will grow as they mature. Your child doesn't have to soak in every single sermon point to grow in his understanding and application of God's Word.
It's sometimes tricky to find the balance between not expecting enough out of our kids and expecting too much. But don't forget that it is a process.
One way to balance your expectations is to not compare one child to another. Each is so different in learning styles, abilities, desires, and how God may be working in his heart. Work with each child where he is at and with realistic goals specific for him.
When the discouragement comes, look through the frustration and see the deeper purpose and goal - to direct your child's heart toward Christ. This takes time.
TIP: Inform some of your "pew mates" that you are working to engage your child(ren) in the service. Ask them to compliment your child if they notice your child doing the right thing and putting forth effort. Such as:
"I saw you taking notes. I'm impessed!"
"You did an extra good job sitting quietly and listening this morning. I know it can seem like a long time to sit but you did great!"
"What kind of notes did you take today? Will you be willing to let me have a sneak peek at them?"
I remember the first time an adult complimented my son when he was still fairly "new in the pew". His eyes lit up and I saw him stand a little taller! Who knows...maybe it helped him try a little harder the next week!
So go ahead. Don't feel awkward to ask others around you to compliment your kids. Your kids need it!
If you haven't picked up a copy of Sermon Notes for Kids, consider doing so. It can help tremendously with engaging your child in the sermon.
If your child is already using SNFK, and you find they have lost attention or are unusually squirmy, it can be helpful to have them switch to a different note-taking activity.
What to Do with Squirmy in the Pew (Part 2)
We had just arrived home from church. Everyone began piling out of the van,
except for my 9 year-old daughter; she held me back. For the next 30 minutes,
she and I sat in the van as she told me how the morning sermon had revealed the
ugliness of a habit of sin that had comfortably settled in her heart. She
repeated to me all the parts of the sermon that had spoken to her listening
heart. The Holy Spirit was speaking in a gentle voice and my daughter received it.
Oh, how my heart swelled with joy! We had been trying to reach our
daughter’s heart for a couple months in regard to this particular sin. We had
been frustrated at the lack of response on her part. And now here it was – a
moment of breakthrough!
I realize that it didn’t have to be a Sunday sermon that God used to reach
her heart. The point I am trying to make is that a preacher’s sermon is no less
understood by a child. He may be preaching to adult ears but the Holy Spirit
will take that message and meet me, you, or even a child, exactly where our
heart is. The Holy Spirit gives us understanding. It’s not necessary for a
preacher to dumb-down a message in order for it to be understood by a child.
What a privilege it was to have been sitting beside my daughter in the pew
and together receive the Word of God!
Sermon Notes For Kids is now available!
It's full of a variety of note-taking activities designed to engage kids ages 6-11 in worship. It contains 7 different activities for sermon note-taking and 4 bonus sections (Missionary Moments, Prayer Meeting, Communion, and a Guest Speaker Log).
Each section begins with an instruction page for the parent on how to best direct your child and making the most of each activity.
The Contents page as well as a video tour of the inside pages can be viewed here.
Sermon Notes For Kids is available at this Truth Steps Publishing and Amazon.com.
Page Count: 142 pages
Cover: Softcover / Spiral
Size: 6" x 8.5"