What do you do with the kids? As long as there are folks who are trying to migrate into simple church from traditional church backgrounds, this question will be around. Certainly much could be said here about the theory of Sunday school and child-segregated church programs, but for this post I would like to stick to some practical tips on how you can creatively involve your children in simple church gatherings. Many of these we have done over the past two years and some are a collection of great ideas from others in simple church that I hope to implement in the near future!
Pray & Prepare: I once saw a group of kids go from play mode to listening mode during the course of one week because their parents communicated new expectations for their time at simple church. A little forethought about involving the children will go a long way. Asking the Lord to show you how to incorporate the children in your simple church is most important because every child and simple church will be different.
Get A Sitter: Let me just say right out of the gate that there is nothing wrong with trying this. Many find that getting someone to help watch the kids—especially the little ones—can be a good thing, even if it is just every so often.
Music: My experience is that children love to sing and will often initiate songs if asked. Having fun instruments available can also be great for the kids! Sometimes our children have wanted to just play a song for people to listen to.
Skits: Give the children a bible story and twenty minutes or so to get a skit together. Have the older kids help lead the younger ones and then let them share and explain the skit toward the end of your gathering. You might even enjoy collecting them on video: For more on this ideas and to see a video example, click here
Listening To God: I’ve been learning a lot about listening to God lately so I’ve been asking our children to spend a few minutes listening to God prior to simple church to see if they think God might be leading them to share something with the church family.
One Anothers: During the week, discuss the “one anothers” and “each others” in scripture. Ask the children to pick a few out to try to implement during simple church. Once people leave, see if others can guess which verses they lived out. See verses here.
Dance: Our children love to dance and dancing is a biblical form of worship so allowing them to dance to their favorite song can really get them involved.
Kids Focus: Take a month and make serving the kids a special focus. Lay down any expectations of a “mature gathering” and have the adults all seek how they could best come together to encourage and build up the kids in language and action that they can understand.
Q&A: With a little forethought, you can pose questions that the children can work on with their parents all week leading up to simple church. Something as simple as having everyone come ready to share a favorite Bible verse can involve the children.
Chill: If your kids don’t seem super engaged be OK with it. We can often build up expectations that cannot be met. If they just play in the room next door sometimes this is OK. Your spiritual guidance in every other hour of the week will likely be what matters the most.
Kid-O-Meter: My experience is that many times children know when it’s time to shut things down. We adults start talking too long and things get boring. If you end up having a more formal discussion, end it when the kids become restless. We can trust that the Lord will continue the topic in hearts and minds and even through one-on-one discussion once things start to break up.
Service Projects: For the past two years, one of our children’s favorite simple church gatherings has been the Operation Christmas Child box meeting. Hands-on projects that you can do during simple church can be great for children participation.
Notepad: Encourage kids to keep a notepad to draw pictures that relate to the discussion they hear the adults having. At the end, let them share their picture.
Announce Rules: Before every meeting, announce to everyone the rules of your home. Every house has different rules for what’s acceptable. When you host simple church set the boundaries and clearly explain how you want the adults to respond. This will take out a lot of the guesswork and ultimately stress related to unmet expectations.
Movie: Every so often let the children watch a good movie. If time allows you can even discuss the movie at the end of the meeting. Make some popcorn. Pass out tickets and tear them when kids arrive.
Tolerate Fussing Babies: Work to get used to a fussy baby. Hosts can communicate the location of a quiet place where babies can be taken if absolutely needed.
Many, if not most, Christians around the world meet weekly under trees, in villages, huts, and other facilities that necessitate children be incorporated into what goes on when the church gathers. I continue to believe that if they can figure it out, so can we. I pray this encourages you to persevere and to work with those in your simple church to involve the children so that they can be both a blessing to and blessed by their church family!
Do you have any practical tips that you could share? Post below, or email them to me and I’ll add them to the list!
To read further, check out this encouraging article at CMAresources.org and this article on the advantages of kids in simple church at simplechurch.eu