This week you get a bonus post! We’re excited to have a guest post written by friends Matt and Nancy Oliver. Matt and Nancy are parents and fellow church pastor and wife in the mighty North East! We hope you enjoy their thoughts on how they encourage their kids to engage with Sunday church meetings.
There’s a song that goes something like this:
“We are Kingdom kids
Kids of the Kingdom
We make Jesus Christ number 1 in our lives…”
Jesus said “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Luke 18:16)
Proverbs 22:6 says “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it”
It’s clear not just from these few snippets but from the whole bible that age doesn’t matter when it comes to the gospel. This led us to ask ourselves:
“How can we get our children to engage with church, not just attend it?”
Look round a lot of churches and you’ll see that they are covered in kids. They’re everywhere – under the organ, in the kitchen cupboards, children, wherever they are, get all over the place and this is an immense blessing from the Lord. But it does lead us to ask, what are we going to DO with them?
Most churches with a large number of children attending each week run a Sunday School programme at one of their services. This is a great thing. Children can receive gospel-centred teaching in a way that they can understand and even question! Brilliant!
However, what if your church doesn’t have a Sunday School?
What if your church has more than 1 service that you attend?
What about when your children get too old to attend Sunday School?
How do you get your children to engage with the gospel when there’s nothing ‘for them’?
Our church has 2 Sunday services. The one on Sunday morning has a Sunday School and Youth Programme that run during part of the church service. Our evening service has nothing aimed at children or young people. Our 3 children, aged 4, 3 and 1 attend both services.
There are many reasons why we have chosen to do this:
Firstly, our children (well, the older 2) ask to come to both services and we pray long may this continue, but we are also aware that this may not always be the case and so we don’t want to stop them.
Secondly, (and of no less importance) we want to worship together as a family as much as we can.
Thirdly, we want our children to know that church is for them. It’s not a ‘holding area’ until the fun stuff starts but that they need church and church needs them.
Fourthly, we want our children to be able to sit in a church service, whether familiar to them or not, and be able to join in with what’s going on.
Now, let’s pause here for a moment and talk about this a little more! Our children are currently very young, they can’t read, they can’t talk quietly and they struggle to sit still for longer than 4 seconds, so how on earth can they ‘join in’?
The answer to this is not simple, nor is it fixed. By that we mean it doesn’t always work and we will need to keep adapting it! But, here’s how we work it at the moment.
Each of our children has to join in during the different parts of the service:
- If everyone is standing up to sing, we help them to stand up, sing (if they know the words) and dance.
- If everyone is sitting down praying, we help them to sit down, close their eyes and listen to the prayers being said.
- We help them to face the front, as everyone in our church faces that way.
- We help them to listen during the sermon. For this we give them their tea (a picnic), which they eat whilst the sermon is being taught. This helps them sit still, concentrate and be quieter during the longest part of church.
- We take them in their pjs! So they can go straight to bed once we get home.
- We encourage our oldest child, who is a Christian, to serve in church – she helps with the flowers at the end of the service.
Our basic principle in helping them engage with church is to be able to have them join in with every aspect of the service and to be able to give them a reason why they should do so.
All of this, we hope, will enable them to take part in church as they grow up because, they have always taken part in church. There will come a time when they are too old for Sunday School and they will need to come along to the whole of the church service. They need to be able to join in with that church service fully.
We want our children to engage with church because we believe that being with God’s family and hearing His word taught, sung and prayed is essential to them hearing the gospel and seeing it lived out. It’s through this that we pray the Spirit will speak to their hearts and bring them to Jesus.
Do you have a blog post up your sleeve? If you’d like to write for Gospel-Centred Parenting then get in touch, we’d love to hear from you!