Almost every week without fail, it takes about three hours to get my three young children and me to worship—from when I wake up Sunday morning to when I (barely) make it out the door. I spend more time getting ready for our worship service than in the service itself.
Attending Worship with Young Children
Lately, we arrive at church about twenty minutes before the service. That gives me time to get my infant fed and settled and the older two to the bathroom (and maybe a donut, if they’re lucky) before we head to our seats for the service. After the service, it takes another twenty minutes to clean up, get our jackets on, and buckle the kids into their car seats before we head home. We put in around four hours of work to worship in person for one hour.
I am a little mentally exhausted just putting those words into writing.
The other scenario is when we watch worship from home. We, like many, have navigated building closures, quarantines, and high COVID-19 infection rates in our county. Because of this, we sometimes choose to stream our church’s service at home. Sunday mornings at home certainly require less time getting ready. But there is often more of a mental effort on my part to help my family intentionally focus on Scripture readings, songs, and a sermon when they can easily grab a toy or run into the kitchen and become distracted at a moment’s notice.
The Importance of Bringing Kids to Worship
I paint these pictures for two reasons. First, I want to help you see what a young family works through to show up at church for worship. If you are a parent of young children, I am in this season alongside you. If your children have grown up, let this be a brief reminder of what that season holds.
Second, I want to remind you that God’s Word does not return empty. There is fruit in worship, no matter how many hours we spend getting ready to go to church and driving back home. The small seeds of faith planted each week from the sounds of other believers, familiar words, liturgies, creeds, Scripture truths, and the very body and blood of Jesus Christ do not return to us empty.
John 14:6 reminds us of the power of knowing Christ. Jesus tells us, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” I want my children to know Jesus more than I want our Sunday mornings to be easy. Here are a few ideas we use to help our kids know Jesus better, even as we rush out the door to church.
Fill In the Blank
Practice the Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer together. Start by having them repeat phrases back to you. Then try having them fill in the blank. “Our Father who art in _________.” Keeping up with the cadence of the creeds or the Lord’s Prayer with a group of people can be difficult for little ones. I will often get on the same level as my kids during those parts of the service and help clue them in so they can say the words with the rest of the congregation.
Guessing the Gospel Reading
On the way to church each Sunday, we like to guess which of the four Gospels will be read in church. This helps give children something to listen for during the service. It is also a good opportunity to go over the organization of the Bible. Here are some questions I use with my little ones as we drive:
- What are the two parts of the Bible?
- Can you think of the name of one book you know in the Old Testament?
- What about in the New Testament? We call the first four books of the New Testament the Gospels.
- Which four books make up the Gospels?
- Which one do you think we will hear in church today?
Before the Gospel is read, I remind my kids what they guessed. It gives them an easy way to clue back in to what is happening in the service as they listen to see if their guess was correct.
Take Turns Talking
Going over what to expect during a worship service with your kids can easily feel like a long list of opportunities to tell them you do not want them to talk or make noise (Hi, sermon!). I have found it helpful to frame the rhythm of the service as different people get turns to talk.
Before church, I might ask my kids, “Do you have to be quiet for the whole worship service?” Then we discuss who gets to take turns talking and when we might have an opportunity to talk. We also discuss movement during a church service. “Do you have to sit still for the whole worship service?” No! We sit and stand at different times. Or we dance if a song is playing. I have these conversations with my kids so they will want to participate in worship.
Share One Memory
Later in the day, we try to let everyone share one thing they remember from the worship service. Then we celebrate that memory. Often, these are not profound memories. They might be as basic as remembering what the pastor preached or a word they recognized in a Scripture reading (I heard the word foot at church today.). This allows my husband and me to share our worship experience with our kids and let them hear us process and reflect what we take away each Sunday.
Bibles within Reach
This idea is not specific to worship, but lately, I have started putting a couple of kid’s story Bibles next to each kid’s car seat so they can grab them anytime we are driving. Having God’s Word at their fingertips has motivated them to want to read Scripture. They look at pictures and want to know more about what is happening on the pages in their hands.
Help your little ones understand the routine and rituals at church. Read Whisper, Whisper: Learning About Church together to help reinforce learning about church routine.