We are so thankful you are considering joining us for service. It can be tough to visit new places with little ones! So don't feel bad if there is some apprehension. Rest assured, we know how it is. We're a group of around 45 with several kids of different ages. You will find everyone is very involved, and several of us will focus on helping you find what you need to have a smooth experience. If you are a regular church-goer, you are probably familiar with taking your child to a Bible class. But, for those who are new to this, here are some things to expect and tips to make it enjoyable.
To begin, you will be introduced to the teacher for your child's age group. The 10 AM Bible classes are broken up by age group for optimal learning, starting from 6 months old up to high school. The adult class is in the auditorium, with a separate class for new Christians to help them learn the basics. It might be tempting, especially for those with very young children, to stay with your child throughout their class so they feel more secure. While we certainly won't stop you, we do caution parents that this approach will communicate the opposite message to your little one - that you are not confident this environment is secure, and they will resist engaging with the teacher and adjusting to being in class without you.
We find the best scenario is to confidently greet the teacher and express your excitement about the class in a few enthusiastic statements. When it's time for class to begin, make reassuring statements that you WILL be back as soon as class is over, but you have a grown up class waiting for you and it's time to go!
Spoiler alert: your child will likely cling to you and cry. Do your best to express confidence in the teacher's capability to take care of them and that they will have fun. Then, head up to your class. In the event that your child is inconsolable and is not ready to be there for the full class, the teacher's helper will bring them to you and you can take advantage of the tools in the nursery to help them decompress. They might be ready to try again - don't hesitate! They may need to sit with you for the remainder of the class. Don't stress; we know it takes time for kids to get comfortable around new people.
I have babies/toddlers. I'm worried about the noise they will make.
Fear not. God loves children and so do we! We worship together in the auditorium, so the young can watch and learn about worship and practice what they see. Learning to worship the Lord in reverence takes time and training - and yes, we totally expect some fidgeting and noise! But we do understand that it gets hard to manage and sometimes you need a quiet place to help them calm down. When you walk in the front door, the nursery to the right is available at any time. While we do give nursing mothers priority, if it is empty anyone can take their little ones in to give them calm instruction, read to them, and perhaps grab a Pre-K activity bag and a board book to bring out with you.
If your child is really upset, don't fret about the noise. Focus on helping them work through what they feel. It may even help to step outside just for a moment - not for our comfort, but because God made nature incredibly therapeutic and it has a calming effect on stressed babies and toddlers. Try asking them what they can hear and mentioning birds, cars driving by, etc. The goal is to help them decompress so they start to associate the experience of being at worship with something safe, normal, and even soothing.
Do the elementary age stay with the adults or go to Children's Worship?
Again, we don't segregate the ages because we find that children become accustomed to worship more easily when they can observe those who are older (even just older children) sitting quietly and learning on a regular basis. Often, families with older children will offer to let your kids sit with them as a means of helping parents with the training process. Don't feel bad about allowing it if your child gets comfortable enough to say, "Yes!" You might feel worried they will misbehave but take heart. Kids have NO qualms about testing boundaries with their parents, but every parent knows that kids tend to behave better for others than they do for Mom and Dad. If you're comfortable letting them sit with someone else, we recommend simply reminding them to use the bathroom and getting them settled a few minutes early.
Some children find it fun to get up and change where they are sitting multiple times during service. You can discourage this by reminding them they get to make the choice where they will sit, but that once worship begins they can help all the grown-ups listen to the Bible by sitting in one place until the end.
Whether they sit with you or with another family, you can breathe easy. Everyone is used to kids here, and it's okay if they start out turning around a lot and talking during service. We are equipped to help them grow in this area with gentle reminders and quiet activities that can help them practice training their focus. We certainly won't hold it against them if they have trouble adjusting to the new experience. It will get easier with time, and you have a whole congregation here to help!
Will my pre-teens/teens get bored?
You will find the worship experience here is entirely focused on God - not our preferences for entertainment. While this may give the impression that worship is boring, teens find it's quite the opposite! The Bible, when presented in an engaging way, is interesting to young people because they figure out how it directly applies to them, too. They find out it's not just for old people! We have learned that when we have higher expectations of this age group, they tend to rise to the challenge because they appreciate the vote of confidence.
We provide outlines to help people follow the sermons and take practical notes they can take home to reference during personal study time. If your child is old enough to write, encourage them to grab one. We also provide word searches based on the lesson for anyone that wants one, young and old alike. These can especially help kids in younger grades practice quiet worship habits that will naturally grow into note-taking later. Lap desks are available in the nursery if they need a flat surface to write on.
We want this experience to be one they look forward to week after week.
Everyone will be excited to see your family week after week. We hope you will feel the same! If your child is in elementary school or older and does not have a Bible of their own, we will have one he or she can take home. The same goes for parents, too! We look forward to meeting you. Don't forget to check out our upcoming events for the year, including our free Vacation Bible School!
See you soon!
The Lakes Region church of Christ