Ever considered becoming an adopted aunt, uncle, or grandparent?
Not officially, although that's a great idea too, but on Sunday mornings. As we take a break from having a nursery each Sunday we have the opportunity to try something a little different.
Right now we have two regular families with young children who would benefit greatly from an adopted grandparent or two sitting with them during the service. And anytime we have guests with children under 6-7 years of age its especially difficult for them because its a new (and different) situation.
If you were willing to give this a try, what would you need to know? Here's a few guiding ideas:
1. Help the child meet the parent's expectations - not your own. A quick chat before the service (if possible) is great for finding out how you can help. A key question to ask is "What can I do to help your child participate in each part of the service?"
2. YOU can be the experienced guide as you fill in the parent on what to expect and how they can help their child. And YOU can help the parent know that we love having kids in the service so we expect there to be a variety of kid noises.
3. Understand that your service to this family IS worship to God. You might miss out on singing your favorite song because you're whispering the words to a toddler or you might miss half the sermon as you rearrange a coloring sheet a dozen times, but your service is your worship.
I asked our two regular moms what their pew rules were to give you an idea of how they think. Just remember that every family is different and guests can have incredibly different ideas about proper behavior for young children - and that's ok. Also, kids of different ages require different strategies.
Jhontiel Morriss (Arjay - 5, Penelope - 1): We work on standing or sitting at the appropriate times. We don't use any coloring pages or books until the sermon begins and we emphasize being quiet and not being distracting.
Elisa Stapp (Micah - 5, Amelia - 3, Joel - 2): Our family rules for church are to participate in the singing, praying, "writing" on connection cards, etc. at the appropriate times or quietly observing those service elements. We don't leave to use the restroom unless it is an emergency (so the first reply is always to encourage them to be still and patient). For Amelia and Joel looking at Bibles during the sermon is ok until they turn 4. It is ok to quietly ask questions about what is happening in the service but not to talk about other things.
Talk with one of these moms on Sunday and then sit with their child in their pew. Many hands make light work and you'll be surprised at the joy being an adopted grandparent can bring when you do it as service to God.
A word of caution: be willing to take no for an answer. There are a variety of reasons (many of them not personal) where a mom or dad might say no to your help. That's ok and your sensitivity is required (especially when welcoming guests).
Want to go deeper? Check out Parenting From The Pew from the local library!
"Daddy, I'd like you to meet my children." That's Robbie Castleman's attitude about taking her children to church. She believes that Sunday morning isn't a success if she has only managed to keep the kids quiet. Children are at church for the same reason as their parents: for the privilege of worshiping God.
Worship, Castleman writes, is "the most important thing you can ever train your child to do." So with infectious passion, nitty-gritty advice and a touch of humor, she shows you how to help your children (from toddlers to teenagers) enter into worship.
Our Tips For Big Church
1. Role play each part of the service and your child’s expected behavior for each part ahead of time
2. Coach your child through each part of the service (read lyrics, bring pennies to give, pray, etc.)
3. Have a quiet activity (or two!) planned just in case (picture Bible, coloring page, etc.)
Key Question: What can I do to help my children participate in each part of the service?