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Holly at Seeking Faithfulness got me to thinking about this when she posted on it, and I remembered something that has worked for me in the past.
I actually need to pull this trick out of my bag again to control the wiggles during worship service.
Our children all sit with us throughout the entire worship service and we expect them to participate in every aspect of the worship, as far as they are able. The oldest ones can turn in their Bibles to the scriptures mentioned and to the correct page in the song book, and all but the baby can sing praises, bow their heads, and stand and sit when appropriate.
I give each of the oldest (ages 7, 10, and 12) a little notebook in which I have written words that I expect to hear in the sermon. These might include: God, Jesus, forgiveness, scriptures, holy, repent, etc.
I tell them to make tally marks whenever they hear the preacher mention one of the words I have written. This encourages them to really tune in to what is being spoken and actively listen to the word of God.
If they are old enough and able to take notes (the 10 and 12 yr. old), I ask them to jot down scriptures mentioned, main ideas, and so forth.
After church, we discuss the sermon and the scriptures referenced. They really seem to benefit from actively listening for those key words that I wrote in their little notebooks. It helps them to focus and think about the sermon instead of daydreaming or asking me 13 times what time it is.
Back in my younger parenting days when I only had 2 or 3 children, I would load up a bag with crayons, coloring books, little puzzles, snacks, and lots of stuff that I thought would keep them busy during worship. Then I started to realize that I was only encouraging them to think of it as a playtime, and a boring one at that. I wanted them, instead, to think of it as a time to actually worship and listen to the words being read from the Bible.
The youngest ones can have little stickers or pictures of Bibles, Jesus, heaven, crosses, etc. in their notebooks that they can circle when they hear those words mentioned.
These are the things that have worked for me while having my children in church, and I really don’t remember why I stopped doing this. I will definitely be going back to it again starting on Sunday.
Check out Rocks in my Dryer for more great tips!