If you have younger children who are used to a "little church" ministry that takes place during the sermon such as Creekstone's GraceKids, here are some suggestions for how to coach them for the transition to "big church" on Sundays.
1. Talk to your kids about what they will experience. They will get to sing. They will hear prayers and the Bible read. There will be a sermon and sometimes special events like baptism or the Lord's Supper. There may be a prayer or creed to recite. Also, they will be able to give to the offering in response to God giving to us.
2. Give your children a worship journal. This can be just a plain paper journal or even a college ruled notebook where they can write down the main idea and points of the message, or draw pictures of what they hear in the message. Bring a bag of crayons so that they can get creative.
3. Role play. Put a couple of chairs out and model how to find a seat and sit. Explain that this will be their special seat for the whole service. Part of the time they will be standing to sing, and other times they will be seated. While seated, they will have colors and activity sheets to work on as they listen to the message. Ask them questions like, What happens when we stand? What will we do when we sit? Are we supposed to jump in our seats? Let's practice!
4. Arrive before the service begins and get your seats early so that you can review what is going to happen. For Creekstone, we have a basic order of worship printed that explains each aspect of the service. You may use something like this to walk them through the service before it starts.
5. Sit near the front where children can have a clear view. Conventional wisdom is to sit in the back. But from the back, there are a lot of potential distractions up ahead... and lots of heads that may block their view.
6. Allow children to place your offering in the basket or let them bring their own coins. What a gift to teach our kids about the grace of generosity in such a practical way at a young age.
7. Allow small children to bring a favorite stuffed animal or toy. Granted, older kids may not be so excited about this. But if they are at the age where a familiar friend is a comfort, c'mon!
8. Encourage children to bring their own Bible storybooks. Even if they are not able to read along, bringing a Bible of some kind reinforces that God has provided a written record of grace for sinners, centering on the cross and proving his love for us as his adopted sons and daughters.
I'd love to hear from you. Let me know what works, what doesn't, and some suggestions you have. 🙂