Children can do some really funny things in church. When I was teaching the five year-old Sunday school class I remember asking my students how we get to go to heaven. A little girl raised her hand confidently. Her answer?
That remembrance still makes me laugh!
Sometimes, though, the things children do in church aren’t so funny – especially if you’re the parent. I’m not sure if there’s anything more stressful or humiliating for a parent than trying to teach their little one to sit quietly anywhere, but especially at church. Your child gets fidgety and talkative just the time there’s a need for quiet, right? We’ve all been there, and I want to encourage you that there is hope!
I’ve blogged about this before, but I just felt the need to rehearse a few ideas about teaching your child to sit through a church service.
Train them. Talk to them before you leave home. Tell them what is going to happen when you get there. Remind them that you’re going so you can worship God and learn more about him!
Will they be going to Sunday school? Remind them that you’ll be back to pick them up.
Tell them what kind of behavior you expect from them while they’re in class.
Will they go to Pastor’s Pals or up front to sing with the children? Prepare them for what you expect.
Fortify them. Feed them a nourishing breakfast to hold them over through the service time.
Equip them. Pack a bag to take to church. Keep it only for church times and fill it with quiet books, crayons, etc. that will help them to listen if they’re old enough. They could draw a picture of something pastor is talking about. If they’re older, they might have a special book to write down important words he hears in the message.
Help them. Don’t bring or give them sugary drinks or snacks – you’ll only be making it more impossible for them to sit still!
Reward them. I read about one mom who played the “Seat game.” After training her two children to sit quietly in church, their mom told them they could sit one row in front of the parents next week since they’d done so well. Each week that they obeyed and sat quietly and obediently, they all moved up one row. Eventually they were seated on rows two and three! You obviously couldn’t do this with really young children, but it would might be a great incentive for school-aged children.
Discipline them. If your child misbehaves, don’t wait for it to get better and stay in the service where they’re causing a ruckus! Take them out immediately and deal with it, and deal with it in a way that they won’t want it repeated. If they get to go out and run around the foyer, they’ll learn that this is more of a reward than a punishment!
Model for them. Encourage worship. By your example of engaging in the singing and worship, teach them to follow your lead! Sing! Pray! Open your Bible! Take notes!
Praise them. Be sure to review the service on the way home. Applaud their good behavior and obedience!
Warn them. Deal with the disobedience and use it as a teaching tool for the next service and warn them about what will take place if this happens again.
Training, training, training. This must be consistent and loving. It also really, really helps if you attend regularly. Sporadic attendance will lose any training! When this is every week, several times a week, they’ll get it!
This takes time, of course, but you probably won’t be getting called to their classroom nearly as often for behavior issues! Instead, the teacher will pull you aside to ask what you’re doing at home that’s made such a difference. Oh, she may also tell you about the hilarious thing your child said to her in class that day!