Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Preparing their hearts for worship--part 1

I've been meaning to write this post forever--since Quinn was 18 months old.  We're hitting all these topics a second time around with her little brother, so I am determined to keep up with the posting this time!

When Quinn was around 18 months old, she began to get a little more difficult to have with us in worship--ie: she didn't nurse or sleep or stare at her hands during the entire service anymore.  Matt and I knew it was time to evaluate our plan for her.  Our church offered a nursery for up to 3 year olds, but after talking about it, we didn't feel like that was a fit for our family. 

Worship is such an important part of our week--of our relationship with God and with our church family.  We couldn't see excluding her from that--we were a little family of 3 and it made such sense that we'd celebrate the worship time together.  Yikes, so how would that be done?  I started asking around and didn't get a whole lot of help beyond "bring cheerios" or "bring crayons."  We decided, in this particular setting, that cheerios weren't an option for us--we wanted to help her participate in worship, not keep her distracted, and she'd already just eaten breakfast, so she wouldn't be in need of a snack, anyhow. (more on that later). 

After I didn't get a lot of great advice from those I asked, I ended up getting pointed in the direction of two really great books--Parenting in the Pew by Robbie Castleman (a very easy-to-read, fun, insightful book that I recommend as the #1 book on children and worship) and Children in the Worshiping Community by Ng and Thomas (much more theoretical and involved, though still a great read).  These two books inspired me to be intentional about planning ways to include our little one in worship. 

I won't say this was a smooth path.  There were many weeks we left the worship time about to pull our hair out because we had wrestled our very strong-willed toddler the entire time.  However, along the way we got glimpses of really cool things happening in her faith development as a result of her participation in worship with us.  That made it worthwhile.  I will also say that there were many weeks I didn't (or Matt didn't) hear much of the sermon.  But is that why I go to worship?  Nope.  It's not about me.  And I'm an adult, so I can handle streaming the sermon at a later part of my week or finding other ways to challenge myself spiritually so that missing out on a few minutes (or the whole part) of the sermon doesn't detract from my faith walk.  For me the worship situation is kinda like mealtime.  Yes, eating at the table with a toddler is more work--you have to cut up bites, blow on hot morsels, clean up spilled milk, retrieve dropped napkins and forks......and sometimes my food is cold by the time I finish helping little ones.  But the doesn't mean we feed our kids separately--we just accept that this is a teaching season--a time where we're teaching our little people to participate in mealtime and model and help them in each of the elements involved. 

So I began to realize (and YIKES did Castleman's book challenge me) that I needed to begin preparing before Sunday morning to get my children's hearts (and bodies...and stuff....and minds...) ready for worship.  I won't admit I've always done this perfectly and there have been seasons we've slacked off more than we should, but we work hard to be intentional about preparing their hearts for worship.  I wanted to share some of the things that worked for my kids and our worship situation in case they'd be helpful for anyone else. 

Here we go--
#1--Make friends with your worship leader and know what is going to happen during worship.
This might look differently for everyone.  For me, I emailed the worship ministers/music ministers at both of the churches we've attended with little ones.  (For Q it was a different church than we go to now with both kids).  I asked them to send me the order each week so I could think through anything I want to prepare.  This has worked out great!  After I explained why I wanted to know, they were both very eager to help me out. 

So every Thursday I get an email that outlines the songs, prayers, passages, and theme for the week.  I'll go more into detail with what I do in one of the next posts.

So if you're up for the challenge--come aboard!   Your first task--figure out how to obtain a list of the order of worship each week ahead of time so you can put some thought/prayer into the best way to prepare your children's hearts for worship. 

More to come!

(a pic of my computer screen and the order of worship for the upcoming Sunday)