A lot of churches offer children’s programs now. Most of them are great! However, if you are a family that chooses to take your toddler to big church so you can all be worshiping together, then these tips are for you.
1. Don’t expect your toddler to sit perfectly still or perfectly quiet for an hour long service. Adults have difficulty with this at times. Show your toddler grace and patience.
2. Don’t hand your toddler earphones and an iPhone/iPad/Nook/etc. If you want your child there to learn and worship with you, they need to learn to pay attention and not be distracted otherwise you will wonder why in 10 years your child knows more about what their friends just posted on Instagram that what your pastor just said. If you give them technology now, they will have a difficult time figuring out the process and the joy that comes from honoring God in His house with fellow believers. It is also not good for them to think technology can be brought out whenever as long as there are earphones. They will begin expecting game time anywhere you want them to be quiet and still. They are smart!
3. Do carry a pencil or crayon and paper. The back of a bulletin works, too. If your child’s idle hands are about to get them into trouble, give their sweet little hands something quiet to do. This is especially helpful of you take sermon notes, then your child feel like they are all grown up, too. If you let them gently know what you expect, they will delight in being a big boy/girl and the church experience will be much more pleasant.
4. When they are greeted by other member of your congregation, gently but firmly encourage them to speak. If you practice introducing yourself and shaking hands/saying hello at home it will be much easier for them to respond to someone with whom they are less familiar with a pleasant and mannerly greeting. Don’t excuse them as just being “children” if they hide behind you. Shyness is normal, but to hide is not polite and you need to let your children know that now. Let them know that you expect them to say hello. You don’t need to require any more than that from toddlers, but they do need to learn to acknowledge when they have been spoken to. If they don’t do it for everyone they will not do it for you either and that is not a good thing.
5. Take the small victories and celebrate. If your 2 year old makes it through 30 minutes and then you have to leave, celebrate what a great job they did to make it so far! Next time shoot for 40 minutes. I recommend sitting near the back the first few weeks at least. Don’t forget that sometimes toddlers squirm because they have to potty, so a quick exit is also good for that.
Don’t worry if you get a few hairy eyes from people for having your toddler in big church. They will learn, and in time enjoy being there with you. When you begin having conversations about the sermon over Sunday lunch, you will be so glad you took the time to teach your toddler how to attend worship successfully.
What are your best tips for taking your tots into big church?