6 Ways to Help Families During Corporate Worship this Summer
By Sarah House
We were almost done. We were about 35 minutes into the sermon and I was pretty sure that it would be over soon. “Just a few more minutes,” I whispered to my five-year-old son, trying to keep him from a vocal meltdown as tears streamed down his face. After 13 weeks of “doing church” from the convenience of our LEGO-equipped living room, the balcony of our physical church building couldn’t quite compete. Adding to the changes, our normal pew was taped off. All the ushers, who in the past smiled their greetings, were now masked. No kids were running around playing before or after the service. My kids had been excited to go back to church—but this was not what they were expecting.
As our churches are reopening, we are hearing plenty about the awkwardness of following distancing guidelines. What is talked about less is the noisier elephant in the room—the kid element. While corporate worship may have resumed, most nurseries, children’s churches, and Sunday schools remain closed, leaving parents to figure out how to keep kids happy and quiet while attending this strange new model of worship. It won’t be easy, but here are six things churches can do to help families in this season of changes.
Equip parents. If your church hasn’t already done so, put your order of worship online ahead of Sunday morning so that parents can prepare their children. Consider starting a Spotify playlist to help kids become familiar with the songs. On Sunday morning, make printouts of the lyrics available for families. It is hard for beginning readers to sing by looking at words projected on a screen. Give them something to hold so mom and dad can help them follow along.
Verbally welcome the children. Include a special “good morning” to kids, toddlers, and babies. This will help pique their attention at the onset. Welcome them in Jesus’ name and with His love. These extra people in the pew may be more wiggly and noisy than your usual audience, but thank the Lord that they have an opportunity to come and hear the Word and worship Jesus with you.
Acknowledge the challenge. Put parents at ease by acknowledging that this is a challenging situation. Let them know you want them there, even if it means a little additional “white noise.” Take a moment to pray for them and their children, and encourage the people sitting around families to pray that the Spirit would be at work in young hearts to grow and nurture faith from the hearing of the Word. Encourage your people to take the opportunity to encourage the families in attendance with words of grace and blessing after the service.
Accommodate children’s needs. Most parents are working hard all service long to keep kids quiet. Give them a helping hand in two ways. First, reconsider having prolonged “silent times” during the service for prayer and reflection. As a mother of four, most of my silent time is spent shushing my children and praying my kids would be quiet. Maybe have quiet music playing in the background. Second, if possible give parents a place to go to take off the mask, change the diaper, feed the hungry one, or let the wiggles out—and still hear the service. There are times when even the most creative mom can’t keep a child from crying and is forced to beat a hasty retreat from the sanctuary.
Address children during the sermon. Take a moment to talk directly to the children in your preaching. Look for opportunities to garner their attention with a certain point or illustration. Many years ago, David Michael was preaching on a portion of 1 Corinthians 15 when he pulled out an unusual prop from the pulpit—a withered lettuce. He was illustrating what it means that something is “perishable,” and to this day I think of lettuce when reading about our perishable bodies putting on the imperishable. In a simpler stroke, Pastor John Piper captured my attention as a 4-year-old by referencing a spider he had read about in Ranger Rick I remember sitting in the old sanctuary of Bethlehem Baptist Church in downtown Minneapolis, listening to my grown-up pastor talk about the wonderful spider God had created for His glory and that he had read about in my magazine. Such an opportunity may not come every week, but pray that God would show you how you might capture the attention of even the youngest hearts to hear biblical truth for a moment.
Provide or recommend special resources. Consider age-appropriate resources to keep children focused during the service. For example, Truth78’s My Church Notebooks: Come Into His Presence Volume 1 and 2, which have been designed for children ages 6-12 to use during the sermon and My First Church Notebook for ages 3-7. You could also print this simple PDF to distribute to parents: 8 Tips for Helping Your Child Worship.
Going to church in this unusual time isn’t easy for anyone, especially those with young children. However, it is also a good opportunity. It is a chance for the church to worship in an extended intergenerational gathering. It is an opportunity to remind the congregation of the blessing and the responsibility parents and the church have to partner together in nurturing the faith of the next generation. And it is a time for children to see the church worship and to hear the Word preached. The children may not remember all of what they hear, but we never know what the Lord will be pleased to do as they join the church for corporate worship.
Sarah House is a stay-at-home wife and homeschooling mom to four children. Her days are filled with loving, learning, playing, teaching, reading, surviving, serving, and trusting in the loving grace and sovereign wisdom of Jesus Christ through all of it.