Church, Parenting, Worship

Throwback Thursday ~ Churchmanship 101: Training Your Child to Behave in Church

Originally published January 30, 2015

churchmanship-behave

they all walked sedately into the church. The first clang of the bell rang out when they were on the steps.

After that, there was nothing to do but sit still till the sermon was over. It was two hours long. Almanzo’s legs ached and his jaw wanted to yawn, but he dared not yawn or fidget. He must sit perfectly still and never take his eyes from the preacher’s solemn face and wagging beard. Almanzo couldn’t understand how Father knew that he wasn’t looking at the preacher, if Father was looking at the preacher himself. But Father always did know.

From Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder¹

A hundred and fifty-ish years ago, this is how children were expected to behave in church. I love a good sermon, but I’m not sure even I could meet those behavioral expectations, and, these days, I certainly wouldn’t expect my children to. But fast forward from the 1800’s to 2015, and think about how you may have seen some children behave in church. It’s quite a bit different from Almanzo’s experience, wouldn’t you say?

I don’t think we need to dial things back a hundred and fifty years, though. A little fidgeting, a Bible dropped loudly on the floor, a few seconds of wailing while you frantically search for the lost pacifier, a bit of jabbering, none of these things are a big deal. But neither should a toddler be allowed to run up and down the aisles of the sanctuary for the bulk of the sermon. Eight year olds do not need to be crawling around on the floor between the pews playing with toys. Twelve year olds can reasonably be expected to stay awake, sit still, and pay attention during the service. We expect our children to obey us (and other adults) and behave properly in a variety of places: school, the grocery store, restaurants, on their sports teams, at scout meetings. Why, when the worship service is far more important than any of these, would we not require them to act appropriately in church? And when we require them to behave themselves in all these other venues but not in church, what are we teaching them about the importance of church, reverence, God?

But, if you’ll determine in your heart to train your child to control himself and behave appropriately during church, you might be surprised at all the blessings and benefits you encounter along the way.

What is appropriate church behavior?

That’s going to vary by age. Obviously, a three year old isn’t going to sit perfectly still for thirty minutes and take sermon notes. But, believe it or not, you can start (and I would strongly recommend) training your child from infancy that church is a place where we sit still, sit quietly, listen when it’s time to listen, and participate when it’s time to participate.

How do I train my child?

The first and best way to train your child is by modeling proper church behavior yourself. Does he see you singing enthusiastically during the worship time? Are you checking your makeup or Facebook during prayer? Are you visibly paying attention during the sermon? Constantly talking to your husband or a friend during the service? Your child will imitate what he sees and take his cues from you as to what is acceptable behavior.

Otherwise, you train your child in church the same way you would train him in any other situation. If you were at a restaurant, and your baby was crying incessantly, you would tend to his needs at the table, or, if you couldn’t, you would take him out to the lobby or outside until he calmed down. The simple act of doing so begins to plant the idea in his mind that a certain level of behavior is expected in that venue.

If your school aged child won’t sit quietly in his seat at school, the teacher administers the appropriate discipline, and, possibly, you do too, at home.

It’s the same way at church. You let your child know what is expected of him behavior-wise at church, praise him when he does well, and administer discipline when he disobeys.

A few helpful hints:

Infants and toddlers:
If your church offers a nursery, there’s no shame in making use of it. As a stay at home mom, I well remember the days when church was the only opportunity I had for a small breather from my children, adult fellowship, and hearing God’s word without interruption.

But if you want to have your infant or toddler in church with you, that’s great! Be sure your diaper bag is well stocked with anything you might need to keep a little one relatively still and quiet. Bottles, pacifiers, small snacks that won’t make too much of a mess, some small, soft toys (such as stuffed animals or board books- maybe even a special one that’s only for Sundays) that he can quietly play with in his lap.

Try to choose a seat on the aisle near a door in case you need to make a hasty exit. Also, try to sit somewhere where any noise your child might make won’t be picked up by the pastor’s (or other) microphone.

Older children:
Sometimes well meaning Sunday school teachers serve sugary snacks or other foods/drinks that might make your child jittery. If so, it may be more difficult for him to sit quietly during church. Check out the snack situation in your child’s class, and serve him a breakfast that won’t give him the fidgets.

Make a bathroom/water fountain pit stop before the service a weekly habit. If your child would benefit from running a lap or two outside before the service to work off some energy, make that part of the weekly routine as well.

