How to Help Older Kids Sit Through Church
We’ve talked about transitioning kids from the nursery/children’s church to big church.
It’s really tough, but doable.
To read more about how to transition young kids to big church, check out our post, Four Easy Ways to Help Your Kid Sit Through Big Church.
The primary ways we help younger kids learn to sit still in worship is by providing toys, coloring pages, and sermon note sheets.
If you’ve ever successfully trained a wild child to sit still in church, you know the feeling of pride you get sitting by that precious kid while they quietly play with magnets or sticker books.
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But what about when they’re older?
Do you let your thirteen-year-old play with magnets?
Do you make them quit all the entertainment props cold turkey?
Here are three ways we’ve found to help older kids sit through church without electronics.
1. Use an Appropriate Bible
In our post The Best Bibles for Every Stage of Life, we discuss several different Bibles that are good for each stage.
If you want your child to be an adult who sits in church following along in their Bible and taking notes, you have to teach them.
So in addition to modeling that behavior yourself, you need to get them a Bible that they can use.
And given the 50,000 results that Amazon has when you search “kid’s Bible,” I totally understand if you want to just use that KJV Bible in the back of the pew.
But don’t. Get them a Bible that is written for their reading level.
Let them write and color in it.
Show them how to wreck their Bible learning about God.
2. Model It
I love technology.
My iPhone is awesome.
I love that I have access to my bible with the Logos app all the time.
But here’s the problem with using your phone for a Bible.
It’s still you on your phone in church.
That’s what you’re modeling.
And it’s a slippery slope from following along in Genesis to quickly checking Facebook to playing a game while you listen.
And if you can play Candy Crush and learn about God, awesome sauce.
Now stop it.
Because your child probably can’t.
So get a Bible you love and bring and use it.
If you’re a distracted learner, holla!
The best solution I’ve found is to get a journaling bible and color on it during church.
Check out our post How to Bible Journal When You’re Not Talented or Creative.
But beyond just passively modeling, you are probably going to have to actively redirect.
This will be impossible if your child is sitting with their friends across the sanctuary. So you may need to insist that you sit together as a family for a few months until your kid masters their new responsibility.
And while I love the idea of my kids having friends at church that they sit with and learn about God together, the reality is that they don’t pay as much attention when they’re with friends.
And after a particularly embarrassing Sunday where a woman got up during the sermon, walked up to the front row to tell me that my son, who was sitting with his friend several rows back, was distracting her, we have a rule that kids under 10 sit with me.
Their friends are welcome to sit with me too, so my row at church is usually pretty full thanks to my gregarious kids.
So maybe you need to just be the family with all the kids on your row. Yes, it’s difficult, but it’s also so worth it to make sure your kids are learning about Jesus.
3. Use Your Bible
Use it other than Sundays.
Get a family devotional and commit to doing it every week. Use your Bible during that time to read the passage.
Bible journal together on Tuesdays or whenever.
Start a Bible journaling project on Saturday night and stop before it’s finished, so they can work on it Sunday morning.
Memorize one scripture together each month. Have your own personal quiet time every day. There are lots of great devotionals for every stage of life.
Teach kids to use their Bibles more than just Sundays.
Let them be familiar with it because they’ll need those beautiful words more and more the older they get.
4. Make a Church Binder
If your child is struggling to transition from just sitting still and playing during church to being an active participant during the sermons, consider making them a church binder.
This is what we use for the kids when they are too old to just color and play during church and not quite ready to actively listen. But honestly, we have several kids in the youth group that are still using their church binders.
We put various writing utensils and colored pencils in the pencil pouch depending on which child is using the binder.
Make a special shopping trip and let your child pick out some fancy pens or pencils.
Use the time alone to discuss your expectations in church and why it’s important.
Explain the value of paying attention during the sermon, setting an example, and digging into God’s Word with other believers.
Answer all 528 of their questions.
In conclusion, teaching older kids to sit through church can be tough.
Especially if you’re trying to break bad habits. But it is so worth it. It’s our job as parents to help them be adult Christians.
And as easy as it is to let them just play during the sermon, it is not what is best.
What ways have you found to help older kids sit through church without electronics? Tell us in the comments!
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