Kids in Worship? – One Family’s Story (Part 1)

Originally published on Maximizing Days blog
(Original title: “Why We Make Our Kids Sit with Us in Church”)


Bethel Church’s vision can be summarized in the phrase, “Faith@Home.” Part of this happens through connecting what we do on Sunday morning with the way we live our life at home, in our neighborhoods and at work. Below is a post that was written by Kristin Christenson about her family and why they bring their kids to worship services. It’s hard, but as you’ll read below, it has made an impact.


Read PART 2 HERE

A lot of kids go through a “why?” phase where they ask why about EVERYTHING. Our son’s version of it is “Doing here?” Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing, my two year-old son asks “Doing here?”.

Approximately 762 times a day.

But while we were sitting in church a few weeks ago my son looked up at me and asked “Doing here?”, and my unfiltered (silent) response was “I have no idea. At the moment, all I’m doing here is arbitrating crayons and rationing fruit snacks.”

In our home, my husband and I prioritize teaching our children the truths of the Bible. When our daughter was born, we decided that meant making a conscience effort to have our children sit in church with us. We want them to know how to sit in church, what goes on and what is expected of them. And we want to include them in our worship habits.

We think about it from the ‘If they don’t learn it now, then when?’ perspective. We would rather have worshipping as a family be something that we’ve just always done rather than make a shift at some point.

That being said, there are many Sundays when I think, “Is this really worth it?”
My daughter is 4 ½ and my son is 2½, and for the first time since my daughter was born, we are starting to see glimpses of the fruits of our labors.

Recognizing Bible Stories

A few weeks ago, our pastor was preaching and mentioned John the Baptist. My son dropped his crayon, looked up from his coloring and shouted “John the Baptist!” with such excitement in his eyes. The story of the John the Baptist is the one my son chooses almost every night at bed time. I would have never guessed that he was even aware that someone, somewhere was talking, but my son was listening. And when he heard what he recognized, he made sure that we knew it. Hearing someone else tell the story that my son reads each night from his Bible gives it credibility and helps my son understand that the Bible isn’t just another one of our books with silly stories and characters.

Bible Familiarity

In our church, the sermon usually starts with reading a passage of Scripture, and we have our kids read it with us. Neither of them can actually read, but we run our finger along the words to keep them engaged. Recently, once the scripture reading is done, my son has started taking the Bible and flipping through it. He points out numbers and letters and gets excited about what he finds.

He can’t read the words in front of him, but he’s gaining familiarity and comfort with God’s Word. We call that a win.

Church & Home Integration

Every night, before we leave our kids room, my husband and I pray the Benediction (“May the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May He lift up His countenance and give you His peace. In the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit, Amen – Numbers 6:24-26) over each of our kids. And every Sunday church ends with our Pastor praying that same prayer over us as a congregation.

Last month, as our Pastor was saying those words, my daughter looked at me and said “Mom! That’s what you say!”.

I had to laugh.

She’s heard one of us pray that over her every night since she can remember, and she’s heard it almost every Sunday of her life, and just now, she connects the dots.

We’re starting to get the same reaction when we sing songs in church that we also sing at home. That look in my kids’ eyes when they realize that what we’re talking about and teaching is bigger than just our family is our home is priceless.

Service

One of the ways that my husband serves at church is by being an usher. Our daughter is SUPER shy and is legitimately afraid to talk to anyone to whom she is not related. But she will “help” Dad usher. She stands next to him, hands out bulletins and greets complete strangers (to her) as they enter the sanctuary. The combined comforts of standing next to her Dad in a safe and familiar setting gives her the degree of comfort she needs to see that even she, a shy 4 year-old girl, has gifts that can be used to serve God.

Prayer Warriors

My husband was born and raised in the church that we attend. Many of the people who sit in the pews around us remember when he was my kids’ age. And many of those people have come up to us afterward and told us that they are praying for us and our family. I’ve never asked what it is, exactly, that they’re praying for. If it’s that my children don’t throw temper tantrums or that I don’t lose my mind for the hour we sit there, then it is – MOSTLY – working.

But I have a hunch that it’s something more. These people are praying for my children’s hearts. For their futures. For their parents (they can tell that we really need it).

I had this ah-ha moment a while back when a nearly 90 year-old lady came to tell me – again – that she prays for us when she’s sees us in church. She said, “when I see you sitting there, I’m reminded to pray for your family.” I thought, “Wow, well, if that’s the only thing we get out of coming to church, that just might be worth it!”

Teachable Moments

Occasionally, my kids will notice something that we’re doing in church and ask why. Last week, my daughter looked at my communion wafer and asked what it was. I could have poo-pooed it and given her some trite answer, but, by God’s grace, I took advantage of that opportunity to explain to her that we celebrate communion as way of remembering that Jesus gave his body (the cracker) and his blood (the grape juice) to pay the price for our sin.

She nodded along, and when I finished, said “Okay”, then went on with her coloring. Did she understand what I said? Probably not. But did that conversation lay the foundation for her to know that whenever she has a question about what’s going on around her or in church, that she can come ask me and we can talk about it? I sure hope so.

Both my husband and I used to volunteer with high school students at our church, and we had the privilege of seeing things “click” for students as we studied the Bible.

More often than not, we weren’t telling the kids something that they hadn’t heard before. But, because it came from someone other than Mom or Dad, the students heard it with a different legitimacy.

We want the church and the people we see there every week to be that which legitimizes what we’re teaching at home. And in order to do that, our kids have to participate in church.

I think now would be a good time to insert the disclaimer that I am not, in any way, opposed to church nurseries. Our kids have gone to the nursery, we have volunteered in the nursery. As a part-time employee of our church, I am in charge of our church nursery. It is a necessary tool for ministry. But our default is not putting our kids in the nursery.

We start each Sunday with the mindset and expectation that we will attend church together. And then we adjust when necessary.

I will say this; Over time, it has become a lot less necessary.

> READ PART 2 HERE (So how do we do this?)


Kristin Christenson
Children’s Ministries Coordinator
Bethel Lutheran Church
Blog: Maximizing Days


Originally published on Maximizing Days blog
(Original title: “Why We Make Our Kids Sit with Us in Church”)