Dress your child appropriately, yet comfortably for church. I still remember scratchy lace on some of my childhood Sunday dresses. And sitting up against the back of a pew or chair wearing a dress that ties in the back? Absolute torture when that knot dug into my spine. It’s kind of hard to sit still when your entire outfit is conspiring against you.

Get them started on taking notes during the sermon. Give your preschooler some crayons and paper and help him listen for something in the sermon he can draw a picture of (a sheep, Jesus, an angel, a garden…).

Lower elementary aged children might enjoy taking “tally mark” notes. Make a brief list of words your child is likely to hear during the sermon (God, Jesus, Bible, Love…) and instruct him to make a tally mark next to the word any time he hears it during the sermon. Some pre-readers can even attempt this if you draw a couple of small pictures instead of words (a heart for “love,” a cross for “Jesus,” etc.) Before church starts, try to guess with your child which word will get the most marks. After church, count up the marks and see if you were right. You may even want to do your own tally mark sheet during the sermon to model for your child what you want him to do.

Some churches offer a fill in the blank sermon outline in the bulletin. This is a perfect note taking activity for older children and tweens. They can also be encouraged to turn in their Bibles to all the Scriptures the pastor mentions, copy down a verse from the text of the sermon, or write down any questions that occur to them as they listen.

And, speaking of questions, another fun activity is for each family member to write down a couple of questions, and their answers, from the sermon. Then, in the car on the way home, each person gets to ask his questions. Whoever gets the most correct answers gets to pick what’s for lunch (or bragging rights, or something else fun). It’ll keep EVERYONE paying attention, and it’s a great way to reinforce and discuss the sermon.

Attend church every Sunday. Not only is it biblical to attend faithfully, but children thrive on routine, and it will be easier for them to remember how to behave if they’re learning and practicing those behavior skills weekly instead of in a “hit and miss” fashion.

 

Training your child to behave well in church isn’t easy at times. I know. I have 6 children and we have raised all of them in church. But if you and your husband will invest the time and effort, everyone benefits. Your pastor will be able to preach uninterrupted. Your fellow church members will be able to worship undistracted. Once your child begins to behave himself better, you will be able to focus more on the service and be less frazzled. But most importantly, your child will develop the skills necessary for hearing and paying attention to God’s word being proclaimed, and what a blessing that will be to him now, and for the rest of his life.

What are some things that have worked well
to help your child behave in church?

 

¹Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farmer Boy  (New York: Harper Collins, 1933), 90-91

This article was originally published under a different title at Satisfaction Through Christ.
Church

Throwback Thursday ~ Churchmanship 101: Funerals

Originally published January 9, 2015

I was born into a church-going family. I grew up in church and have attended faithfully my whole life. These days, that’s becoming more and more rare. Often, people have a very hit and miss relationship with church, and if you haven’t had much experience attending services and other events, it can be easy to miss out on some of the decorum and how-to’s that are a given to those of us raised in church. You don’t want to “do it wrong”, but, then you don’t want someone telling you you’re doing it wrong, either. So, I thought maybe I (and I need some help from you other “lifers” out there, too!) could serve as a resource.

Thus, a new series I’m introducing today: Churchmanship 101. We’re going to take a look at various activities and events of the church and go over some of the biblical basics and/or practical aspects of churchy stuff. (One quick disclaimer: I’m writing as a lifelong Southern Baptist who has spent most of my church life in small to medium-sized, traditional {think steeple and pews, with no laser light show or rock band} churches. That’s what I know, so that’s the perspective from which I have to write. Your experiences might be a little different.) Please ask questions, suggest topics, and share your stories!

funerals

Churchmanship 101: Funerals

As a ministry wife and church musician, I’ve been to a lot of funerals. I mean, A LOT. I’ve seen some awesome ones and I’ve seen things that would make you wonder what planet some of the attendees/bereaved were from. How about a few helpful hints about funerals and wakes for the bereaved, the attendees, and the churches who host them?

The Way You Look Tonight

Yep, I’m going there. In a civilized society we dress appropriately for the occasion. Not necessarily expensively, but appropriately. Generally speaking, the following are inappropriate for funerals:

  • visible cleavage
  • fishnet stockings
  • mid-thigh (or shorter) skirts/dresses
  • stilletto heels
  • excessive bling, makeup, or hair
  • jeans
  • shorts
  • flip flops
  • camouflage
  • baseball caps
  • leather pants
  • overalls

(There could be some exceptions, such as if a baseball player dies and people wear baseball hats to honor him, or something like that.)

