Training Young Children as They Attend Church Service

How can children learn to worship? To pray? To listen to the teaching? To follow along in their Bible? By observation…observing their parents. As for our family, we believe it is best to teach our children by having them with us. (Deuteronomy 11:19, Proverbs 22:6) I do not claim to be an authority on this subject, as there are far more qualified parents out there. I only desire to share what has been an ongoing process in our own family in hopes to encourage you and maybe provide an idea or two for those who are desiring to worship as a family in church, as we have gleaned from others over the years.

For us, it is important that we keep what our children do during service centered on the reason we are there…to worship Christ.  We desire that our children attend church with us so they can learn from our example, hearing the same message we hear, praying and worshipping as a family. Our times of worship {at church and at home} are special times…times when we seek to share our love for the Lord with our children through our words and actions. Children are like sponges…they absorb what is around them. Although, they may be young, you might be surprised by what they can learn sitting in church listening to the sermon. They are listening. They are learning by our example. If we are earnest and joy-filled, they can see that. If not, well, they can see that too. We desire for our children to love the Lord and what a privilege to have them with us to share in that time of worshipping Him. 

We do provide activities for our younger children to do during worship time.  These activities are to encourage them and are ones we believe will help to grow them (even as young children) in learning about the Lord and Truth.  They are Bible and Christ focused as you will read about some of the things we do below. 

Here are some of the ways we are training our children to attend service with us:

  • First, teaching them at home to sit during prayer times and family worship makes Sunday church not a once a week endeavor.
  • Before service begins, I remind them what is expected… "remember to close your eyes and pray when it’s prayer time” or “when worship begins, remember to stand and sing along if you know the song” (try to practice the songs during the week at home so they will become familiar with the songs your church sings) or “remember when the pastor is at the pulpit, we are to sit still and listen – listen to God’s word”. Young children need reminders and it has been a good practice in our family to do so, BEFORE the service begins. Learning some basic sign language for words like “focus”, “sit”, “yes”, “no”, “read” have been valuable tools in our family to keep speaking to a minimum during teaching time. Another idea…make a run to the restroom BEFORE service, so that will be one less possible interruption during the teaching time.  These reminders are ones we believe help teach the children that our time is to be focused on Christ and if they fidget, are turning Bible pages loudly, etc. it may distract those around them from focusing on Him.
  • During worship, we encourage them to sing, clap, stand when appropriate to stand, pray when prayer is done, etc.  This is not done as a "ritual" but more to show our reverence to the Lord and courtesy to those worshipping around us.
  • For non-readers, we bring a small tablet and crayons (crayons are quiet) to allow them to color a picture about the sermon
  • For non-readers, a picture Bible they can quietly look through during sermon 
  • Using the picture Bible, you can ask them to look for all the pictures of… (if possible, keeping it relevant to the day’s message)
  • For non-readers and beginning writers, bring a small tablet of lined paper. I have written words relating to the day’s message for them to copy. I quietly read each word to them before sermon begins and they copy the words.
  • Beginning readers and writers can draw a picture about the message. They can also be trained to listen to the message, by having them listen for certain words and keep track of how many times the pastor says that word. This helps them develop good listening skills.
  • Notebooks my children used the beginning of last year.  As you can see, for my beginning writer I wrote some sermon related words down for her to copy.  In the other notebooks, our son wrote the Scripture passage, made notes and drew a picture about the sermon.
    This was the passage the pastor read during worship today that our 8 year old copied.
  • For more advanced beginning readers and writers, they can follow along as the pastor reads from the Bible. They can copy the passage he preaches from in their ‘special’ church notebook (small). They write down key words they hear during his message (i.e. who the message was written by, what the passage was addressing, etc.)

The above items can be kept in a ‘special church purse’ if a girl or small ‘special church bag’ if a boy. This will allow all items to be readily accessible each worship day.  {more on this in a moment} 

After the service, take interest in what they have written or drawn. Ask questions about the sermon to see what they remembered, such as what book (book, chapter, and verse for older children) the pastor taught from. Challenge them to give a summary in their own words about the teaching.

For very young children, give non-verbal praise throughout the service for observed obedience and good developing habits (a smile, pat on the hand for affirmation of good church habits, verbal when appropriate…). For older children, praise at the conclusion… "encourage one another”…With consistency and God’s grace, we have been encouraged each week as our family worships together. As we learn together under the teaching of God’s word, it has been a blessing to see our children growing and developing good church habits from an early age.

Last week was the first week Carolyne, Liz and I attended church since before she was born. My husband and I desire to keep our newborns home for 4-6 weeks after birth, in their own environment sheltered from too much exposure to germs and such. We have done this with all our children since our second child was born 15 years ago.

