We have three children (ages 4, 7, and 9), and I can hardly make it through church with them! As soon as we sit in the pew, they complain, ?I?m hungry,? or ?I?m bored,? or ?Is it almost over?? They don?t sit still, and I feel that they distract other people. I know that attending church as a family is a good thing, but I am so stressed by the time it?s over! What can I do?
What joyous years you are experiencing as a family! With the joys of these years comes the need for the wisdom of Solomon as you train and guide your children over the humps and bumps of life.
Thoughtful preparation is the key to helping your days go more smoothly. Try some of these ideas:
? Prepare a cloth tote bag (quieter than paper or plastic) with activities and toys that the children do not play with at any other time. This special church bag could hold quiet books, age-appropriate puzzles that are contained within a frame, marking pencils and pens that will write only on special paper, etc. Add a tablet, pencils, and a couple of sticker books. Frequently add something new.
? Choose to sit in a pew where you are not crowded. Children love space.
? Make a list of words that the pastor may use in the sermon, such as ?Jesus,? ?happy,? ?God,? ?church,? ?Bible,? ?Sabbath,? and love. Have the children listen carefully, and each time they hear the word, they should make a mark beside it on their paper. When you get home or in the car, talk about the words and the pastor?s message. This will encourage them to listen each week.
? During family worship have a mini church service, asking the children to assume the roles of the participants of a typical church service. Then discuss the rationale behind each thing done in church. For example: ?Why do we go to church? Why take an offering? What do the words of the hymns mean?? Use this time as an opportunity to teach them different hymns and encourage them to join in singing in church.
? The day before you go to church, have everything prepared. Lay out the clothes the children will wear. Plan for a healthy breakfast so they will not get too hungry before church is over. Remain calm and collected as you all get ready. Children do better when things at home go smoothly.
? ?Sabbath Is a Happy Day? is the song to have in your hearts as you attend church. Glean the tidbits of blessings you can between the times you are attending to your children?s needs.
Evelyn Glass lives with her husband, Darrell, in northwestern Minnesota. Before retiring, Evelyn served as women?s ministries director and family life director for the Mid-America Union. She writes a weekly column on family for her local newspaper and has speaking appointments across the United States and Canada.