More than Just Keeping Toddlers Quiet
As Christian families progress in training and teaching their children to love and worship God, we must make preparations for our children to participate with us in corporate worship. For my family and many that we know, our children have been a part of the worship service with us from their birth. We have good friends that have waited until their children were toddlers to have them participate in the worship service. No matter the timing, it is important that we begin by asking ourselves an important question: What is the purpose of your children being in the worship service?
The answer is rather simple, the same purpose as for you and I. All who come into the corporate worship of God are there to worship God and receive His grace, from the youngest to the oldest. God meets with His people to bring grace, healing, change, and formation, and children aren’t excluded from receiving these from God.
It is to our benefit to believe that our children can actually receive and profit from corporate worship beyond learning to be still and quiet. On a personal level, this is what motivated my family to begin including our children in worship from the beginning and what sustains us on the hard days.
As a pastor and parent, I must remember this and keep it before myself and our congregation. If we forget what is most important, we often become despondent and irritable. The same will happen if our only goal for our children in corporate worship is that they be still, quiet and not disturbing to others. However, if my desires are for my children to receive from the Spirit and be formed by God’s Word in worship, then I must rear them to in godly obedience and respect for me, their mother, and the others in the worship service.
Our hearts need to be prepared to meet with God and reflect upon the gift of God’s grace to us within our corporate worship. Keep this near your heart as you prepare yourself and your children to worship. I pray that as you train your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, they will grow up believing the gospel of Christ and will love Him with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.
Here is a list of 22 ways you can help your toddler age children to participate in corporate worship.
- Encourage your kids to squeeze your hand or something similar when thename of God, Christ, or the Holy Spirit is mentioned.
- If your family knows the sermon text beforehand, encourage them to listen for certain things and to then squeeze your hand or something similar when they hear that mentioned.
- Draw a picture of what is being talked about.
- Encourage them to say a short prayer when there is a time of silence.
- If possible or profitable, encourage them to hold an order of worship duringreadings and singing.
- Be near them when there are corporate readings so they can hear you speak.
- Have them say “Amen” after each prayer and Scripture reading.
- Let them hold a Bible for Scripture readings to know that the Word of God is being read.
- Whisper to them as you are transitioning to a different part of the service.
- Encourage them to raise their hands during the doxology.
- Encourage them to hold their hands open during the benediction.
- In a time of corporate prayer, where appropriate, tell them to say the name of a family member, church member, or friend as a prayer.
- Let them put the tithe in the offering plate.
- Give them some change to put in each week during the offering.
- Only let them bring one, no more than two items to church. More items allow for more distractions.
- Limit snacks and drinks during the worship service.
- Make bathroom visits before the service.
- Sit closer to the front. Sitting further back can increase distractions for the children
- Limit Saturday activities and go to bed early to be rested for worship
- Remind the kids on Saturday night and Sunday morning that they will soon be worshipping God.
- Pray for the worship service every Saturday night or Sunday morning.
- Read a Psalm about worship Saturday night or Sunday morning.
I want to acknowledge and give clarity that I am by no means condemning those churches and families that make use of a nursery for younger children. Convictions among God’s people differ on this particular issue and even differ within those that have the same convictions about the practicalities. Whatever your church and family situation or belief, I hope this will be helpful for those whose younger children participate in the worship service.