The pew was shaking – I knew because my parents were giving my little brother and I the “evil eye”.
The pew was shaking because we were trying our best to suppress the laughter that arose every time we sang that song. After once being overcome with giggles, a simple glance at each other set us off again.
Did that ever happen to you? Do you remember how hard it was to stop – even knowing the trouble we were in if we didn’t stop.
It happened every time we sang the hymn – “At the Cross”
“Alas and did my Savior bleed and did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?”
That was the line that did it! That set off the giggles. It is a beautiful hymn with deep and heartfelt meaning. But for Gregg and I, the vision of ourselves as worms brought on laughter every time we sang it.
Sometimes it is hard being a child in a worship service.
Three weeks ago we attended the worship service in Maryland where our daughter and her family attend church. In the seats in front of us I saw two “tween” age girls who were writing in notebooks during the service. As we stood to sing the closing hymn, I glanced down and saw that they had been taking notes during the sermon. I asked one of them about it afterwards and she said,
“Our youth leader gave us these books to encourage us to pay attention to what the pastor was saying.”
What a blessing!
As a teacher and committed note taker myself, I was thrilled! These young girls were following along as the pastor preached and writing down statements they wanted to remember. The notebooks had a two page spread for each Sunday. There was space for such things as:
- date – topic
- verses used
- questions I have about the sermon
I thought this was a great way to introduce adolescents to note taking. These two girls seemed very engaged with the process.
It is a challenge for children to participate in worship services, yet it is such a blessing for children to learn at a young age that they can sense God’s presence and learn to honor him through worship. God gives instructions to his people, the Jews, before they enter the promised land. They have spent 40 years in the wilderness and God wants to make sure that they REMEMBER the lessons he has taught them.
Doesn’t that sound just like a parent?
9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. 10 Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.”
Teaching our children the importance of authentic worship is best accomplished when they see their parents and grandparents worshipping authentically.
Some ideas we found helpful when our children were small were:
- expect excellent behavior, clearly communicate expectations before the service
- do not threaten. If a child misbehaves, take them out and correct behavior right then
- threats prolong misbehavior and the child will keep misbehaving to see just how long they can get away with something before the parent intervenes.
- give grace as a child is learning to worship respectfully, encourage them as soon as their behavior improves
- talk about the service afterwards, at dinner, or on a walk, ask questions
- do NOT criticize the worship service in front of your children, such as complaining about the choice of songs, the sermon, or the special music. This will breed disrespect for the participants in the worship service.
- pray together as a family that your worship will honor God
Looking back on my over 64 years of participating in worship, I am so thankful my parents included me as a young child….
even a worm such as I.