The church nursery is often a godsend, particularly for new parents who feel overwhelmed by the constant needs of their newborns. Once children are old enough to be curious about what goes on in church, though, you may decide you want them in the service with you. Here are some tips for making the transition go smoothly.
The first time your children sit with you in the service may not go as well as you planned. Try not to let this discourage you. New experiences always come with a learning curve, and it's ok if it takes a few weeks for your children to adjust to this change of habit. Exercise as much patience as possible so that your frustrations don't become theirs.
Change is nerve-wracking, especially when it involves the little people you love most in the world. While it's important to be honest with your partner about your feelings, try to maintain a cheerful, positive attitude in front of your children. If you are excited about having them in church, they're more likely to be happy about it, too.
Practice at Home
Talk to your children about what to expect from church. You don't have to go into a lot of details, but they are more likely to get excited if they know what's going on. For example, sing some of the songs they're likely to hear. Then watch how excited they get when they recognize the songs and can sing along with everyone else during the service.
Discuss what they should do during the parts of the service that aren't as exciting to them. Pack an activity bag with items that can keep them busy during these times:
- Comfort blanket
- Stuffed animal
- Colored pencils and sketchbook
- Quiet book
Children often do well in new circumstances if they have sufficient information about what to expect. By introducing them to the new things they are likely to encounter and incorporating quiet activities that they are familiar with, you can make the experience easier for all of you.
It is common for parents to feel self-conscious about bringing young children to the church service. You may be worried that the occasional squawk or screech from your pew will disrupt the service. You may even notice a few annoyed glances that confirm your concerns.
However, it is even more likely that there will be those who are utterly delighted your children are there. Many people of faith want children to grow up loving church, and they know the only way that's going to happen is if they're a welcome part of it. They go out of their way to smile and look for excuses to come over and introduce themselves. These are your people. Gravitate toward them. They can not only provide a buffer between you and less enthusiastic members but also are likely to be willing to help make church more fun for the children.
Have a Clear Escape Route
As children are learning to navigate their emotions, there may be some weeks when staying calm and quiet throughout the service is just not an option that's available to them. While the occasional outburst is not a big deal, prolonged screaming is not fun for anyone involved. In these circumstances, you need a quick way to exit.
Many families will sit in the back of the sanctuary or close to a side entrance. This is a good idea, particularly when the church service is still a relatively new experience for your children. As they get older, the need for a quick out becomes less dire.
It may be scary to think about taking your children to church for the first time, but it can be an important part of introducing them to the faith. While this precarious phase is temporary, the things they learn from the experience can last a lifetime.