Our Covenant Children in Church

Children are the littlest disciples in our church.  It is good to include them in corporate worship, and prepare for them to be with the Body of Christ at large.  But realistically, children sometimes need to be helped to be involved in corporate worship so that they can participate with minimal distraction.

Some things that have helped us. . .

Setting expectations.  We communicate early that the whole family is expected to participate in worship, to the degree they possibly can.  We have them stand up when the congregation stands up, try to sing,  and fold their hands to pray.  Personally, I’m not organized to have a special church bag packed for each week, so we use the bulletin and a pen.  (I have trouble sitting still and focusing sometimes and so I bring a notebook to take notes to help me pay attention.) Even though we set expectations to join in corporate worship, we remember that they are not miniature adults and their participation is as a child.

Physical connection.  Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers usually do much better with being cooperative and quiet when sitting on a parents’ or other adults’ lap.  It’s both a physical and relational connection.  It’s much harder for children to sit still on chairs designed for adult bodies.

Explaining the liturgy.  Like the pastor explains communion so that both visitors and members understand what is going on during the Lord’s Supper, from the time the kids are little, I whisper to them what the purpose of each element of the service is for.  “This is the time we confess our sins.  We tell God we are sorry for what we have done wrong this week.  We know He forgives us because of Jesus.”

Learning hymns and prayers.  We sing the hymns and songs most common at our current church at home.  When we’ve had churches that posted the bulletin online ahead of the service, I’ve made a playlist on YouTube for that week’s music and played it in the background throughout the week.  Also, we work on memorizing the Lord’s Prayer and Apostles Creed, so the children can participate.

Remembering they are my brothers and sisters in Christ.  These aren’t just my children, they are little people who God has placed in our family and in our church for His glory.  The ordinary means of grace (baptism, hearing the word preached, eventually communion) are for them as well as us.  God uses us as parents (and the church) to disciple these little ones — but the Holy Spirit is also working in their hearts apart from us.

Smile at children and parents.  Keep encouraging families with small children to come.  Keep encouraging them to have their children participate in worship.  Smile at parents when kids are wiggly.  Let them know they are welcome.

 

Some recommended resources:

I Have a Soul That Can Never Die

Pop died last night, about 8 pm.

After all of our watching at his bedside for the past nearly two weeks, it still came as a shock. Perhaps it was more of a shock because he was finally sleeping, finally not struggling for every breath, finally we no longer holding our collective breath.

Then. . . while everyone was together, eating shrimp & grits made by Michael and Shelly (who reminded me of Mom and Pop cooking in their kitchen), laughing over stories of Pop, someone called Mom in to Pop’s room. Was he no longer breathing?

The little kids had just left with the big kids and Aunt Sherry to go feed the turtles. They were called back, everyone confused. Was he dead? Was he not?

I called John. He wasn’t home at the moment. I called Johnny who was heading over to see John. They needed to come home.

_____

“We didn’t feed the turtles because Grandpa died,” said one of the little kids.

I had three of them on the couch with me in the living room while everyone else was at the bedside. We read the last chapter of the Jesus Storybook Bible, all about John’s vision of heaven and the return of Jesus and how this is our story, too, when we believe and are God’s children.

_____

We all stood together around the hospice bed where his body lay.  How someone can deny the soul once they have seen a dead body is beyond me. Pop was no longer there.

We sang “Amazing Grace.”  My brother-in-law’s first wife was next to me. She was there in support of her children and the parents who still welcomed her in to the family, even after the marriage ended.  She sang clearly the words of every verse.

Then we all prayed together.  Many were too sad (shocked? upset?) to pray aloud.  But my 7yo’s sweet, clear voice earnestly thanked the Lord for Grandpa and asked for us to be comforted. I wish I could remember the words.

 

Q. 18. What did God give Adam and Eve besides bodies?

A. He gave them souls that could never die.

 

Q. 19. Have you a soul as well as a body?

A. Yes; I have a soul that can never die.

 

Q. 20. How do you know that you have a soul?
A. Because the Bible tells me so.

 

From the Catechism for Young Children