Providence Kids elementary life groups are designed to be a supplement to attending corporate worship as a family, and not a substitute for corporate worship. By the time kids are in Kindergarten, we believe that teaching them the importance and value of gathering with the multigenerational community of believers and sitting under the preaching of God’s Word is valuable and necessary for their spiritual formation.
This is why our Sunday morning church rhythms call and ask for families to be involved for two service hours. We want families worshipping together at one service hour and then attending a life group or serving the church at another service hour. We believe that there is value in both corporate worship and in age-appropriate discipleship opportunities. In fact, our elementary life groups are designed within the framework of the two service rhythm. We don’t offer a “children’s church” or kids worship experience within Providence Kids because we intend for those things to be happening within the corporate worship service.
Let’s look at two often asked questions related to this topic of little kids in big service: “Why is it important?” and then “How to do it?”
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
One of the things we hope to instill from an early age is teaching our kids what the church is and who the church is. We want them to see that the church is made up of people of all ages, races, sizes, and generations. We want them to be able to see the pastors and church leaders that lead their church. And we want them to be able to see the ordinances of the lord’s supper and baptism. All of these things can only be done and witnessed in corporate worship.
When it comes to parenting, one of the most helpful pieces of advice I’ve ever received is that you want to parent with the end in mind. The decisions we make today for our kids contribute to the types of people that they will become. Maybe next week. Maybe next year. Or maybe in 10 years from now when they’re ready to launch out into the world on their own. If you don’t teach, model, and display for them a love for corporate worship while they’re still young then there’s a greater likelihood that they will not discover and commit to it on their own later in life.
While our kids and student ministries are great age-appropriate discipleship environments to help the next generation engage with their faith in the present, corporate worship (especially for younger kids) is more about helping prepare the next generation to engage with their faith, Lord willing, in the future. But never underestimate the power of the littlest moments from corporate worship impacting your kids in the present: explaining the gospel as you take the lord’s supper, knowing their pastor’s name, meeting older members of the church who love to know that they’re leaving a gospel legacy behind them to future generations, being able to sing the same songs together as a family throughout the week.
Another important reality is that most things are more caught than taught. Our kids pick up on things naturally without us even realizing it. I never intended to make my kids extra particular about where household objects and toys go and about making plans and knowing what happens in advance, those things just naturally evolved in them as they watched me do them (much to my wife’s dismay!). By having your kids in corporate worship you are able to model for them the importance of singing, praying, the Lord’s Supper, the need for knowing and understanding God’s Word. You’re able to show your kids that this gospel you believe is bigger than yourself and there’s an entire new covenant community of believers who are all part of the same mission and kingdom.
HOW TO DO IT?
Start in the home. While we encourage and believe in attending corporate worship by Kindergarten, we also encourage and believe in having family worship in the home starting around the age of two. If you can train your kids to sit still for family worship for 15 minutes a night as a preschooler, then those little deposits and practices are helping prepare them to sit still for a longer period of time in corporate worship by the time they’re elementary-aged.
Start small. Maybe that means bringing them once a month while they’re still in preschool or coming to Sunday evening prayer and worship services where there is more music. Find opportunities to introduce big service to your kids before you have to. Just because your preschoolers can stay in Providence Kids preschool classes for multiple services, that doesn’t mean that they have to.
Prepare Ahead of Time. Explain to your kids what goes on during a normal service. When do we sit, when do we stand, when is it okay to move around some, when do we sit still, when are we to be quiet. Meet some of the pastors who are typically on stage leading the service from the platform in the weeks before you come. Listen to the songs we’ll be singing using our Spotify playlist so your kids are familiar with them before service and can recognize something familiar. Access our sermon prep guide on the This Week at Providence page and talk ahead of time as a family about what the scripture passage will be about.
In the Moment. Give kids a chance to use the restroom before service. Get a copy of our Providence Kids Sermon Notes at the Welcome Desk as a resource to help them engage with the service. Have a special church-only “quiet bag” that has options of things kids can engage with if they are growing restless. Remember that even if they aren’t fully paying attention to every single thing being done and said, that they are taking away more than you may realize and you are building the rhythm and setting them up for future success in the weeks and years ahead. Give them the incentive early on that if they do a good job they will be rewarded for their efforts. For my kids, we have a bag of lollypops in our bag. If they are still and quiet for the majority of the sermon, their reward is they get a treat for the last little bit of the service.
After the Fact. Give positive reinforcement for the things your kids did well. Give challenges on areas where they can improve in the future that you’ll be watching and working towards. Ask them what they took away from the service. What was their favorite song and why? What did the Pastor preach about that they remember? Spend time during the coming week connecting what was talked about to your family discipleship time. Help your kids see that corporate worship isn’t an isolated event for the Christian, but is part of the weekly rhythm of gathering as a family and scattering for the mission.
Persevere. Don’t get discouraged when there are behavior moments or an apparent lack of paying attention. These things are to be expected. Keep the end goal in mind. Where do you want your kids to be worshipping when they’re 19 years old and out on their own? Any spiritual habit takes discipline, intentionality, and grace-driven effort. Why would we expect anything less for our kids? We should be expecting even more.