Thursday, October 04, 2007

Don't Waste Your Little One's Life in the Pew

Mine and Ben's most recent Sundays of "Worship Care" at our church have been with the 4-year-olds. When we do this our job is to herd the 9 or so children down the hall, up the stairs, and into the front pew just before the service begins at 10:30. We then attempt to facilitate their participation in the first 20 minutes of the service by leading them in sitting or standing or praying or singing, while also preventing them from sitting or standing or praying or talking at the wrong times. This is quite a task for us--a young, childless couple--but I imagine it's difficult for anybody.

Several Sundays I have come home frustrated about this. Not that I don't want to serve in my church or be with children--I love our church, serving my brothers and sisters, and you know I love little ones! But on these Sundays I feel like I'm responsible for something that I am entirely UNABLE to do. How can I, in about 20 minutes, teach the 9 four-year-olds how be reverent, or the much greater goal, teach them to love the worship of God?

Well, I just read this--Noel Piper on teaching young children to be engaged in corporate worship, including the preaching.

Even though I know the necessary training and discipline and consistency for this to happen is HARD, I think it's Biblical and oh so beneficial for the SOULS of our children. I hope that one day our church doesn't even need a 4-year-old "worship care" class!


EmmyJMommy said...

What a terrific article by Mrs. Piper!! Thanks for sharing it! We haven't been ready to bring little boy into the service yet, but this may help us change our mind! We use the "taking notes" approach with Earrings! Unfortunately, we have not been as consistent with it as we should. Maybe a "special" notebook" would help!

Slava Bogu said...

Several years ago, we ordered some little booklets from Desiring God Ministries that talk about teaching your children how to worship. I'll try to see if I can find them and send one to you.

What we did, and I don't proclaim it to be perfect, but it has worked fairly well, is to start them in the evening service at age 4. We let them color or read books, but they have to be pictures of Bible stories or Bible books. We found stuffed animals and other toys/games to be a distraction that might occupy their time but did not help them learn what it means to worship.

Then, in kindergarten they progress to sitting with us in both services. At this point, we are teaching them to read, so we explain the bulletin and guide their fingers in the hymnal. Our children know that we expect them to sing the song if they know it, and to try if they don't. They bring their Bibles and either read them or copy down passages. Until they are a proficient reader, they are allowed picture Bibles.

Once we think they are capable of reading beginning books on their own, we move them up to regular Bibles, but I have to confess that some of the time I felt we did this too soon.

If coloring proved to be a distraction, we stopped allowing them to do this. By the time they had regular Bibles, they would either listen or copy Scripture from the passage we were studying.

Of course, we still struggle at times with their behavior and heart attitude, but I feel in general that they do a fairly good job.

On occasion, after a warning, if poor behavior continues, we take them out to administer correction. I have to say that in the last six months, I can only remember about three occasions of doing that and it has been with the younger children when it has occurred.

At least two of our children enjoy reading their Bibles now, and the other child is coming along in that area.

The other thing we almost always do is ask them some questions after the service about what our pastor taught us and where it is found in the Bible. They know we ask them, so it helps them to pay attention during the service.

Many cultures have children of all ages in with them during the service and the children grow up seeing adults worship God. I guess those congregations are not as easily distracted. I sometimes question how much our culture separates generations. Maybe the problem is we do not want to take the time to teach them or we are too easily distracted. I don't know. On the other hand, there are times when I am grateful to be in a group of adults only where I can focus on what I am learning.

Ok--I have rambled for a while now. Hope it helps.