Church @ Home With Kids
At Grace City, we have always placed a lot of value on having our kids engaged in the life of the church as much as possible. We want our kids to know from a young age that gathering with God’s people and sitting under the teaching of His word is valuable and life-giving, and we believe that the old adage “more is caught than taught” rings true here - letting our kids follow alongside us as we worship, read, study and repent together is the best way to instill in them a deep appreciation for the things of God.
With that said, we also know that this is not an easy task, and there is a place for kid-level teaching and play, which is why Grace Kids exists… but that’s not helping you much right now as you sit in your living room! However, we believe that this time of upheaval from our normal services actually offers a great opportunity for young families. Church-at-home is a great training ground for teaching our kids to participate in the service alongside us. We can work on their ability to sit still, be quiet, delay questions, and resist distractions, all without worrying about them making too much noise or kicking the seats in front of us.
I’m in this with you - my kids are a spunky, chatty crew of 4 ranging from 8 years to 6 months, and with them around our last few Sunday services have been far from quiet and peaceful. However, we’re working on it, seeing growth, and excited to use this time to instill great habits in our kids. Below are some ideas that I’m using that I hope will be helpful for you as well. While doing this may mean less comfort for me - it would be a lot easier to send the kids outside or in front of a movie so that I could get a peaceful experience for myself - I’m keeping my eyes on the better goal of having my children learn the goodness of the presence and people of God right alongside me. Friends, by God’s grace we are raising the future Church, and there is no calling more worthy of our time and effort.
- Talk beforehand and set expectations. Start talking with your kids about the Sunday or Wednesday night service well in advance. Tell them how you want them to participate, give them their options for activities, and let them ask questions.
- Give yourself time to settle in. Our most difficult service experiences have been when we’re running late - still trying to finish breakfast and find our Bibles as the service is actually starting. That kind of chaos makes for a poor start to worship, so whenever possible, give yourself plenty of time. Have your kids get their Bibles, coloring supplies, etc, in place before you even turn on the screen, and sit down with them for a few minutes to settle in and connect before the service starts.
- Start small. If your kids aren’t used to sitting through an entire service, don’t feel like you have to expect them to start there. Start with smaller goals and build up their endurance. Maybe the first week you have them join just for singing, and then they are free to leave, and add additional time each week as you see their attention spans grow.
- Have fun! We want church to be a great experience for our kids, not drudgery. Get up and dance with them during singing, help them make comments to people they know in the chat, make cocoa or another special snack to share together while you listen. The more you can share your joy in this gathering, the more likely they will be to look forward to it as well.
- Be strategic with entertainments. Things to occupy little hands and eyes are a great tool, but be smart about what you offer. You want things that are quiet, that aren’t going to inspire sibling interaction, and that keep their ears free to listen. We love small piles of Legos, coloring books and drawing paper, playdough, puzzles, and paperdolls. Even better, choose a couple of activities that are just for service times - the novelty of something your kids only see once a week will help keep their attention much longer.
- Use your Bibles. For older kids, have them bring their Bibles and help them look up passages that are read. This is a great time to teach them how to navigate their Bibles, and it gives them a very physical way to track along with the message. Our weekly Kids Service Guides have several passages that you can look up and bookmark before the service even starts, so that they will be able to flip to a verse as soon as Pastor Josh does. For younger kids, even a picture book Bible can be used, especially if the sermon involves a narrative. Our 3 year old loved looking at his pictures of David and Goliath during the Easter sermon, and was very serious about getting to follow along with us.
- Talk about it. Before the service, prep your kids with a question you’ll discuss afterwards. It can be as simple as “What was one thing that stuck out to you?” or “What was one thing you heard about God?”, or you can use one of the prompts from the Kid Service Guide. After the service, take some time to let everyone in your family share, even if it’s just a sentence. This gives your kids some focus points as they listen to the sermon and lets you model to your kids that we don’t just listen to God’s word, but also reflect and apply its truth.
- Have grace. Our kids are just that - kids. They are still learning, and they won’t be perfect at this. Likewise, we as parents won’t be perfect either, and will inevitably let frustration or selfishness leak in. But even when (and maybe especially when) we fall short of the idyllic church experience we imagine, our homes still can shine as beacons of grace, where mistakes are gently corrected, sin is forgiven, and growth small and large is celebrated! This is the kind of grace God has shown us, and now we get to share it with our kids, trusting that He is the one accomplishing all good things in our kids’ lives.