Below are seven recommendations that might help your child to experience church differently. Keep in mind that every kid will be able to engage in the process at different levels. Meet your child where they are in terms of interaction and worship.
- Help Your Child to Follow the Order of Worship- Most churches have a printed bulletin or a standard schedule of events that changes very little. Some kids can learn how to follow the bulletin, checking off when each moment in the service occurs. For kids that need something a bit more concrete, create a schedule (ex, with opening song, announcements, songs, offering, sermon, etc.) with pictures. You can place this schedule in a wipe off sleeve, and have them check off after each event happens.
- Encourage Active Participation- Many kids really respond well to music. Singing songs at home that are regularly sung in worship, and then encouraging them to sing along, standing at appropriate times, really makes a big difference. Also, if there is a "meet and greet" time like there is in many congregations, this is a great time to teach social skills while letting them stretch their legs! Accompany your child around, making eye contact, shaking hands etc.
- Take a Sensory Kit- Having some essential tools for a child with sensory challenges can be very helpful. Some kids need ear plugs for sound sensitivity. Keeping them handy for when the worship team pulls out the big drums might be helpful. Keep a chewy or chewing gum for kids that need oral stimulation. Having a calming fidget or even a weighted lap pad may reduce restlessness.
- Pre-Teach the Sermon- Check with your pastor in advance and find out the scripture and theme for the next week's sermon. Sit with your child and read over the scripture and talk about the theme. Help your child to make personal applications to his or her life. This can help them to better comprehend and identify with the sermon. It may also be a platform to discuss relevant religious and social topics.
- Teach Bible Literacy- Helping kids that are ready to know how to look up scripture in a print Bible can be a useful tool for many reasons. Kids have to use memory skills to hold the information in their mind long enough to look up book, chapter, and verse. Also, it helps them to get a general understanding of the order of events in the Bible. Looking up the verses in advance and tagging them with a sticky note so your child doesn't have to fumble with their Bible might help them to be more confident when opening their Bible. Many people are now simply using the digital Bible on their smart phones. This is a completely different skill and also one that kids might enjoy learning.
- Let Your Child Take a Break if Needed- If the goal is to help kids be life-long churchgoers, giving them positive worship experiences is good. Some kids will need to take breaks to step out in the lobby and stretch their legs. Most churches will understand this and accommodate.
- Enjoy this Time- If this transition is stressful to you, your child will read into that stress and may also become stressed about the process. If it is no big deal, just a part of growing up, they will have fun and so will you!