Bible Training for Children
Continuing on with training up in worship and setting the standard we come to helping our children to focus on and participating in the Bible lesson portion of worship. While singing, giving, prayer and passing of the communion trays show active participation getting a child to sit still for 20 or 30 minutes, or more, for an adult led/focused Bible lesson seems impossible. But remember what Jesus said:
“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26b.
I understand where you are coming from. I really do. Years ago when we had foster children, I started out agreeing with that thought. Then one week out of sheer desperation I decided to try something different. At the time we were fostering 3 boys all near the age of 2 years. Talk about overwhelming. Each week I took along little ‘quiet‘ toys. Each week there was bickering over toys. There were vroom vroom sounds when playing with cars, there was dropping the toys on the floor, climbing down to pick them up,over and over again, until by the end of the worship I was completely overwhelmed and frustrated. Beloved and I had a serious discussion about our expectations for these little ones as well as our goals for what we wanted them to learn while in the assembly.
The next week we were armed with new attitudes. Truth be told, I was fearful. We decided to not take ANY toys with us. None! How could we possibly make it through an entire worship without something to keep these 3 little boys busy? But something amazing happened. Instead of bickering and vroom vroom noises, we had little boys who were quietly flipping through their picture Bible books. Now, it didn’t last the entire time, they quickly grew bored with those books, but we didn’t give in and pull out toys.
Rather, we kept instructing them to sit still, to listen. Do you know what happened? They did! We were amazed!
Fast forward a few years. When we were blessed with the ability to adopt our son we knew from the get go that we would train him up in worship from infancy. Obviously, a newborn has different needs than a 1 year old, and of course, those needs should be met. Yet, from the time they begin to sit up on your lap, you can begin the training.
As your children get older I suggest using cheerios until about age 2 to 2 1/2. But let me be clear, the use of these snacks is to help your child to learn to be quiet, NOT, as a reward or bribe. Worship is not a time or place for a meal.
As a mom you are responsible for feeding your child before coming to the assembly. In my Set Your Minds series I discussed some ways to provide breakfast on the go.
The use of cheerios, is for your 5 or 6 month old until about age 2 1/2. When your little one starts to babble, chatter or talk, simply place a cheerio or 2 in their mouth, look them in the eye and make the shhh sign. This gives their little mouth something to do, chew, while instructing them that this is quiet time. As with all training, this will require repetition, repetition, repetition. When starting early, by the time they reach toddler-hood you will have laid foundations that will last a lifetime.
Bible Study Training for Children
Keep in mind that your role as a parent is to train up a child in the way that he should go. During this training time, you might not be as spiritually led as in times past, but that’s o.k., because there is a time for everything. This time, is your time to train up.
- A Child’s picture Bible.
Hold your child on your lap and quietly and gently turn those pages, and point to things out on those pages. In doing so you are embedding bible scenes in your child’s mind. Repeat this process week after week after week.
- Add in the Bible
Continue with the children’s picture Bible, but also add in the Bible. Open the Bible to Genesis, then Exodus and so on… flipping from one book to the next, pointing to each book and whispering in their ear the names of those books. I would point to chapters and count with him. “1, 2, 3…”
- Follow Along with Scripture Reading.
In our congregation there is a scripture reading before the sermon begins. With Little Man, I would open to that scripture and as it was read, I would point out the words to my little guy. It wasn’t that I expected him to understand the words, but I wanted him to come to understand that what was being spoken was coming from the Bible. When you are at home sing nursery songs about the Bible being God’s book, like the B-I-B-L-E.
- When Your Child Begins Writing. When your child is able to start doing copy-work at home, take along a notebook. At home prepare some pages for your child to copy while in worship. For beginner writers, I suggest short words, like GOD, JESUS, BIBLE, LOVE. As they progress, add short easy to follow sentences, God Loves Me, Jesus Died for Me, God made families, God made cats. Finally, once they are writing well, write in short verses; “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” You also can use post it notes write up a few post it notes at home, then let your child have a stack of blank ones and peel one, write one, peel one, write one.
- Build Active Listening Skills.
- As writing progresses. Start doing active listening drills. As the sermon is being given, you can write words that the preacher is using from his passage or that you hear, then have them write down those words, whisper in their ear the word if they are still learning to read. Before long, you’ll notice that your child will catch on to when the preacher says one of the words they have written.
- Another way to encourage active listening, is to write several words or phrases that you hear the preacher saying, then have them write the word, and draw a picture representing those words.
- Once your child is old enough, provide a list of words commonly said in sermons and ask them to count the number of times each word is said.
- For kids who are writing well, ask them to write down a certain number of things they hear the preacher saying.
- A Good Reader Can Follow Along in the Scriptures.
When your little one begins to read, you can help them to find the place of scripture being read, and then they can read along themselves. Additionally, as they begins to get familiar with the books of the Bible you can help them by showing them how to find the scriptures used during the sermon. Now at age 9, my Little Man, actively listens to the sermon. He listens for the preacher to quote a scripture and then he turns to that scripture himself and follows along. There are times, when I still remind him to listen. There are times when I remind him to follow along, or to point out the current reading, but overall he is an active participant in every part of the worship assembly.
Through all of these tips you are setting foundations for their future. Each idea and tip builds upon another but the basis of each it to help your child, regardless of age to place God in their minds. It’s a training, a teaching toward discipline.
So what if you have multiple children? How do you make this work? Begin where you are! Previously, I talked about Setting the Standard. Start there. With your husband determine your goals for each of your children. There are 2 parents, one of you work with one child while the other works with another. Let your older child work on their own, using some of the tips above. Remember that you begin this training at home, you explain the expectations at home and you remind them of those, as needed, throughout the service.
Above all things, pray, pray, pray. In the book of James, we are told:
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:6.
If training up your children to participate in worship is a goal you long to achieve then trust in the Father to provide what is needed, commit to praying about it for your children, and be diligent, patient and consistent. Before you know it you will see your children participating.
This post is the 5th part of my Training Up in Worship Series.
*Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.