That was the question I heard today when talking to a friend during our weekly discipleship calls. I confessed that I’m STILL trying to figure that out but I’ve tried a few things along the way. I’m going live on FB now to record what I shared about what I have done and what I am doing now that my children are older. What I REALLY WANT TO KNOW is how do YOU address this in your family?
Share your responses here if you are able, so others can find them later when it’s needed.
Question: How to get my kids to focus?
Answer: I’m still figuring that out now.
The goal is for my kids to engage in church and grow to love going. What is your goal and purpose for going to church? Your goal may be different from my goal. So allow me to share a bit about our situation so you can understand from where I am coming from. BUT even BEFORE THAT let me share a bit about my family.
Who am I to be able to share with you anything about this? Well, I’m a parent of two. A boy and a girl. They are currently in the 7th and 6th grade here in Daegu, South Korea. We are a military family, that is why we are currently living here, and I value taking my children to church each week even though that means going alone as my husband of 12 (or is it 13??? I forget lol) years does not go with me. More about that later. Maybe. That’s another story, but definitely related. Sigh. I could go on and on but now you get a general idea about my family.
I care a lot about this next generation. I believe our roles as parents impact the future in how we raise our children. Because I’m pretty passionate about encouraging others in whatever they have been given to do, I’m involved in a “few” things and it causes me to listen after church to people who want to share with me how they are doing (and I enjoy this time!). I’ve written a blog post called, “Why do you talk so much,” to share what my son did to express how he felt about these LONG conversations after church in his own unique way. Read that here: https://sejanashines.com/2019/01/27/why-do-you-talk-so-much/
Things I’ve done over the ages and how it has progressed
To tell you the truth, I don’t remember what it was like when my children were younger- it is all a blur now. HAHAHA. But believe me when I say that they sure did go to church each week. The community and the message that I received from church was a VITAL part of MY support system. It was a way of connecting and sharing my own passions and gifts with others (read: ADULTS) not just my own children. If you are in the midst of raising littles you know what I mean about needing some ADULT time and ADULT conversations.
But now that my children are a bit older, I know I need to allow them some choice and some buy-in with whatever we do. This makes it better for EVERYONE when they are involved or feel involved. For example, I presented the issue at hand of “you’re sleeping in church” and I put it on them to figure out a solution because what was nonnegotiable was the fact that they were indeed going to church AND I expect you to NOT sleep when you are there. I don’t SAY it like this of course as packaging does matter. But that is definitely what I am thinking !!!
Here’s some things I have done over the ages….
–Use the childcare/nursery services offered.
–Volunteer there or SOMEWHERE within the church as a way to pitch in.
–Thank the volunteers profusely.
–Be involved in what they are learning. Ask the volunteers questions. Ask the kids in the car ride back home, “what did you guys learn today?” “How did drinking Sprite tie into what you were learning today?” HAHA I remember my son telling me one day he had Sprite when I had never given him soda yet at home. I was like whaaaa?? But anyway…. This opened up conversations about “just because you are offered…” and “full of sugar, moderation is key…” and “are you brushing your teeth well… you only get a certain number of teeth…” LOL.
-check out what they are learning, if you don’t like it (or if it is just “time”), bring them into the church services with you
-bring Biblically related materials to church. (books, games, quiet projects) (See the Facebook live video that expounds on this a bit more.) I believe that this keeps their hands (or eyes) busy and focused but their ears are OPEN. Even adults can sometimes have a hard time focusing on things and can try new things to stay attentive.
–bring a notebook to draw scenes that relate to the message or take notes. I do this to help me pay attention and also because I have other thoughts that come to mind that relate to the sermon. AND I JUST LOVE TO SAVE THESE FOR FUTURE REFERENCE!!!
–use printables online (free or paid) and bring them for your children to complete. Google “sermon notes children kids free printables” and a lot come up. In the video I use this one… http://www.leadingthemtotherock.com/2019/04/sermon-notes-for-kids-and-youth.html . I’m definitely a fan of free!
–ask questions afterwards. I engage my children in conversation about either something that happened in church or something that was said during church. It doesn’t have to be a long drawn out thing. Interactive conversations are one way to show my children that Jesus is applicable even outside those 4 walls on Sunday.
How do you bring up what was preached in church outside of church? I admit I typically don’t do this every time but in the car I realize that I have a captive audience. If I want to engage my children for a few minutes – this is good. We can talk about church or the sermon, about their friends (building relationships), or shared prayer requests. We are only limited by our willingness and our imagination.
Engaging my children
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them… Deut 6:1-15, specifically verses 5-7
How do you have spiritual conversations and engage your children spiritually throughout the day and during the week? If you are waiting on them to bring it up you, you may be waiting a while. Why don’t you share what God is showing and teaching YOU (at their age appropriate level of course)? That can be a great way to show them how Jesus cares and how he is a part of our day to day life, not just what happens after we die. What if you have never tried this? Well today is a new day to try, try again. First, pray and plead with God to help you with this. Pray that He would show you how and why this is important, if you aren’t there yet. If we are to go out and make disciples of all the nations yet have never engaged in spiritual conversations with others (much less our own children) then the question begs to be asked- how am I making God known to others? How are I making disciples? Now I’m not saying you turn into somebody different or weird I’m simply saying that acknowledging Christ and what He has done is a great start. It is an important start. Remember, you’re reading this post about, “How do I keep my kids focused in church” because you recognize that you are entrusted by God with the responsibility of raising or impacting this next generation. You care about how they behave in church (for your sake) or you care about how they will grow in relationship with the Lord (for their sake.) Or both! Either way you are here. So, because I sincerely care about you growing in your relationship with God and seeing you apply what you learn, I have to encourage you in your most important God given role as spiritual leader for those in your care. Your children need direction in their spiritual development (not just in their academic studies). Do not neglect your role. The only way that YOU can truly be equipped for this role is to go to the One that created both them and you- God!
