If your kids need to sit through "big church," use these tips to help them get the most out of the serviceand preserve your own sanity too:
- Talk beforehandperhaps in the car on the way to church or quietly during the preludeabout the service. Explain what usually happens and the kind of behavior you want to see in your children.
- Discuss consequences for misbehavior. If your kids do misbehave, remove them from the situation and follow through with the consequences.
- Before you find a place to sit in the service, head to the bathroom. This eliminates a common disruption during the sermon.
- Sit near the front. Children like to see what's going on.
- Take along an activity bagBible storybooks, coloring books, crayons, blank paper. Urge your kids to draw pictures related to what's going on.
- Encourage participation at their level. Kids can sing, sit quietly with hands folded during prayer times, and stand and sit on cue with the rest of the congregation.
Your Support Network
Other Christian parents can be an essential part of your parenting efforts. In most churches, the best parents' groups happen organically. Still, you'll need some guidelines to make your time together meaningful. Here are some keys to an effective small group for parents:
Have an objective
Decide if you'll tackle general parenting issues, or something more specifictroubled teenagers, homeschooling, or the terrible twos.
In addition to discussion-oriented meetings, bring in experts occasionally to add new perspectives. Check local colleges or community agencies to find pros on issues like schooling, child development, conflict, etc. Church staff in youth or children's ministries are also a good source of expertise.
Support groups work best when members freely share experiences, strategies, and feelings. Leaders should facilitate conversations without dominating them.
Establish ground rules
Set expectations for group behavior. Make decisions about when and where to meet, keeping confidential what's said within the group, and not passing judgment on other group members.
Parenting support groups tend to focus on children's problems, which can be hard to discuss if children are present. Recruit a volunteeror hire a responsible teento supervise young kids during meetings.
Brad Lewis, a member of the CPT Advisory Board, lives with his wife and two sons in Colorado Springs.
Copyright © 2003 by the author or Christianity Today/Christian Parenting Today magazine.
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