Well, with all outings and new babies, there is a transition period and last Sunday provided us some insight on how church would be with this newborn. Until Carolyne’s birth, my husband would hold our 2 year old and she would usually nap during sermon {after worship}. I would then have my 4 and 5 year olds sit on either side of me, with the older children following. Having the younger two next me allowed me to direct them as needed {little reminders…once again, simple sign language is useful in this area}.

With last Sunday being our first Sunday back to church as a family of now 10, our 2 year old stayed awake the entire service and the 4 year old wanted to talk/play with her…not a good thing, hence the separation. ;-) The last 15 minutes of service, it became necessary to take the 4 year old out with Carolyne and me. Although her voice was quiet, she became too fidgety {taking her shoes off, rustling her papers, etc.} and it concerned me she was distracting to those around us…not to mention possibly waking up Carolyne. The 5 year old did fairly well, with the exception that he had to share crayons with his older sister as his were left home…we were better prepared this week.

Today some minor changes took place. My husband still held our 2 year old, I held Carolyne {in the Maya Wrap} with our 4 year old next to me, then our 8 year old with the 5 year old in between his older brothers. My husband took the 2 year old out during worship {he just forgot to last week}, before greeting time to get her to sleep {that morning nap is still important in her schedule at this age} then came back in before service began.  This Sunday went much smoother.  The children were happy to have "new" church totes with "new" supplies and our 4 year old fell asleep 20 minutes before service ended...right before I stepped out with Carolyne, as she started to wake up in the Maya wrap.

The "new" totes I purchased are plastic handled boxes for the 4, 5 and 8 year olds.  Inside I placed "new church” drawing pads, crayons {they are quieter}, markers for the 8 year old and a lined notebook for her as well. I will be making reduced sized photo copies of Bible coloring sheets for the 4 & 5 year olds as they relate to the messages for them to keep in their boxes to color during service when possible. These boxes are large enough to keep their Bibles in as well.  This did provide incentive to do better this week in church.

Inside our 8 year old's church tote...her Bible, a doodle pad for drawing sermon related pictures, a lined notebook for writing Scripture and notes, crayons, mini sized markers, pencil and a Bible word find.

The Lord provided affirmation today that even when they may not appear to be listening...they are listening.  Our pastor had asked a question regarding who was in control of everything.  This was not meant to be verbally responded to, but Graham {our 5 year old} piped up quickly and loud enough to be heard in the front that "God is!".  I do not say this to boast, but only to show that small children do hear and can learn while attending church service.  He continued drawing the picture the whole time the sermon was being preached as he understood and illustrated it as a child would.

Several years ago we read an article by John Piper on how he and his wife Noel approached children in church with their own family. It was an encouragement to us and one I believe will encourage you, as well as provide some practical suggestions on how to involve your children in church.  The article is titled The Family: Together in God’s Presence. I am sure there are many moms out there who can name other ways they have found that work for their families…if you are one of them, please leave a comment about what you do in your family. If you are a mom looking for ideas, feel free to leave a question and maybe one of my readers can provide a suggestion or two. 

Because of Him,

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Mondays…the first day of the work week…back to school…back to routines, schedules and unfinished projects. Thankful for…

#11 family gatherings… memory making…fleshing out God’s word of love and hospitality

#12 each week begins on the Sabbath ~ basking in prayer, worship and praise

#13 affirmation from a boy listening to sermon and soaking in truth

#14 loving sisters

#15 noise, fingerprints and dirty feet ~ a sign of life brimming full in our home

#16 a pedicure for tired feet ~ the loving birthday present from my eldest redeemed when most needed

#17 pumpkin, ‘tis the season for it

#18 fresh flowers, beauty displayed

#19 home maintenance getting done and a husband who was home today to do some

#20 Spanish lessons on the computer

#21 laundry drying on the clothes line


That all would be done as unto the Lord…

Thanksgiving to Him above ~

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The Home School Mother's Journal

In my life this past week…

each day was filled to the brim with living. We enjoyed the company of friends on several occasions this past week we haven’t seen in a while as well as visits with out-of-town family at the end of the week. We were excited to share our little Carolyne with them all. My mid-wife also came for a visit at the beginning of the week to redo Carolyne’s PKU, weigh her {can you believe she is still the same weight of 10 lbs 12 oz, but has grown just over an inch in 3+ weeks…the time of her visit?!} and it was so nice to just sit and talk for a while. {It’s kind of sad not to have our weekly visits anymore…one of the things I miss about being pregnant.} We ran into another friend twice this week when we were out doing errands which allowed for some catch-up time…so sweet seeing her! Mid-week I met a friend at the bookstore in the evening, enjoyed a cup of hot ginger-peach tea {decaf…praise the Lord!} and closed the place down with good conversation and encouraging words for one another.

