I know you are curious for how to go about the practical application while in the assembly. I can hear what you are thinking. ‘It’s too hard with 2, 3 or more children.’ You are right that it is hard, but it isnt’ TOO hard. After all we are told…
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13.
You as the parent just have to make the decision to set the standard and stick with it. Once you do your children will fall in line. Don’t be deceived, you are in charge of the children, not the other way around. So do not allow them to have control over the situation.
Training Up in Worship Tip #4
- Set the standards.
Sit down with your husband and discuss your expectations for your children. I mean, expectations for behavior in worship for each age of childhood. Don’t underestimate what your children are able to do. Simply make the decisions and let them know what is expected of them. We all know that children do best when they know what is expected of them. They function well with a clear set of rules. Why then, don’t we give them those rules from early on in regards to the worship assembly? They can’t just know, we have to teach them.
Explain to your children the expectations and resolve to not waiver. Even if this is a new standard, let them know, that you both have talked and feel that as a family you will be making some changes when it comes to behavior in worship.
- Begin teaching your child the pattern of worship.
Since you have been working with your little ones at home to learn to sing, pray and participate, transitioning this learning into the assembly shouldn’t be difficult.
- Give your children the tools they need for success.
Once your toddler is old enough to hold a book, hand them a song book or hold it for them but point to the words and instruct them to sing during the song service. It matters not, if they sing the right words or even the right tune, to the Lord’s ear they are making a beautiful noise unto Him.
“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord!…” Psalm 95:1a
Be sure to tell them a.s.a.p on the way home that you are happy to sing with them in worship. Positive reinforcement is always a great way to encourage good behavior.
- When it is time for prayer, very quietly whisper to them, ‘It’s time to bow your head while we talk to God.’ Gently, hold their hands between yours as a sign of control. Which gently teaches that you have specific expectations during this time. If they begin to get antsy before the prayer is finished, take them gently by the chin, look them in the eye and make the ‘shhh‘ sign with your finger to your lips. (You may have to do this several times. Remember repetition, repetition, repetition, YOU set the standard.)
- During the Lord’s Supper, remind your children to think about Jesus. When my Little Man was my Little Boy, I would show him a bible book during the communion supper. I would show him pages of that had photo images of Jesus and whisper to him that it was time to think about Jesus. After he got a little older, I removed the book, and simply told him it was time to think about the life and death of Jesus.
Children love to be good helpers. This is a great time to let them help. As the bread is passed, gently hold their hands as they hold the plate to pass to the next person down, this can be done with both the bread and cups. As they continue to get older they will be able to do this on their own. I still remind Little Man to think about Jesus during this time. I often will open the scriptures to Matthew or John’s account of the crucifixion and remind him that we are thinking about how Jesus died for us.
- During the offering, children very very young can participate in this portion of worship. In fact, in my experience they enjoy it. For us, we began with coins. Why? Not because we didn’t want him giving more, it was because children understand coin money before they understand dollar money. The goal was for him to begin to understand that he was giving something of value to God.
For him, he understood that the quarter could buy him candy from a gumball machine, but, we were choosing to give this coin to God. As he got older and could understand the value of paper money the value changed. But always, whether at home or whispered in the ear, we reminded him that he was giving to God. Now he is giving of his own money that he earns or receives as gifts. He determines the value, and he freely gives of his own money to the Father’s good work.
Even if you try and fail, you can start again, and again. Remember that you set the standard. You are the parents and you should be in control, not them.
My goal is to offer you practical advice for training up your children in Worship. So that they can come to know and understand that God is their Father, Jesus is their Savior and we are blessed to offer praise and worship to them. Remember that repetition is imperative. Without being consistent your children will see right through you, they’ll soon test their limits, and before you know it, any work you have tried to do will be for nothing.
This post is the 4th 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.