If you look in a mirror and you look like you did when you used to go clubbing, or to a picnic, or to mow the lawn, you need to change. A) You’re going to church, and B) somebody just DIED. Show some respect.

Ladies, whatever the rest of your wardrobe looks like, you need one decent, modest dress, suit, or skirt/blouse combo in a muted color that could be worn to a wedding, funeral, or job interview. Men, you need one decent suit and tie or slacks/dress shirt/sport jacket/tie for the same reasons. No, jeans are not slacks. No, a denim or athletic jacket is not a suit/sport jacket. If you don’t want to put out a lot of money because you don’t often dress that way, go to a thrift store. Many times, you can find brand new clothes (tags still on) for a song. Or, if you’re really hard pressed, borrow an appropriate outfit from a friend.

Suffer the Little Children

Wakes and funerals are mind numbingly boring for small children who don’t know what’s going on. If you have small children and you’re a funeral/wake attendee or you’re family of the deceased, consider getting a babysitter. In fact, it would be a wonderful gesture on the church’s part to have someone volunteer to take the children of the deceased’s family members to the nursery (or other kid friendly room) and let them run around and play, feed them, etc.

However, if you feel you have to have your child at a funeral/wake (whether you’re a family member or simply an attendee), you MUST supervise and control your child. If he makes a fuss during the service, take him out to the lobby until he calms down. And by all means, do not let him run wild in the church or let him play on the sanctuary stage (there may be expensive sound equipment, office equipment, etc., he could ruin) during the wake. First of all, there will be many strangers coming and going, and these days you can’t be too careful about abductions and abuse, even in a church. Second, your child could hurt himself or run out into the parking lot or street. No need for an additional tragedy. Furthermore, it is awkward for the pastor or someone else to come to a grieving family and ask them to please control their child because he is disturbing or upsetting others or destroying something.

Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room

If you haven’t been able to kick the habit yet and you need a cigarette, go outside. Most churches are smoke free zones. Stand far enough away from the entrance that people don’t have to walk through clouds of smoke to get into the building and that smoke doesn’t waft into the building.

A Picture of Me Without You

Selfies with the deceased are déclassé. If you have to do it, at least wait until no one else is around, and keep it off social media.

Watch Your Mouth

Swearing (even what you might consider mild swearing, like WTH or OMG) is not appropriate in a church. Ever.

Neither is chewing tobacco.

Hangin’ on the Telephone

Turn off or silence your phone.

While there may be lulls during a wake when it’s ok to check your phone/texts/social media, that’s never OK during the actual service except in emergency situations.

Food, Glorious Food

Bring food for the family for after the funeral if you can. If you’re not sure what to bring, you’re probably safe with a cake or a deli (meat/cheese or fruit/veggie) tray. If you’re an attendee, understand that the food that has been brought is for the family even if it’s all laid out in the fellowship hall and looks like a potluck. This is not an open buffet unless you have been specifically invited or a general announcement has been made that all are welcome to eat.

Don’t Make a Scene, Irene

For various reasons, sometimes people laugh or smile at a wake or funeral. That doesn’t mean they didn’t love the deceased or that they don’t miss him/her. (But it isn’t a comedy club either, so try to contain yourself if you’re amused by something.)

Go to the bathroom before the service starts so you won’t have to be embarrassed by getting up and walking out in the middle of it.

Wakes/funerals are not a time or place for family feuds or for airing grievances about the deceased. Keep it to yourself.

During funerals, there’s often an open call for people to “stand up and say a few words” about the dearly departed. The key word in this phrase is “few.” Share a brief and appropriate fond memory or something you appreciate about the deceased. Again, swearing and airing of grievances are not appropriate, and neither is vulgarity, personal, private details, or a long harangue aimed at the bereaved or attendees.

Different cultures express grief differently. It may be totally appropriate for there to be a roomful of loud weeping and wailing at certain funerals. However, if you’re the only attendee doing this, others may not be able to hear the service. Be aware of your surroundings.

You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore

If you’d like to make a memorial donation to a charity or other organization in honor of the deceased, be certain (especially if you’re considering one that hasn’t been suggested by the family) it’s an organization the deceased would have supported. For example, I would love it if, when I die, people would donate Gideon Bibles instead of sending flowers, but I would turn over in my grave if someone made a donation in my name to Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, TD Jakes, etc.