Great visit...growing healthy and strong.
Orchestra went well for Austin and we’ll begin private lessons to help refine his skills at the end of this month…Lord willing. We had lots of football this past week when games were cancelled last weekend. Today was a double header to make-up for the first game and it was a nail-bitter! There was even some one-on-two time for my mom with a couple of the children this week…they enjoyed lunch together, listened to her stories and colored pictures together. She has expressed a desire to spend some individual time with each of the children doing a special activity {making potholders with Alyssa, playing games or coloring with the younger children, etc.}…she desires for them to remember those times with her and is thankful for the extra time the Lord has given her to be able to do it.

Today proved to be a great double-header day...quarterbacking most of the time he played offense, pulling LOTS of flags when playing defense!  Great games Logan!  Nail-biter 1st game ~ so close to winning with a 12-13 score and an amazing 2nd game 30-0!

What’s coming up this week…

the usual Orchestra practices, football practices and game, a home school mini-conference with sessions for dads, moms & children. Some of the sessions include practical time-management {a favorite of mine}, successful family devotions, dwelling together in unity, young men/women keeping their future on track…etc. We’ll also spend more time with our out-of-town family with dinner at our home one evening.

In our home school this past week…

Graham continues learning new letters, their sounds and blends with basic words being taught…the beginning of learning to read…how exciting! Alyssa spent quite a bit of time working through science with our mother’s helper. LLATL is still going well for Logan, as are the rest of our subjects…Apologia’s Astronomy probably being his favorite one right now. Austin continues to trudge along with a heavy school load {the older they get the more the load}…doing well with SOS American Lit. & Spanish 1, Saxon Algebra 2 and we love his Apologia LIVE classes each week {especially me, as it helps with one less subject to grade}!

Our tadpoles became tiny frogs this week which added some excitement to the home. Lots of cooking and baking together this week: meals and two new cookie recipes. The girls and I purchased some fabric for skirt making…Lord willing; we’ll be able to start some sewing soon.

Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies

Chocolate Nut and simple cookie recipe perfect for autumn!

My favorite thing this week was…

Time spent in the kitchen with the children. I love teaching them to cook/bake and know what a blessing it will be as they get older, one day having their own kitchens. The memories made together are a joy. As they grow older and develop their skills more, they will not only be a future blessing to helping our family but one day will bless their spouses and children.

Things I’m working on…

More to-do lists have been made for each of us to provide vision and direction for what I desire to have done in the days ahead. The older boys have been working on the area behind the fence getting the horseshoe pits made, a fire pit area ready and simple planters so the space is more usable in the upcoming days. Our garden boxes are being cleaned out, relocating one of them and getting that area improved for future use…not sure what or when we will plant again. Some room rearranging took place with Graham’s toddler bed being taken down and him moving up to the twin bed…bunks separated. I worked on deep cleaning our bathroom cabinets, labeling each bin and assigning everything a place.  The workings of managing a home is on going with things always needing to be maintained, adjusted, and revised to keep things running smoothly for our large family.

Love my P-Touch label maker!  I use it for keeping order in every room

I’m cooking…

Last week we made two different cookie recipes. Click here to read about our time together in the kitchen, see some pictures and get two great cookie recipes.

This week’s menu:

Sunday: Simple Sunday…sloppy Joe’s, chips, corn and a dessert {possibly}

Monday: Chicken Cordon Bleu, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Asparagus

Tuesday: Beef tips n’ gravy over egg noodles, steamed broccoli, whole wheat dinner rolls

Wednesday: Chicken broccoli water chestnut casserole, biscuits

Thursday: Baked ziti with chicken sausage, Texas toast {Also making a triple batch of basic muffins for Friday morning’s breakfast…whole wheat apple cinnamon, mini-chocolate chip cranberry and maybe a pumpkin one, too}
Millet muffins pictured on the left and mini-chocolate chip cranberry muffins pictured on the right

Friday: Should be tortillas, but I will probably change it maybe cheeseburger soup

Homemade whole tortillas...homemade salsa...makes for a family Tortilla Night!

Saturday: Smoked ham, homemade cheesy macaroni, green beans and whole wheat dinner rolls {our family dinner hosted at our home for our out-of-town family}…dessert…maybe another new cookie recipe {love my Taste of Home 2010 “Best Loved Cookies & Bars” magazine!}

Deliciously cheesy once the cheese melts and plenty to go around!

I’m grateful for…

Opportunities to share our love for the Lord with others through hospitality, ministering in simple ways to the people He puts in our lives and daily through caring for my own family.

I’m praying for…

Our family, friends and neighbors daily…His continued provisions and wisdom in handling them, for the challenges of many of the young moms I have heard about and how the Lord would use me in that regard, for my own walk and witness…that He would continue to refine me {though it hurts} to make me more like the godly woman I desire to be.

