We conclude this series with some practical considerations for parents with young children. The most essential thing you can do is to simply bring your children to church to get them familiar and comfortable with being in the presence of God. Certainly, there are many excuses we as parents can make for keeping our kids away, such as, “I don’t want my children to bother others”, “my children are too young to understand what is going on”, or “all they want to do is walk around; I’ll bring them when they get a little older”. In the end, however, there is almost no excuse (save perhaps sickness) that is justifiable for keeping your children away from church. Bring your children and let God open their hearts to Him.
Very small children can be allowed some latitude in their movements (though they should not wander around aimlessly), but parents should set some very specific boundaries—perhaps keeping them at an arms length or two so that these boundaries can be enforced. Without a doubt this will be tested (many times) and each time our child wanders we must bring him back. Consistency is essential here.
Next, try sitting as close to the front as possible (if you arrive late this may not be possible). When our daughter Hannah began walking and talking it became obvious that she wanted to see what was happening. It became quite difficult to explain and show her from behind a forest of people. Being in the front of the church was uncomfortable at first for us but we got used to it and so did our children. (Think of it from a child’s perspective: how would you like it if all you saw were people’s legs and back? That would get boring real fast!)
Parents may find it is necessary at times to leave the church to give their children a break for a while. If this happens, do not feel embarrassed, but simply carry your child or hold his hand as you leave. Always keep the break to a minimum and use it to refocus and “refresh” your child—and not as a “recess” time (kids are smart: they will quickly figure out that by misbehaving they will go to the back of the church or downstairs for some “fun”).
While you are removed from the service, talk with your child and let him know that it is important for him and you to return to the church as soon as possible. Explain what is happening in age appro-priate language and set their expectations as to what’s going to happen next
For example, when it is time for the gospel tell your child it is now Jesus’ “story” time and we have to listen carefully to what He said. During the Great Entrance, explain that the gifts of bread and wine (under the fancy covers) are being brought to the altar table to be consecrated by God for our food.
As a final point, a few words should be said about our dress—adults and children alike. Though God does not demand us to “dress up” for Him, the fact is, as followers of Christ in all areas of our life, we should offer Christ our “best” and not just our “leftovers” (e.g., Cain and Abel). Our dress should always, especially at church, be becoming of a Christian. We should dress modestly, not in a flashy way that brings attention to ourselves. We should dress with respect for God, for others, and for ourselves.
I offer this to you for your personal reflection, and not to be a means to judge others. Hopefully, we all will wear our “Sunday best” every day!