Sometimes sitting through the Sunday sermon might look like this!
Knowing how to behave in church is not a skill that just happens magically. It is a skill that has to be modeled , taught and caught. Kids are energetic and easily distracted. They get fidgety, cranky and uncomfortable.
Each week in the worship folder I post a small article titled Beyond Crayons and Cheerios, Kids In Worship. Here, parents find helpful tips to lead their children into the riches of the Divine Service, giving support and encouragement as they take a Family Faith Walk each Sunday.
Worship is first and foremost God coming to us with his gift of forgiveness, life and salvation. In the liturgy, God's gifts are given to his people.
Sermon Sitting 101
Here is a 15 minute technique for toddlers and preschoolers . Through repetition and consistency this process will work.
But first, there is homework! Sitting Practice.
* Plan family "siting time". This can happen during meal time. No electronics or TV. No grazing with food in hands.
* Play low energy games. Puzzles, building blocks, play dough. Games that require a specific space and does not include physical activity. Using painters tape, place a large "X" in the "sitting" area. Require your child to stay in the ''X" area. ( this "X" will come in handy during church)
*Coloring. Kids love to color on the floor, and love others to color with them. Have conversation while coloring using a very low monotone voice.
* Blanket Time. As soon as your baby is sitting up, place them on a "sitting"blanket with soft toys and books. Do not allow them to crawl away. For toddlers place them on a blanket and sit with them and play with them using soft toys, and picture books. Require them to sit for at least 10 minutes. If they stand up and want to wander around , quietly say to them that this is "sit time" and gently place them back on the blanket or on your lap. As your child masters the 10 minute mark, add 5 more minutes to their sit time. The goal is 15- 18 minutes, an appropriate sermon length.
* Reading/Listening Time. There is nothing more special than family reading time. Gather everyone on the bed, couch or blankets on the floor and have family devotion time. Ask your Pastor or Children's Minister for suggestions. Audio stories are great tools for preschoolers and older children to practice listening and sitting. Life is busy. If you cannot make this a nightly routine , choose one night for Family Devotions. Gather for at least 15 minutes and work up to 20 .
15 Minute Sermon Sitting Technique!
1. Pack a worship bag with a clip board, blank white paper, a few crayons, picture books, soft snacks, water bottle. Perhaps the night before allow your child to help pack. These supplies are for the Sermon Sitting time. Do not get these items our before the sermon. Most churches offer worship bags for children but for Sermon Sitting practice the bags may include items that might be over stimulating.
2. You cannot expect a hungry, thirsty, wet, exhausted toddler or preschooler to be successful at Sermon Siting. Make sure basic needs are met before entering the worship area.
3. Mark your child's spot in the pew with the painters tape "X" . Show your child that this is their sitting space. Remind them that your lap is a Sermon Sitting place as well.
4. As the sermon begins get out the paper and crayons from the worship bag and allow your child to color, using one or two colors. Toddlers will make marks while preschoolers can draw shapes. Encourage drawing by coloring with them for 5 minutes. Preschoolers may work at it for 10 minutes.
5. Next, put away the coloring activity and get out the picture books. Toddlers may want to sit on your lap. Preschoolers can sit on the "X". If they get anxious whisper that this is book sit time.Whisper that Sermon snacks come after book sit time, but for now it is book sit time. For toddlers, if they get really wiggly say," let's go have walk time". Find a place outside of the worship space but still inside and not the nursery to walk around for a couple of minutes. If you land in the nursery your Sermon Sitting will be over for the day.
Return to your space in the worship area.
6. The last 5 minutes can be a type of reward but still quiet Sermon sitting. Put away the books and get out the soft snacks and water. Allow your child to sit on the "X" or your lap and enjoy their Sermon snacks.
A tried and true tip:
Create a picture timeline for your child that signals them to what is next during their Sermon Sitting. Simple draw or print pictures on a sheet of paper. Number the pictures 1.2.3. After each Sermon Sitting time , allow your child to place a sticker on top of the picture to mark the passing of each sitting time.
1. Coloring Time
2. Book Time
3. Snack Time
Sermon Sitting training may not be for you and that is OK!
My congregation offers a staffed nursery at all of our services and many parents use it.
Some congregations offer quiet, soft floor places in the back of their worship areas for parents of young children. Other worship spaces are designed to offer a space up front but to the side for families with infants, toddlers and preschoolers.
Either way, Sunday morning is that time for reaching, teaching and nourishment. Be there as a family. Set an example. Be on time. Be part of the whole worship experience. Come and receive all of God's gifts.