II Timothy 3:15 “And that from a child though hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation…”
As of last year, my wife and I no longer have any children in preschool. But over the course of the years in raising our four kids, we learned some valuable lessons about preschoolers and church that will help you answer the question, “How can I keep my preschooler seated during church?”
While we strongly encourage parents to involve their children in age-appropriate programs like Sunday School and Children’s Church, we also believe that preschool is the perfect time to train your children to sit with the family in “Big Church” for other services when children’s programming is not provided.
Here are 3 tips to help the parents of preschoolers when it comes to church:
1. REINFORCE your investment
You invest much into taking your kids to church. You make sure they always take a Saturday night bath, get to bed on time, put on their Sunday best, and fix their hair just right. But what we say nonverbally about the importance of church ought to be reinforced verbally as well.
If you’re going to invest all that time and energy into getting them ready for church, why not maximize your return on investment by reinforcing it when you get home? One of the best ways to do this is discussing the day and what was learned over lunch.
Some of my favorite memories over the dinner table are Sunday afternoons when we’ve asked our kids what they learned in Sunday School or Children’s Church that day. Nobody in the world can tell the story of Jonah and the Whale or the Serpent in the Garden of Eden like a preschooler. Sometimes you even learn interesting details about the story that you didn’t even know were there. 🙂
And the neat thing is that when they anticipate that you’re going to ask them about it, they will listen even that much better.
“Nothing makes a story stick in the mind of a child like it coming across their own lips as they retell it.”
You’ll be surprised at what your little genius remembers about what they’ve learned if you’ll just ask them.
2. Use “BIG CHURCH” as a teaching and training tool
I really believe that “Big Church” is a great tool to use in the training process of a preschooler. Many parents shy away from taking their preschoolers into big church because they don’t think they know how to act in the adult service, but that is exactly why they need to be in there.
It’s kind of like a parent wanting their child to learn how to swim, but never allowing them to get in the water, because they’re afraid they’ll drown. All they need is to get in with some good, adult supervision.
Teaching your preschooler how to sit in a church service is not a small chore and takes many weeks if not months of patience, firmness, and yes, discipline. But not only will it benefit you and your child, the children’s workers will appreciate it too when your child knows how to better behave in kids’ church as well. 🙂
Don’t worry so much about protecting your image as a parent that you fail to do what is in the best interest of your child. Remember that you are developing life-long character and disciplines right there in the church pew that will benefit you, your church, and your child for years to come.
“Big Church” for a preschooler ought not just be a place for coloring and napping, it ought to be viewed as a training ground.
That can happen when a parent makes their expectations clear, states the consequences, and then follows through when they are broken.
There were many times when our kids got taken out of church while saying, “I’ll be good now, daddy.” But once we came back into the service, we didn’t have any more problems. And as we stayed consistent, things continued to improve weekly.
Unfortunately, many Christian parents are too afraid to put their foot down and hold their children accountable in church, and consequently, the children are the ones who end up controlling the parents.
3. Involve them BEFORE they understand
One of the big mistakes that many parents make is waiting to train their kids to do certain things because “well, they’re just not old enough to understand yet.”
If you are a parent of a preschooler, I would strongly encourage you to train them NOW. Train them to give in the offering, to shake people’s hands at church, and to take their Bible with them to “Big Church.” They need to learn now that “Big Church” is a place for little people too!
If nothing else, you’re setting yourself and them up for an easier success in the coming years. You’ll never regret teaching your kids how to act in church. With our family of six, it’s a blessing not to have to dread sitting through a church service together, but to be able to sit and worship the Lord together without any worries.
We went through the uncomfortable and painful process with each one of our children, but I can tell you that the results are so worth it. Your consistency will pay off.
“Don’t wait for them to understand to teach them, teach them and then wait for them to understand.”
It just makes good sense.
Getting through the preschool years can be a blessing or a curse, and a springboard or a roadblock to future growth. It’s really up to us as the parents. Just remember that if handled correctly, the difficulties of today will provide great dividends tomorrow.
What do you find is your greatest struggle with your preschooler in church? I’d love to hear your questions or comments.