A photo, video, link, or quote to share…

One month already...

Blessings ~

This week's post is linked up with:

Friday Favorite Finds
Menu Plan Monday

Feasting in Fellowship Fridays
The Home School Mother's Journal

Baking Cookies with Children

In the kitchen this past week I enjoyed several occasions of cooking/baking with the children. Aside from their helping with meal preparations {be it breakfast, lunch or dinner}, I thought we needed more baking time together. I have this magazine I love with lots of great and simple cookie recipes, so I pulled it out and started thumbing through it. I found two recipes to make with the children…lovely weather for baking and holidays are just around the corner, so what better time to start?!
Brother and sister working together...

The first cookie recipe was for Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies. We added a little twist to the recipe to include butterscotch chips and mini-chocolate chips. This was a simple recipe and one which yielded over 4 dozen cookies…plenty to share with others! {I have been trying to encourage my children to be thoughtful of doing ‘simple acts of kindness’ and sharing cookies was one way they decided to do that.}

Fresh rolled oats, mini-chocolate chips and butterscotch chips...a lovely combination!
These were a chewy sweet cookie and the added butterscotch/mini-chocolate chip morsels only made them better. I choose to use ¾ c of butterscotch morsels and ½ c of mini semi-sweet chocolate chip morsels, adding them to the end of the recipe.

1" rounded scoop of cookie dough placed on a seasoned baking stone...ready to bake
After baking, these chewy somewhat healthy {minus the butter, sugar and baking chips...wink} were set to cool before bagging to give some away.  Yum!

Of course, baking with little ones is not always easy.  How do we do it with four children that happen to be five years or younger?  Well, naptime is a GREAT time to bake with the older children...that is if all the little ones cooperate.  One this occasion, Carolyne decided to forgo the afternoon napping.  Between Austin, Logan, Alyssa and I we rotated holding, loving and rocking her.

Content to be in sister's arms...Alyssa relaxing after a session of rocking.  Our Miss Carolyne had a difficult afternoon with belly bubbles which did affect her napping and was one reason for having a cookie baking session.  ;-)

The second cookie recipe we made was with the young lady who is coming over once a week to help with little ones. It was a simple, fun autumn themed cookie recipe…Chocolate Nut Acorns. These cookies look like little acorns and fit right in with our beloved season of autumn...trying to bring fall to Florida! Our mother’s helper assisted Graham and Alyssa with following the recipe as they each took turns adding the ingredients. She was gracious enough to photograph them during this baking lesson so we could add photos to this post…thank you Shannon.

Using the Pampered Chef food chopper makes chopping the almonds a breeze...and keeps little fingers safe {with supervision, of course}.

Shaping the cookies was very forgiving...the children made 1" balls with the cookie scooper, then rolled them slightly to make them oblong.  A little flattening when placed on the baking stone and in the oven to bake.  Each one different...just like an acorn.

Logan and I did the dipping.  A tip:  we placed two cookies bottom to bottom and dipped one end into the melted chocolate.  See next picture for why...

Then the dipped cookie was dipped into the chopped nuts.  When satisified with nut coverage, we removed the cookies and separated them.  The bottoms were chocolate/nut free making it easy to place them on the wax paper lined cooling rack...once cooled, the cookies were easy to remove with little mess.

Our "sweet" little chocolate nut acorn cookies...delicious!
Logan and I finished the baking time by doing the dipping portion of the cookie. I chose to use chopped almonds for the nut {a bit healthier than other nut choices} and they almost made the cookies have a shortbread flavor. Delicious and fun to make! A few of these were sent to another family to bring some cheer to their week and let them know we were thinking about them.

Baking season is really right around the corner, so this weekend Austin and I stocked up on our baking supplies…to try to avoid the crowds when that time kicks into full swing. My food budget was doubled this week, but I should be all set for lots of baking days these next couple of months. I hope to select a few more cookie recipes to try with the children and then narrow down to a handful of favorites for gift giving this year. If at all possible and Lord willing, maybe we can bake and freeze to keep the holidays less stressful…we’ll see how life with a newborn and littles dictate our baking times. Do you have any kid-friendly, fun, delicious, SIMPLE cookie recipes you like? Feel free to leave a comment and share! I’d love to visit and glean from your suggestions…If you would like to read more of our upcoming kitchen baking times and see how some of our other recipes come out, become one of "Those Encouraged" on the right sidebar or subscribe to receive posts via email at the bottom of the blog.  Look for an upcoming giveaway...autumn is an inspiring time to share thanks...

Until next time...

Blessings and Happy Baking ~

Gladly linking up with Raising Homemakers this week.