As a parent of two children (including an almost-teenager), I know that sometimes getting children to worship on Sundays can be a struggle (especially so when there is little in the worship services which acknowledges their presence, and there are few other attendees their age). In the face of negativity it may seem tempting to simply give up – to avoid the fights and stay home more Sundays than not. But is there another way? Are there some positive steps that can be taken to cultivate more positive Sunday family worship experiences? Here are some suggestions drawn from my own journey:
- In a time of relative calm (Sunday morning is not likely to be one of those), explain to your children why you value Sunday worship attendance. In my family, worship attendance is a “family value”, something we do because it is core to our identity as a household under God. Yes, while worship may sometimes be unfulfilling, our attendance is an act of thankful obedience to God who serves us despite our often “boring” behavior towards him and others. He is 100% faithful to us, and going to worship is a symbol of our desire (however faltering) to be faithful towards Him and our fellow Christians.
- Make practical preparations in advance (e.g the evening before) so that possible tension points are removed from your Sunday “getting ready” time. Set out clothes, your church offerings and other bits and pieces that you take along with you. Pave the way for a smooth bed-to-pew transition.
- Look for tools and aids that can make your children’s overall experience of worship more interesting. For little children, take along a bag of “church toys” (avoid noisy ones). Primary school age children can bring along Bible story books or Bible story coloring pages. Older children and teenagers can bring along their own Bibles and/or hymnbooks.
- Actively guide your children through the worship services. Bring along Bibles from home and help your children locate the readings. If you use hymnbooks, help them find the correct pages and help them “track” with the song words.
- Make it your goal to memorize with your children some of the “standard” parts of the worship service to enhance their participation. My younger daughter is very proud to have memorized the Apostles’ Creed and makes a definite point of joining in every time it is recited in worship.
- Be proactive in helping your children develop relationships with others in your church family. Ask other adults in your congregation to welcome your children and to engage with them. You may even ask them to sit with you for the sake of your children.
- Look for ways your children can actively participate in worship services e.g. as lectors, acolytes, lead singers, ushers. If necessary, be an advocate for them. Challenge your Pastor or your church leaders to find ways to regularly involve children.
- Build positive family traditions around Sunday worship e.g. go out for a meal afterwards or have a special lunch at home.
- Model a positive worshipful attitude yourself! If parents are not engaged worshippers, their children are unlikely to become so.
Do you have other suggestions to add to this list? Your comments are welcome … !