Welcome to My World (A word to churches and pastors conducting funerals)

Churches should be funeral friendly. Make sure your signage is up to date so non-church members will know where the sanctuary, bathrooms, fellowship hall, etc., are. Make sure the bathrooms are clean and well stocked with paper towels, soap, toilet paper, etc. And while we’re on the subject of bathrooms, correct any plumbing problems or at least put up signs indicating that a toilet is out of order, you have to hold the handle down, etc. Church members may know, but visitors don’t. Provide plenty of well placed kleenex boxes in the sanctuary and other rooms family members might use. Provide a “family room,” if possible. Sometimes family members just need a moment alone.

Pastors: breath mints and deodorant. Enough said.

Pastors in the South in the heat of summer- a simple, elegant, and BRIEF service at the grave site is always nice. (Likewise for pastors in the North during the dead of winter.)

Well, those are just some of the observations I’ve made at funerals over the years. Any other advice, suggestions, or questions out there? Are things done differently in your neck of the woods? What has been your most interesting funeral experience?

Church, Parenting, Throwback Thursday, Worship

Throwback Thursday ~ Churchmanship 101: Training Your Child to Behave in Church

Originally published January 30, 2015

churchmanship-behave

they all walked sedately into the church. The first clang of the bell rang out when they were on the steps.

After that, there was nothing to do but sit still till the sermon was over. It was two hours long. Almanzo’s legs ached and his jaw wanted to yawn, but he dared not yawn or fidget. He must sit perfectly still and never take his eyes from the preacher’s solemn face and wagging beard. Almanzo couldn’t understand how Father knew that he wasn’t looking at the preacher, if Father was looking at the preacher himself. But Father always did know.

From Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder¹

A hundred and fifty-ish years ago, this is how children were expected to behave in church. I love a good sermon, but I’m not sure even I could meet those behavioral expectations, and, these days, I certainly wouldn’t expect my children to. But fast forward from the 1800’s to 2015, and think about how you may have seen some children behave in church. It’s quite a bit different from Almanzo’s experience, wouldn’t you say?

I don’t think we need to dial things back a hundred and fifty years, though. A little fidgeting, a Bible dropped loudly on the floor, a few seconds of wailing while you frantically search for the lost pacifier, a bit of jabbering, none of these things are a big deal. But neither should a toddler be allowed to run up and down the aisles of the sanctuary for the bulk of the sermon. Eight year olds do not need to be crawling around on the floor between the pews playing with toys. Twelve year olds can reasonably be expected to stay awake, sit still, and pay attention during the service. We expect our children to obey us (and other adults) and behave properly in a variety of places: school, the grocery store, restaurants, on their sports teams, at scout meetings. Why, when the worship service is far more important than any of these, would we not require them to act appropriately in church? And when we require them to behave themselves in all these other venues but not in church, what are we teaching them about the importance of church, reverence, God?

But, if you’ll determine in your heart to train your child to control himself and behave appropriately during church, you might be surprised at all the blessings and benefits you encounter along the way.

What is appropriate church behavior?

That’s going to vary by age. Obviously, a three year old isn’t going to sit perfectly still for thirty minutes and take sermon notes. But, believe it or not, you can start (and I would strongly recommend) training your child from infancy that church is a place where we sit still, sit quietly, listen when it’s time to listen, and participate when it’s time to participate.

How do I train my child?

The first and best way to train your child is by modeling proper church behavior yourself. Does he see you singing enthusiastically during the worship time? Are you checking your makeup or Facebook during prayer? Are you visibly paying attention during the sermon? Constantly talking to your husband or a friend during the service? Your child will imitate what he sees and take his cues from you as to what is acceptable behavior.

Otherwise, you train your child in church the same way you would train him in any other situation. If you were at a restaurant, and your baby was crying incessantly, you would tend to his needs at the table, or, if you couldn’t, you would take him out to the lobby or outside until he calmed down. The simple act of doing so begins to plant the idea in his mind that a certain level of behavior is expected in that venue.

If your school aged child won’t sit quietly in his seat at school, the teacher administers the appropriate discipline, and, possibly, you do too, at home.

It’s the same way at church. You let your child know what is expected of him behavior-wise at church, praise him when he does well, and administer discipline when he disobeys.

A few helpful hints:

Infants and toddlers:
If your church offers a nursery, there’s no shame in making use of it. As a stay at home mom, I well remember the days when church was the only opportunity I had for a small breather from my children, adult fellowship, and hearing God’s word without interruption.

