How do you prepare your kids for a worship service? And this is also the antithesis or the opposite of this is the problem that this comes from, which is a lot of us, don’t always know how to do this. Some of our churches are all different. Our ages of our kids are different and there’s a lot of different ways to go about it.
So, Jeremy, how would you lay this out in a framework?
Yeah. So you guys know that we are big fans of keeping the family together. And so what happens oftentimes in churches is that everyone just goes to their own same age group during church services.
And so if you decide to try to keep your kids with you during worship service, or you want to really experience more, we do worship in the home where we have the same philosophy I’m going to lay out to you guys, the way that we think about how do we engage kids in worship?
Well, the first thing is we often break kids into one of three categories. So there’s pre trained, trained, and our training and trained. So those are the three categories.
So kids are either pre-trained, which is they’re really little. You don’t have a lot of optimism you’re going to be able to help this child at this stage, get to the worship service. So that’s when we go to the childcare options. But as soon as possible, we try to move kids from that stage into training. So from pre-trained in a training.
During this phase, what we recommend is that you have one child per adult. And so the adult is primarily thinking through that worship time, how can I train my child to really get something out of this worship time and engage in a way that they’re not disruptive and that can be quite a process. Sometimes they might fall back into pre-training, but that’s what you’re trying to do during this phase.
And then once they’re trained, then they enter into that third stage. And I was thinking a lot about this. I read a quote from this guy, Robbie Castleman. He wrote a really interesting book called “Parenting in the Pew,” which I thought was interesting. And he says in that book, “there’s a big difference between worship BC and AD. Worship before children and after diapers.” I’ve heard more than a few parents confess, “I used to get more out of church before I had kids, but the bigger issue is what does God get out of? Worship is good for God. Worship concerns itself with His pleasures, His benefit, His good. Worship is the exercise of our souls in blessing God. In the Psalms we read over and over, bless the Lord, all my soul. However, our chief concern is usually, bless my soul Oh Lord. Children can infringe on our worship experience. I know more than a few parents who have resented the distractions ushered into the Pew by the presence of their children. Many just give up. However, children do not have to interfere with God’s experience of worship. Worship is first a blessing to God and He values the presence and praise of children.”
And one of the ideas that came out of this, which I thought was really interesting is that during the training phase, one mother would take her child to the worship service, to the worship sanctuary during the week. And she would actually do a training in the sanctuary. And then she let her child check everything out. The pulpit or whatever’s going on in your church, the baptismal. Oftentimes if there was someone on staff, then she would have them come out and explain things to her child.
Again, I love this idea of staying together as a family. I know it’s hard. I know there are seasons where maybe it’s not practical, but I think it’s really important to try to do it. And I think oftentimes the reason why we don’t do it is that there’s not a culture of training children and there’s not a culture of staying together as a family. So I know Jeff, you guys have wrestled with this one, right?
Yeah. I think another helpful way to think about it too, is I’ve noticed, there’s and I actually like if you think about, you have the before children, you have after diapers, there’s actually that missing group, which is the zero to two years old or zero to three years old. And I think that’s sometimes helpful to give that caveat because at some level, sometimes that age is, it’s a little more laborious to get them trained in this season. And so I think just give yourself grace and remember that the kids are going to grow out of that age and then also your training is going to take them out of that stage.
And so you’re facing a trajectory, you’re going towards a direction and that’s been helpful for us because there is some stages where it’s a little bit more, every week doesn’t feel that enjoyable because it’s just the training. But like you said, there’s a different perspective. You have to shift your perspective, not only on the family training, but also what’s the purpose of worship. Why are we here? It’s to worship God together as a unit and us just even attempting or being here or being present, is an act in and of itself of worship. And so that’s a huge reminder for us.
But the goal is always, we want to be together. We want to be integrated. And so we don’t put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We just say, is everything we’re doing right now pointing there. That’s the best thing I would say is. Are you pointing that direction? Because I think a lot of times some families actually put too much pressure on themselves and it just starts to become stressful and intense and ridiculous. And it’s like, no, it is what it is. You’re in the season you’re in. It’s messy and it’s difficult. Are you pointed in a right direction. If you are, it’ll get there. Most people, if you’re pointing in the right direction, you keep going that direction. And so that’s one thing I would say.
And then lastly, what I would say too is just remind yourself, do you actually believe this is important? Ask yourself, do you believe this is important? Because it takes some intentionality beforehand, like Jeremy said of going around, pointing out things, explaining it. And it works wonders to just explain to your kid, this is what’s about to happen. This is what it’s going to look like. This is what I expect from you. That alone can solve 90% of your problems. And so if you think about that, I think that would make a big difference.
And I just would say constantly talk to your kids during the training phase. That’s when you maybe want to sit towards the back of the church, if you’re afraid of distracting people. And I’ve noticed a lot of families that have gotten through the training phase and into the trained phase, they actually want to sit closer to the front so their child feels like they’re more engaged. I think that’s an interesting, but yeah, this is a really big topic and tons of grace for anything you’re going to try to do to keep your family together during the week.