I’ve probably posted on this topic before, but I received another email asking for tips on teaching children to sit in church, and I assume that email represents many others who haven’t asked.
As I’ve said, we go to a family-integrated church where it is the norm for families to sit together, so it helps that the children serve as peer influences on each other. “Everyone else is doing it.”
But here are some things we’ve done, some of which were given to me by older women:
After we pass the nursing stage (while nursing, I usually try to go back in after feeding, though sometimes I stay if baby is sleeping as we have a speaker in the cry room), we have the smallest ones sit on mine or my husband’s lap. Gentle, whispering reminders serve to explain what’s expected (Shhh…we’re praying. Be still…)
Someone mentioned in yesterday’s thread that the real training takes place at home, and I believe that to be true. If the children are basically obedient and obey voice commands, church training follows fairly easily.
However, between the ages of 12 mo. and 2 years the training can be the most intense. This is where a child, after proper voice commands, would be taken out for disipline. The important thing is to bring him right back in. If it persists, there would be a limit to the number of times I would take a child out for the sake of disruption, but I would certainly make a note of the areas of training lacking at home in this case and try to practice. Sometimes a squeeze on the leg and a low whisper is all you need. By the way, in most cases, my husband takes a child out.
If you take a disruptive child out to let him play, I believe it slows down and even hinders the process. You’re only training him to know that misbehavior has a reward.
(With all that said, if this is a new thing, give yourself, and your child some grace. Take it slow. Set timed goals (half the service) and reward for meeting those. Work on sitting still at home while someone reads. Make sure they’ve gotten plenty of sleep, and consider whether he doesn’t feel well. Don’t get discouraged!)
Another tip I got from my friend:
If you are struggling with a child, take him just outside the service–maybe in the foyer–with a chair facing the sanctuary. Sit in that chair and pay attention as you would if you were in the service. Use the same voice commands and discipline as before. This way, it is less disruptive, the child is practicing, and you are maintaining your expectations and not just taking him out to “give up”.
Some families give their young children special books or drawing pads just for church. I also think it’s important to talk about expectations and the meaning of worship before you go in. It’s an excellent way to emphasize the reverence with which we are to approach the place of worship.
Stay tuned for some challenging thoughts from others on family worship.