But if you want to have your infant or toddler in church with you, that’s great! Be sure your diaper bag is well stocked with anything you might need to keep a little one relatively still and quiet. Bottles, pacifiers, small snacks that won’t make too much of a mess, some small, soft toys (such as stuffed animals or board books- maybe even a special one that’s only for Sundays) that he can quietly play with in his lap.

Try to choose a seat on the aisle near a door in case you need to make a hasty exit. Also, try to sit somewhere where any noise your child might make won’t be picked up by the pastor’s (or other) microphone.

Older children:
Sometimes well meaning Sunday school teachers serve sugary snacks or other foods/drinks that might make your child jittery. If so, it may be more difficult for him to sit quietly during church. Check out the snack situation in your child’s class, and serve him a breakfast that won’t give him the fidgets.

Make a bathroom/water fountain pit stop before the service a weekly habit. If your child would benefit from running a lap or two outside before the service to work off some energy, make that part of the weekly routine as well.

Dress your child appropriately, yet comfortably for church. I still remember scratchy lace on some of my childhood Sunday dresses. And sitting up against the back of a pew or chair wearing a dress that ties in the back? Absolute torture when that knot dug into my spine. It’s kind of hard to sit still when your entire outfit is conspiring against you.

Get them started on taking notes during the sermon. Give your preschooler some crayons and paper and help him listen for something in the sermon he can draw a picture of (a sheep, Jesus, an angel, a garden…).

Lower elementary aged children might enjoy taking “tally mark” notes. Make a brief list of words your child is likely to hear during the sermon (God, Jesus, Bible, Love…) and instruct him to make a tally mark next to the word any time he hears it during the sermon. Some pre-readers can even attempt this if you draw a couple of small pictures instead of words (a heart for “love,” a cross for “Jesus,” etc.) Before church starts, try to guess with your child which word will get the most marks. After church, count up the marks and see if you were right. You may even want to do your own tally mark sheet during the sermon to model for your child what you want him to do.

Some churches offer a fill in the blank sermon outline in the bulletin. This is a perfect note taking activity for older children and tweens. They can also be encouraged to turn in their Bibles to all the Scriptures the pastor mentions, copy down a verse from the text of the sermon, or write down any questions that occur to them as they listen.

And, speaking of questions, another fun activity is for each family member to write down a couple of questions, and their answers, from the sermon. Then, in the car on the way home, each person gets to ask his questions. Whoever gets the most correct answers gets to pick what’s for lunch (or bragging rights, or something else fun). It’ll keep EVERYONE paying attention, and it’s a great way to reinforce and discuss the sermon.

Attend church every Sunday. Not only is it biblical to attend faithfully, but children thrive on routine, and it will be easier for them to remember how to behave if they’re learning and practicing those behavior skills weekly instead of in a “hit and miss” fashion.

 

Training your child to behave well in church isn’t easy at times. I know. I have 6 children and we have raised all of them in church. But if you and your husband will invest the time and effort, everyone benefits. Your pastor will be able to preach uninterrupted. Your fellow church members will be able to worship undistracted. Once your child begins to behave himself better, you will be able to focus more on the service and be less frazzled. But most importantly, your child will develop the skills necessary for hearing and paying attention to God’s word being proclaimed, and what a blessing that will be to him now, and for the rest of his life.

What are some things that have worked well
to help your child behave in church?

 

¹Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farmer Boy  (New York: Harper Collins, 1933), 90-91

This article was Originally published under a different title at Satisfaction Through Christ.
Church, Parenting, Worship

Churchmanship 101: Training Your Child to Behave in Church

This is the second installment of our series Churchmanship 101.
(You can find the first here.) This article was first published
under a different title at Satisfaction Through Christ.

churchmanship-behave

they all walked sedately into the church. The first clang of the bell rang out when they were on the steps.

After that, there was nothing to do but sit still till the sermon was over. It was two hours long. Almanzo’s legs ached and his jaw wanted to yawn, but he dared not yawn or fidget. He must sit perfectly still and never take his eyes from the preacher’s solemn face and wagging beard. Almanzo couldn’t understand how Father knew that he wasn’t looking at the preacher, if Father was looking at the preacher himself. But Father always did know.

From Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder¹

A hundred and fifty-ish years ago, this is how children were expected to behave in church. I love a good sermon, but I’m not sure even I could meet those behavioral expectations, and, these days, I certainly wouldn’t expect my children to. But fast forward from the 1800’s to 2015, and think about how you may have seen some children behave in church. It’s quite a bit different from Almanzo’s experience, wouldn’t you say?

