Worship is well under way when it begins: A restless child has been thwarted from some contraband he craves, and he begins to cry. It begins low and soft and crescendos into a full-blown wail. Somehow, the preacher, with his mature lungs and microphone cannot compete with the little fellow’s howl. Neighbors stir restlessly. Surreptitious glances are cast his way; when will he stop? Will his overwhelmed mom be able to handle this?
Can I make this point as clear as a bell? I want junior to come to church. I want him here! What better place is there for the little fellow to be? Jesus wants him there too: “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).
That mom, struggling with one, two or more tykes needs to know the ruler of all the universe wants her child here, in worship. She also needs to know that the majority of people making that surreptitious look in her direction are smiling with understanding and compassion. Most of them are parents and grandparents. They know, and they are on your side.
But can I say something delicate, please? She must also be conscious of training him to be in worship. Training implies doing something consistently, over and over again, until character is formed.
Some practical ideas for training junior, or his sister:
* When you must take them outside, make their time outside less pleasant than inside. You don’t want them to learn the “valuable” lesson that making a ruckus brings the reward of playing with toys in the nursery.
* Start on Saturday. Lay out clothes for next day, prep a simple healthy breakfast (not donuts or sugary cereal) get the whole family to bed so all are rested in the morning.
* Talk about what worship is and your expectations of each child according to age before you get there. A 2 year old can be quiet and stay in your pew; a 4 year old can wait until sermon to look at books or color; a 7 year old can open a hymn book and write something about the sermon or copy a Bible passage.
* Pack a church bag that they only get in to at worship. Keep it up and away so it has things that are not “old.” Include such things as Bible coloring books and Bible puzzles. A little snack for small ones especially on a Sunday morning help them keep quiet.
* Be firm but merciful. Don’t make church become a battleground but also help them learn to respect God and others. Don’t let them turn around and “entertain” the people in the rows behind.
* Daily family devotions are good practice for corporate worship. In that setting you can correct some things that are bound to come up in worship.
I don’t know about you, but my children and grandchildren are by a galaxy the most precious things I have; I want them to learn to worship God. Mom, I know you do, too. Let’s accomplish this together.