How to … Support children when they are the only ones in Church
I am sure that we all agree that Sunday worship and Church life is a very important part of the Christian’s life. Fellowship with other believers is good for our souls. Churches come in all shapes and sizes and so, for whatever reason it is far too common to find a Church that is missing a generation. You may be in a Church with no young children, or no teenagers or no young professionals, all the way through to no elderly. We are part of a Church fellowship where, at present, our own children are the only ones regularly attending.
I have heard of and seen, many parents who have moved to a different Church so that their children can be with others of the same age, but I would caution you to consider two things before doing this “Is the other Church faithful to the scriptures?” It is God’s sovereign mercy that will save our children, not whether they have friends at Church and our children do need to be grounded in the truth of the gospel as much as we, as believers, need to be fed and challenged.
If we leave a Church so that our children have friends, what about the new family that may arrive? Will they move on for the sake of their children? Where are the children that could have been these new children’s friends? Someone has to be the first. So what are some of the things we can do to help these few children? There are steps that both the parents and the Church can take.
- Try to encourage your children to feel they are an important part of Church life. If possible find them a job they can take pride in carrying out; ours enjoy tidying up the hymn books, getting and clearing up the preacher’s water and also helping put the hymn numbers on the board. Older children could collect tea or coffee after the service for someone who can’t get their own, or tidy the chairs etc. The value of this was brought home to us one day when we were trying to explain the role of Deacons and Elders to our children which received the prompt reply, “Oh you mean like I do the water”.
- If yours are the only children, it is likely that there won’t be the provision of a crèche/ Sunday school during the service. As adults we can often underestimate our children. We question how they can be expected to sit through an entire service, ours are by no means unique or quiet children yet all will sit through the service whilst quietly occupying themselves. Often they look like they aren’t hearing anything at all, but later on in the week they will raise something they heard in the sermon. Our eldest has also been attending the pre-service prayer meeting since she was four. She asked if she could go so we allowed her. She has learnt much about prayer over the years. We have never forced her to go; it has always been her choice.
- During the service the fewer the children making a noise the more obvious it becomes when they do. Parents should try to minimise the noise; if you take toys for them to play with don’t take ones with batteries that constantly beep and play tunes. Although, we are often surprised by the ingenuity of our children to make noises with toys we considered silent.
- Respect that your children are not the centre of the Church, even if they have sat quietly through the service. Consider if it is appropriate to allow them to run around the building after the service. This may distract others from pondering the sermon or give concern to the elderly who are seeking to navigate around the building.
- Consider what other means there are to achieve that social contact for your children without impacting on your commitment to your own Church i.e. weekly meetings/ annual Bible clubs at other churches, camps, or groups such as Young Life etc.
- There are some positive benefits to being in the minority, when people in the Church are praying for the salvation of children, ours are always prayed for and we covet those prayers.
- Try not to draw attention to every noise during the service and look over every time they drop a pencil, this can make the parents feel unnecessarily self-conscious.
- Consider whether you have the resources to run a Sunday school for the one or two children attending. Our Church is starting one for our children this September before the morning service, for which we are very grateful and they are able to set it at a time that suits our family, which is an added bonus.
- Talk to the children after the service as well as to their parents; ask them about school, hobbies, what they heard in the service, tell them about something you have done that week that might interest them. Our kids are young so often draw during the service, sometimes things related to the sermon, sometimes not. At the end of the service they love to show what they have been doing to their adult friends.
- Respect the boundaries that parents place on their children and support them, i.e not running around after the service, or distracting the children during the service.
- Be supportive if parents are taking their children to clubs at other churches, don’t make them feel as though they are being disloyal members.
- Pray for the parents and the children that are part of your Church. Pray that God will send more families to join you.