One thing I appreciate about the Juniors ministry for fourth to sixth graders at our church is how they train students to take notes during the sermon. Around here, it’s a rite of passage when someone earns his Juniors binder after filling in the blanks on sermon outlines for a few weeks. This spring, while many graduating sixth graders make the transition to big church, I want to offer encouragement for parents to get their children ready.
Five Points for Training Attentive Kids
1. Examine yourself: Since you are the primary model that your child will imitate, how do you prioritize and prepare to corporately worship God? Remember the advice about assembling together from Hebrews 10:24-25. If you’ve fallen into bad habits, now is a great time to repent and correct them.
2. Get Comfy: If we expect students to sit quietly, we must help them to find a comfortable seat. Before they are tempted to prop their feet up on the pews, make a footrest by covering a few hymnals with a handkerchief. I’ve seen nifty Bible cases that double as a footrest, too. Notebooks and clipboards keep papers organized and easy to write on. And the fact of the matter is that everyone wants to be able to see the person speaking.
3. Participate: You might have to specifically tell your children what you expect them to do. Stand up now. Follow along in your own Bible for the corporate reading. Share a hymnal until they get used to following along with the verses. Talk at home about giving of their own money. Keep in mind that while we are not trying to make them Pharisees, we want our children to practice worshiping God so that some day they might desire to do these things on their own.
4. Take Note: Demonstrate how to take good notes, writing down key ideas and definitions or creating outlines. Let your child copy from your paper. If you need help, talk to your pastor who might show you his sermon notes. Taking notes helps us to stay focused and gives us material to review together during the week.
5. Wake Up: It is a truth universally acknowledged that people get sleepy in church. Some were trained from an early age to shut down when the preacher stood up. Some are exhausted from late Saturday activities. Some are digesting carbs and sugars from donuts. Whether we have contributing factors like these or not, it takes concentrated effort to stay attentive to expository preaching first thing in the morning.
Even if your child has been sitting quietly with you in church since they were toddlers, the time will come when you need to advise them on how to listen to sermons. Our family recommends “Expository Listening” by Ken Ramey. Do you have any other helpful tips to share about training ourselves and our children to pay attention in church?