I don’t think we need to dial things back a hundred and fifty years, though. A little fidgeting, a Bible dropped loudly on the floor, a few seconds of wailing while you frantically search for the lost pacifier, a bit of jabbering, none of these things are a big deal. But neither should a toddler be allowed to run up and down the aisles of the sanctuary for the bulk of the sermon. Eight year olds do not need to be crawling around on the floor between the pews playing with toys. Twelve year olds can reasonably be expected to stay awake, sit still, and pay attention during the service. We expect our children to obey us (and other adults) and behave properly in a variety of places: school, the grocery store, restaurants, on their sports teams, at scout meetings. Why, when the worship service is far more important than any of these, would we not require them to act appropriately in church? And when we require them to behave themselves in all these other venues but not in church, what are we teaching them about the importance of church, reverence, God?

But, if you’ll determine in your heart to train your child to control himself and behave appropriately during church, you might be surprised at all the blessings and benefits you encounter along the way.

What is appropriate church behavior?

That’s going to vary by age. Obviously, a three year old isn’t going to sit perfectly still for thirty minutes and take sermon notes. But, believe it or not, you can start (and I would strongly recommend) training your child from infancy that church is a place where we sit still, sit quietly, listen when it’s time to listen, and participate when it’s time to participate.

How do I train my child?

The first and best way to train your child is by modeling proper church behavior yourself. Does he see you singing enthusiastically during the worship time? Are you checking your makeup or Facebook during prayer? Are you visibly paying attention during the sermon? Constantly talking to your husband or a friend during the service? Your child will imitate what he sees and take his cues from you as to what is acceptable behavior.

Otherwise, you train your child in church the same way you would train him in any other situation. If you were at a restaurant, and your baby was crying incessantly, you would tend to his needs at the table, or, if you couldn’t, you would take him out to the lobby or outside until he calmed down. The simple act of doing so begins to plant the idea in his mind that a certain level of behavior is expected in that venue.

If your school aged child won’t sit quietly in his seat at school, the teacher administers the appropriate discipline, and, possibly, you do too, at home.

It’s the same way at church. You let your child know what is expected of him behavior-wise at church, praise him when he does well, and administer discipline when he disobeys.

A few helpful hints:

Infants and toddlers:
If your church offers a nursery, there’s no shame in making use of it. As a stay at home mom, I well remember the days when church was the only opportunity I had for a small breather from my children, adult fellowship, and hearing God’s word without interruption.

But if you want to have your infant or toddler in church with you, that’s great! Be sure your diaper bag is well stocked with anything you might need to keep a little one relatively still and quiet. Bottles, pacifiers, small snacks that won’t make too much of a mess, some small, soft toys (such as stuffed animals or board books- maybe even a special one that’s only for Sundays) that he can quietly play with in his lap.

Try to choose a seat on the aisle near a door in case you need to make a hasty exit. Also, try to sit somewhere where any noise your child might make won’t be picked up by the pastor’s (or other) microphone.

Older children:
Sometimes well meaning Sunday school teachers serve sugary snacks or other foods/drinks that might make your child jittery. If so, it may be more difficult for him to sit quietly during church. Check out the snack situation in your child’s class, and serve him a breakfast that won’t give him the fidgets.

Make a bathroom/water fountain pit stop before the service a weekly habit. If your child would benefit from running a lap or two outside before the service to work off some energy, make that part of the weekly routine as well.

Dress your child appropriately, yet comfortably for church. I still remember scratchy lace on some of my childhood Sunday dresses. And sitting up against the back of a pew or chair wearing a dress that ties in the back? Absolute torture when that knot dug into my spine. It’s kind of hard to sit still when your entire outfit is conspiring against you.

Get them started on taking notes during the sermon. Give your preschooler some crayons and paper and help him listen for something in the sermon he can draw a picture of (a sheep, Jesus, an angel, a garden…).

Lower elementary aged children might enjoy taking “tally mark” notes. Make a brief list of words your child is likely to hear during the sermon (God, Jesus, Bible, Love…) and instruct him to make a tally mark next to the word any time he hears it during the sermon. Some pre-readers can even attempt this if you draw a couple of small pictures instead of words (a heart for “love,” a cross for “Jesus,” etc.) Before church starts, try to guess with your child which word will get the most marks. After church, count up the marks and see if you were right. You may even want to do your own tally mark sheet during the sermon to model for your child what you want him to do.

