On Monday, December 24th, here @ The Bridge, we will be hosting our Christmas Eve Candlelight & Communion Celebration beginning at 5:30pm. This will be a family friendly worship experience with childcare provided only for children less than 3 years old. We encourage everyone to take advantage of this special time set aside to celebrate the birth of our Savior!
Being a family-friendly worship experience (it will be about a 75 minute experience), I want to remind every one of some simple rules to insure we maximize the impact of this experience. My goal is to help parents, grandparents, guardians, caregivers, anyone with children participating in this experience, to allow this time to be an awesome celebration environment. Now…don’t get me wrong…this is not a “pick on parents” post (because I am one too)…this post is merely intended to help you get the most out of the experience with your family.
What’s the concern…
In a nutshell…here it is…
Above the chorus of crinkling wrappers, cell phones ringin’, people tappin’ out a text or “tweet”, and the many other distractions, the sound of children ring loudest through a congregation….and if you could hear the grumblings after services, many of those concerns involve some loud child in the back who prevented them from hearing the message.
We all know that it can be difficult to maintain a proper mindset for worship even with minimal distractions. But…when children are allowed to continually cry, talk (loudly), play with noisy toys, beat or kick the chairs, run from person to person, etc…it can become nearly impossible to maintain a spirit-focused mindset.
Think about this…what if it was your child that was the one who distracted someone, perhaps an unbelieving or unlearned guest, to the point that worship was not realized?
I understand…I truly “get it” (I have a toddler too)…it’s a lot to ask of a young child to remain quiet and be still for over an hour. Young children are energetic and need a little wiggle room (to fidget…not to run up and down the aisles)…but they must have distinct boundaries. So, think about their behavior…would you let them act that way at a restaurant, or the grocery store, or the library, or the doctor’s office? If not, why then would you allow it in the church during a worship celebration?
Just like great baseball players are not made in the bleachers…ballet dancing is not learned by remote control…so too children learn to worship by worshiping…through preparation, practice, participation, and patience.
So…to help you help us make this the best Christmas Eve Worship Experience yet…here are a few tips/guidelines.
Before the service
Just like training a baby to sit and eat in a high chair is a slow, messy, often inefficient process that can try your patience…training a child to sit in corporate worship can be slow, messy and patience trying. But we must keep the bigger picture in mind. We are called by God as their parents to train them how to worship our God!
Here are some practical tips you can use:
- Obedience starts at home: If your children don’t obey you at home, how can you expect them to obey you in public?
- Practice at home: Have short times of family devotion/worship. This is your training ground. This is where they will learn to sit still for prayer, reading of Scripture, etc. This takes time and consistency before you will see fruit. Persevere!!
- Explain the parts of worship: Explain who is up front and what you will be doing and why (as best you can for your child’s age).
- Explain to your child the expectations of behavior and consequences of disobedience.
- Pray for and with your child(ren) before worship.
- Have children use the toilet before worship.
- Bring bag for each child with quiet activities to be pulled out during the sermon (i.e.: small children’s Bible, pencil, notepad) as well as change for the offering.
During the service
Children tend to meet your expectations as a parent. If you expect then to sit quietly and behave, they will do so. It may take them a few tries (or trips outside)…but once you’ve shown you’re serious, you will see behavior change.
Here are some tips for the service:
- Expect your child to participate in worship. He can stand (and sing) when songs are sung, he can close his eyes during prayers. He can give during the time of offering.
- Thoughtfully choose your location in the worship center in order to slip out without too much notice if need be.
- Stop Worrying: Many parents are concerned about what other parents or members of the congregation think of their parenting skills or how annoyed someone else is with their child’s fidgeting during the service. DON’T!
We need to commit as a congregation to welcome children into our services. This means that not only do our children have to adjust, but so do the adults. In reality…it’s adults who have to adjust the most! We need to learn to have a little more tolerance on this front. If a baby is a little fussy, papers are rustling, or a few things are dropping on the floor it is o.k. As a congregation…we need to willingly and joyfully join in this great privilege of welcoming our covenant children into corporate worship. And that takes some minor adjusting on our part.
- Be Consistent: It will take time for your children to learn how to sit still, sing the songs, etc. Be consistent in your expectations and desires for them during the service.
- Do Not be Overzealous: Be patient with your children and shower them with grace. It takes children time to adjust and different children adjust or accept on different time tables. Your child may come into the service and sit attentively and quietly or you may have to help your child with this for months or even years. Be patient! Love them and do not compare them to other children. God has blessed you with this little bundle of joy!
In support of these points…here are some “things to avoid” for parents of young children:
- Don’t sit in the front or middle, but rather the back of the auditorium, near a quick and unnoticed exit.
- Don’t let your little one disturb the service. Remove him when he begins to be disruptive.
- Don’t take a toy box in your purse. A few small and quiet toys may be needed initially. Try to avoid developing a dependency in your child of being entertained during worship.
- Don’t let the baby entertain others. Let’s face it, babies are cute. Other adults can be distracted in a fun way by little ones. Even if your child is not making noise, they can be a distraction.
- Don’t turn a necessary trip outside the auditorium into a pleasant experience…or else the child may feel he is being rewarded for behavior that is actually unacceptable! A simple solution is to pick a room out of earshot of the sanctuary where absolutely no activity is going on. Hold your little one firmly on your lap until he realizes a quiet room is more boring than an auditorium.
- Don’t take your baby to a play-time or snack situation when you’ve had to remove her from the worship service. She will never forget it…and she will remember how to get there! You will create a self-replicating problem by doing this!
- Don’t be discouraged by early difficulty. It takes time to train. This training will pay off in a short while, though.
After the service
When you leave the service and are on the way home, affirm your children. Ask them questions about the service and relay how the Lord blessed you. Encourage your children if they were well-behaved and let them know how wonderful it was to worship alongside of them.
Let me close with this…
The greatest stumbling block for children in worship is that their parents don’t cherish that time. Children can feel the difference between duty and delight. Therefore…the first and most important job of a parent is to fall in love with the worship of God.
Remember this…you can’t impart what you don’t possess.
See you there…Enjoy the Service!
That’s what I got for today…
God Bless…and thanks for reading along!!!
BridgeKidz Children’s Ministry
Ironbridge Baptist Church