Children in church services… bored and disengaged. Or so it seems. Indeed, some people think children don’t belong in church services. After all, they can’t understand what’s going on. They should be in their own children’s program that relates to them, right?
I happen to be one of those who believe children can and should be with the family in the church service. And thanks to the creative thinking of people like Linda Weddle, it doesn’t have to be a boring, unproductive experience. Linda reminds us that we grandparents can truly matter in something as basic as going to church… together!
(Cavin Harper, Legacy Coalition Editor)
Something I’ve always enjoyed is sitting next to my grandchildren in church and drawing stick figures of what the pastor was preaching. I’m not an artist, but I did well enough to communicate what was happening. Or (as they grew older) I gave them a piece of paper numbered one to 10 and had them write down 10 phrases they heard the pastor say. Once I even did this at a funeral sitting with three “I’d-rather-be-anywhere-but-here” kids (their parents were doing the music). I gave them each a page which had spaces for 10 words and two lines for them to write down the titles of songs we sang. This kept them busy throughout the service.
I remember one particular Sunday morning, sitting next to the six-year-old at her father’s church. The sermon was a complicated one, but she followed along with me as I drew one picture after the next. Sometimes she whispered a question or a comment. As the service came to an end, she took the paper from me and wrote at the bottom. “I can’t read it, but I believe it.”
That service happened 10 years ago, and the little girl is now 16 and still taking notes in church. (I don’t take credit for this – her parents encourage it.) But I still have the paper with the stick figures portraying the difference between the Old and New Testament with the six-year-old’s scrawl at the bottom.
Is this something you could do with your grandchildren? This would work with a child who is used to coming to church, but also for a grandchild who only attends church when he is visiting you. Drawing and copying words can keep them occupied and engaged.
For younger children –
*Supply pencil and paper.
*Make sure you have a hard writing surface.
*Draw simple figures which communicate the message (unless you’re truly an artist and can draw complicated scenes).
*Include simple words they can understand: love, sin, Bible, etc.
For young elementary children –
*Give them paper with blank spaces for them to write phrases they hear the pastor say, or the names of the songs you sing.
*Encourage them to draw their own pictures of what the pastor is saying.
*Allow them to copy your own notes.
For older elementary children –
*Continue to allow them to copy your notes.
*Encourage them to write down references of verses used. (They might enjoy copying the verse out of a Bible. If your church uses a video screen, the verse will probably not be up there long enough for a child to copy the words.)
*Buy them a three-ring binder where they may store their notes.
*Put the date, pastor’s name, etc. on each page, so they can someday look back at what they wrote.
Communicating the message to the child sitting next to you not only keeps him occupied, but also encourages him to be a lifelong listener and note taker.
Linda is the author of thirteen books, and several hundred short stories and articles. For the past twenty-three years she has worked at Awana as a writer. She is the mom of two grown kids and six keeping-life-interesting grandkids.