Some churches offer a fill in the blank sermon outline in the bulletin. This is a perfect note taking activity for older children and tweens. They can also be encouraged to turn in their Bibles to all the Scriptures the pastor mentions, copy down a verse from the text of the sermon, or write down any questions that occur to them as they listen.

And, speaking of questions, another fun activity is for each family member to write down a couple of questions, and their answers, from the sermon. Then, in the car on the way home, each person gets to ask his questions. Whoever gets the most correct answers gets to pick what’s for lunch (or bragging rights, or something else fun). It’ll keep EVERYONE paying attention, and it’s a great way to reinforce and discuss the sermon.

Attend church every Sunday. Not only is it biblical to attend faithfully, but children thrive on routine, and it will be easier for them to remember how to behave if they’re learning and practicing those behavior skills weekly instead of in a “hit and miss” fashion.

 

Training your child to behave well in church isn’t easy at times. I know. I have 6 children and we have raised all of them in church. But if you and your husband will invest the time and effort, everyone benefits. Your pastor will be able to preach uninterrupted. Your fellow church members will be able to worship undistracted. Once your child begins to behave himself better, you will be able to focus more on the service and be less frazzled. But most importantly, your child will develop the skills necessary for hearing and paying attention to God’s word being proclaimed, and what a blessing that will be to him now, and for the rest of his life.

What are some things that have worked well
to help your child behave in church?

 

¹Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farmer Boy  (New York: Harper Collins, 1933), 90-91
Church

Churchmanship 101: Funerals

I was born into a church-going family. I grew up in church and have attended faithfully my whole life. These days, that’s becoming more and more rare. Often, people have a very hit and miss relationship with church, and if you haven’t had much experience attending services and other events, it can be easy to miss out on some of the decorum and how-to’s that are a given to those of us raised in church. You don’t want to “do it wrong”, but, then you don’t want someone telling you you’re doing it wrong, either. So, I thought maybe I (and I need some help from you other “lifers” out there, too!) could serve as a resource.

Thus, a new series I’m introducing today: Churchmanship 101. We’re going to take a look at various activities and events of the church and go over some of the biblical basics and/or practical aspects of churchy stuff. (One quick disclaimer: I’m writing as a lifelong Southern Baptist who has spent most of my church life in small to medium-sized, traditional {think steeple and pews, with no laser light show or rock band} churches. That’s what I know, so that’s the perspective from which I have to write. Your experiences might be a little different.) Please ask questions, suggest topics, and share your stories!

funerals

 Churchmanship 101: Funerals

As a ministry wife and church musician, I’ve been to a lot of funerals. I mean, A LOT. I’ve seen some awesome ones and I’ve seen things that would make you wonder what planet some of the attendees/bereaved were from. How about a few helpful hints about funerals and wakes for the bereaved, the attendees, and the churches who host them?

The Way You Look Tonight

Yep, I’m going there. In a civilized society we dress appropriately for the occasion. Not necessarily expensively, but appropriately. Generally speaking, the following are inappropriate for funerals:

  • visible cleavage
  • fishnet stockings
  • mid-thigh (or shorter) skirts/dresses
  • stilletto heels
  • excessive bling, makeup, or hair
  • jeans
  • shorts
  • flip flops
  • camouflage
  • baseball caps
  • leather pants
  • overalls

(There could be some exceptions, such as if a baseball player dies and people wear baseball hats to honor him, or something like that.)

If you look in a mirror and you look like you did when you used to go clubbing, or to a picnic, or to mow the lawn, you need to change. A) You’re going to church, and B) somebody just DIED. Show some respect.

Ladies, whatever the rest of your wardrobe looks like, you need one decent, modest dress, suit, or skirt/blouse combo in a muted color that could be worn to a wedding, funeral, or job interview. Men, you need one decent suit and tie or slacks/dress shirt/sport jacket/tie for the same reasons. No, jeans are not slacks. No, a denim or athletic jacket is not a suit/sport jacket. If you don’t want to put out a lot of money because you don’t often dress that way, go to a thrift store. Many times, you can find brand new clothes (tags still on) for a song. Or, if you’re really hard pressed, borrow an appropriate outfit from a friend.

