Worshiping with a child is a team sport, i.e. something you do together. And, like all sports having a collection of strategies and tricks to pull out as you play makes worship more interesting, fun and satisfying for all the players – including the parent/coach. That means parents need strategies for helping children listen to scripture as it is read in worship.
“Hearing” and “getting” the scripture is important. The sermon and most of the songs and prayers of the day are built directly on this text. If you don’t hear the scripture, you’re going to miss a lot of the rest of worship too. Personally, I think most of the responsibility for helping children “hear” the story lies with the worship planners. It is their challenge to devise ways to present the scripture that attract and hold the attention of children as well as adults. But parents can also get in the act. Below is a list of strategies with which parents, even parents who do not consider themselves great Bible students, can draw children into hearing scripture with their congregation.
- Keep a Bible story book in their worship bag. When the reading is a story, find it in the book for the child to read or reread during the sermon. If all the children of the church are given the same Bible story book, page numbers of corresponding stories can be printed with the text location in the order of worship.
- Encourage older children to read along in Bibles by providing them with bookmarks with which to mark the passages. As everyone is getting settled in before worship they can find the texts listed in the printed order of worship.
- Turn a bookmark or a bulletin on its side help young readers follow along with you as the preacher reads the text. (Think about this: when a parent helps a child follow the words the worship leader reads all three become a community sharing the scripture, like I said it’s a team sport.)
- Challenge children to draw a picture in response to a scripture by asking a question, e.g. how do you think that looked? Or, how do you think Jesus looked when he said that? Drawings can be made in margins of bulletins or in spiral bound worship journals brought to worship each week.
- When you recognize a familiar story or text about to be read, say something about it to your child and add the word listen. “Listen to this, it is one of my favorite stories about Jesus.” “These words were read at your mother and my wedding. Listen.” Even, “Listen to this. I never have figured out why….”
There have got to be more strategies. Add those you know in the Comments section.