This post will most likely step on some toes. If that’s the case, know that I write it from a heart that loves souls. This is the one where I talk about toys in the worship assembly. I’m going to share my opinion regarding them. I’m going to talk about when and what are appropriate and when they aren’t and what isn’t appropriate. If you have a true desire to grow as a parent, to grow in the spirit and to help your children to grow up into the Lord’s family, then I pray you will read with an open heart and mind. If you are comfortable with your status quo and have made your decision regarding this subject and stand firm in it, then stop reading now, because you will most likely not agree with what I am going to say.
I have a standard that I believe will work for most every family. It’s simple really. Toys have no place in worship during the song, prayer and Lord’s supper, and giving portions of worship. Most children who can sit up on their own can be taught how to participate in those areas of worship, with time and training. That brings us to the sermon or bible study portion.
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I believe that if your child is able to sit through the watching of ANY television show, cartoon or movie, then they can be taught to sit still through the bible study portion of the assembly. That usually happens around the age of 3. So here are my practical application guidelines for children and toys in worship.
Training in Worship: Toys That Have a Place
Between infancy and toddler-hood, 0 to age 2.
Any quiet toys such as cloth books, stuffed animals and soft teething toys, I especially love animals because God created animals.
That leads us to toddlers.
For this stage toys can be used during the sermon portion. But, I want to stress this more than anything, toys at this stage should be training tools. And what, I ask, are we training our children in? Whatever you put into your toddlers hands, you are putting into their hearts. During this time of worship why not fill their hearts with Biblical knowledge?
- Children’s board book picture Bibles
- Animals can be creation items and/or Noah’s ark items
- You can give your little girl a Baby Moses in a basket
- Bible Story Play Sets
I can’t stress enough, this isn’t to distract your child, these are training toys to help your child begin to learn to focus their minds upon godly things. If you give them drawing materials, crayons, coloring books, etc. Why not use Bible based coloring books? There are Bible felt sets and magnetic scenery sets available as well, use anything that will help your child to understand that this part of their lives is different than any other part. This part, worship time, is sanctified, set apart and Holy to GOD.
Between Toddler and Pre/K
This is a transition age, this is where you begin to work closely with your child in participating in the Bible lesson portion. In our congregation, we have a scripture reading before the sermon. If your congregation does the same, hold your child in your lap, point your finger to the words as the scripture is being read. No, they won’t read it, but they will see that you are setting apart this time of worship for them to hear God’s word.
You can continue to give them Bible coloring books, and Bible focused toys, but begin to transition them away from these things. But as the sermon is taught, and scriptures are read, refer your child back to the Bible, helping them to begin to understand that what is happening around them is coming from the Bible. If possible, find out ahead of time from your minister what part of the scriptures he will be focusing on and then bring toys which align with it. This way you are gently beginning to teach your child to focus their minds specifically on what is being taught.
Remember that at home you are teaching them that it is God’s word, so you are making connections in their minds. They continue to learn that this part of their life is different, set apart and Holy to the Lord.
Kindergarten to Early Elementary
As your child begins to know their alphabet, and counting, they are at the prime age for teaching them how to use the Bible. At home begin singing Books of the Bible songs. In worship, show them, how you are finding those books, and then continue to show them how to follow along while the scriptures are read. This is the stage where repetition is key. This is the stage where standards of behavior are vital.
This is the stage where all the foundations you have been setting thus far are going to begin to come to fruition. Consider carefully what you are teaching in worship, because in this stage you are setting standards that will last a lifetime. If the standards are steeped in God’s word, then you are leading in the right direction.
From about 2nd grade to middle school.
At this stage your expectations for your children should have grown with them. They should by now be able to find scriptures on their own, or with little help from you. They should be able to follow along with the sermon and even take notes. One family that I know of makes a list of key words to listen for, then the child takes notes of how many times those words are said. Key words such as God, Jesus, Love, Salvation.
If you want to take it one step further, ask your minister BEFORE the sermon begins for a brief synopsis, then you can make up your list before the worship sermon begins. I highly recommend this page: Worship Notes for Kiddos, for your child during this age. It’s a free printable written by Larissa Holland and available at: mmmcrafts.com
Additionally, who says Bible class materials, free printables, ect. are only for Sunday school. Find good solid materials which are steeped in the word of God and print them to take along for worship training. If you can align it with the sermon all the better. I highly recommend Kids Bible Fun by Debbie Jackson.
Middle School Age:
By the time your child has reached middle school age they should be fully engaged in worship. You should show that you expect and require them to sing, pray, find and follow scriptures on their own. They should by now have a good understanding of the purpose of worship. A time set apart to honor God through reverance, it is a time holy and pleasing to God and not for the purpose of serving man. That isn’t to say we can’t be encouraged and uplifted, but the goal is to magnify the Lord, creator of heaven and earth.
Toys That Do Not Have a Place
Toys that are inappropriate in worship: (Please remember, this is my opinion, you as a parent must decide what you believe is right for your own children.)
- ANYTHING that makes noise! They may be “just children” but noise makers are a distraction to the people sitting around them.
- Anything that distracts your child from the purpose of worship.
- Video games. There I said it. Can you explain to me what part video games has with God? If not, then it doesn’t belong. It also serves as a distraction for those sitting around, it attracts the attention of other children who are perhaps being trained to participate. It simply has no place in the assembly.
- Cell Phones. If your child is privileged with a cell phone, regardless of the age, the phone should be left in the car or at the least in mom’s purse until you return to the car. Yes, I know there are many Bible apps available but consider whether you are setting your child up for temptation to be using the phone for something other than worship, like a Facebook update, or easy video game.
Please remember that I love kids. I love moms. I hope that you find encouragement in your role and know that if you feel like I stepped on your toes it’s only because I want to encourage you to grow in a heart for worship that magnifies God, encourages others around you and to find a heart filled with grace toward training your children to know, love and worship God the Father.
This post is the 6th part of my Training Up in Worship Series.
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