Suffer the Little Children

Wakes and funerals are mind numbingly boring for small children who don’t know what’s going on. If you have small children and you’re a funeral/wake attendee or you’re family of the deceased, consider getting a babysitter. In fact, it would be a wonderful gesture on the church’s part to have someone volunteer to take the children of the deceased’s family members to the nursery (or other kid friendly room) and let them run around and play, feed them, etc.

However, if you feel you have to have your child at a funeral/wake (whether you’re a family member or simply an attendee), you MUST supervise and control your child. If he makes a fuss during the service, take him out to the lobby until he calms down. And by all means, do not let him run wild in the church or let him play on the sanctuary stage (there may be expensive sound equipment, office equipment, etc., he could ruin) during the wake. First of all, there will be many strangers coming and going, and these days you can’t be too careful about abductions and abuse, even in a church. Second, your child could hurt himself or run out into the parking lot or street. No need for an additional tragedy. Furthermore, it is awkward for the pastor or someone else to come to a grieving family and ask them to please control their child because he is disturbing or upsetting others or destroying something.

Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room

If you haven’t been able to kick the habit yet and you need a cigarette, go outside. Most churches are smoke free zones. Stand far enough away from the entrance that people don’t have to walk through clouds of smoke to get into the building and that smoke doesn’t waft into the building.

A Picture of Me Without You

Selfies with the deceased are declasse. If you have to do it, at least wait until no one else is around, and keep it off social media.

Watch Your Mouth

Swearing (even what you might consider mild swearing, like WTH or OMG) is not appropriate in a church. Ever.

Neither is chewing tobacco.

Hangin’ on the Telephone

Turn off or silence your phone.

While there may be lulls during a wake when it’s ok to check your phone/texts/social media, that’s never OK during the actual service except in emergency situations.

Food, Glorious Food

Bring food for the family for after the funeral if you can. If you’re not sure what to bring, you’re probably safe with a cake or a deli (meat/cheese or fruit/veggie) tray. If you’re an attendee, understand that the food that has been brought is for the family even if it’s all laid out in the fellowship hall and looks like a potluck. This is not an open buffet unless you have been specifically invited or a general announcement has been made that all are welcome to eat.

Don’t Make a Scene, Irene

For various reasons, sometimes people laugh or smile at a wake or funeral. That doesn’t mean they didn’t love the deceased or that they don’t miss him/her. (But it isn’t a comedy club either, so try to contain yourself if you’re amused by something.)

Go to the bathroom before the service starts so you won’t have to be embarrassed by getting up and walking out in the middle of it.

Wakes/funerals are not a time or place for family feuds or for airing grievances about the deceased. Keep it to yourself.

During funerals, there’s often an open call for people to “stand up and say a few words” about the dearly departed. The key word in this phrase is “few.” Share a brief and appropriate fond memory or something you appreciate about the deceased. Again, swearing and airing of grievances are not appropriate, and neither is vulgarity, personal, private details, or a long harangue aimed at the bereaved or attendees.

Different cultures express grief differently. It may be totally appropriate for there to be a roomful of loud weeping and wailing at certain funerals. However, if you’re the only attendee doing this, others may not be able to hear the service. Be aware of your surroundings.

You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore

If you’d like to make a memorial donation to a charity or other organization in honor of the deceased, be certain (especially if you’re considering one that hasn’t been suggested by the family) it’s an organization the deceased would have supported. For example, I would love it if, when I die, people would donate Gideon Bibles instead of sending flowers, but I would turn over in my grave if someone made a donation in my name to Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, TD Jakes, etc.

Welcome to My World (A word to churches and pastors conducting funerals)

Churches should be funeral friendly. Make sure your signage is up to date so non-church members will know where the sanctuary, bathrooms, fellowship hall, etc., are. Make sure the bathrooms are clean and well stocked with paper towels, soap, toilet paper, etc. And while we’re on the subject of bathrooms, correct any plumbing problems or at least put up signs indicating that a toilet is out of order, you have to hold the handle down, etc. Church members may know, but visitors don’t. Provide plenty of well placed kleenex boxes in the sanctuary and other rooms family members might use. Provide a “family room,” if possible. Sometimes family members just need a moment alone.

Pastors: breath mints and deodorant. Enough said.

Pastors in the South in the heat of summer- a simple, elegant, and BRIEF service at the grave site is always nice. (Likewise for pastors in the North during the dead of winter.)

Well, those are just some of the observations I’ve made at funerals over the years. Any other advice, suggestions, or questions out there? Are things done differently in your neck of the woods? What has been your most interesting funeral experience?