For I formed you in the womb …. Psalm 139:13-18, Jeremiah 1:5
For I know the plans that I have for you…. Jeremiah 29:11-13
Look to Christ to help you help your children. No one else knows everything about them and you. All my earlier suggestions were just another concerned parent sharing practical ideas that have worked for us for a period of time. However, what really matters and what I am really saying is that I want my children to come to know and follow Christ because of their own personal experiences with Him. I want them to have tasted and seen for themselves that God is good. I want them to build a strong foundation on the rock of Christ now while they are still under my care before being sent out into the world of possibilities. I want them to trust God. These things do not happen overnight. I know that it starts with me, their mother (or their parent). And it will require me to be consistent about the things that matter the most. It goes something like this: I know the importance of Christ much like I know we need to take time to brush our teeth even though it may not be obvious right away. I know I can’t let you eat bags of candy every day instead of your dinner and still expect that you would develop healthy eating habits for life. So, much to your dismay, I repeatedly say “no” to excess candy and “eat your food” concerning the vegetables on your plate.
Discipline does not seem pleasant at the time but …. Hebrews 12:11-13
The bottom line is that I love my children. I want what is best for them. I want to set them up for success to become a responsible friend, adult, provider, nurturer and citizen. “More is caught, than taught.” So, the things that we actually DO in their developmental years (not just in the things we say) builds up their lifelong foundation. I want their foundation to be solid, not shaky. A foundation built upon the Rock that truly saves no matter the circumstance they find themselves in.
My children see me going to and participating in church and they see how I engage and serve others in some way every week. They see me paying attention by taking notes. They see me saying “Hi” to others and building relationships with friends old and new. (See that ‘Why do you talk so much’ blog post). They also see how I treat my husband (their dad) who does not share my beliefs and we all experience inclusive rhythms on Sundays that include him. All they see they take with them. These actions give weight to the things I talk with them about when I remind them of why I want them to pay attention in church. It is not just about their outward behaviors in church that concern me. These disciplines I have trained up in my children for years now. We have had a lot of practice in discovering our new normal’s since we move around quite often in the military. It is important to me to find a good church, to learn and to grow. I am consistent with desiring to develop good habits in them regarding church but not in a rigid way. I try to take into account their unique interests and skills, their maturity level and also the fact that I don’t want to push them away from the church by demanding things from them that I don’t even do myself. What matters cannot be seen. I know that what is in their heart and mind is what really matters. So I pray for wisdom and discernment. I try to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading by being responsive and intentional about acknowledging distractions, remembering this is a journey and by praying that their heart is moldable for change. But I do not give up.
So to review:
I talked about a lot. Not sure who is still with me because I know many of you came looking for practical ways to get a hold of your Sundays. I applaud you for caring about this. What you hopefully received from me through this are thoughts that encourage you in knowing that this is not a one-size-fits-all type thing with children. Recognize that you have been entrusted with this role by God and He is here to help you as only He can do. Please remember to include Him in your journey remembering that it will take time to develop your hearts as we are all continuing to grow. Let’s admit that sometimes we all get derailed. Without regular examinations, maybe we ended up somewhere we didn’t intend to be. No worries. This is a new day. Bring it all over to God. Talk with him. Confess where you have gotten mixed up and that you want Him to help you make it right. Recognize that you know this is not something that will happen in a day or a month but that sure would be great God!! Are you listening God?!? (Of course He is. Ha ha.) Just think, what if we were “fixed” in a day? All of our bad habits were just resolved in a blink of an eye? Wow. Now, that WOULD be nice, but where would the struggle of life be? Where is the growth? This journey with your children is not the problem. Think of this as THE opportunity you’ve been entrusted with to shift (or sift) things around to see where your priorities lie and why. You can do it.
Pray and confess to God laying this at his feet. Be specific. Be honest. Be open to what He has to say.
Get back into reading God’s Word on a regular basis. True, there isn’t much that SPECIFICALLY addresses raising children. However, like working with higher level math, you may have to think about it a little more. When you apply to your life what you learn about the character and glory of God from your readings and time with God, you can trust and know that this is all a part of His plan for helping to shape and develop YOU as well as your children. May you all come to know that he truly loves you, cares greatly for you and has provided for you all along.
Try something new this Sunday that has resonated with you. (Let me know how it goes!!) Give it a gentle whirl. Remember, how you present new ideas can affect the process greatly. Packaging matters! It might be that you may simply share something that stood out to you from the sermon and ask your child what about them- what stood out to you? Don’t judge whatever they do or say… just make a mental note of where they are at. You want to encourage involvement and develop your relationships with them. Your “higher level” thinking took YEARS of crafting, right? Or maybe you were born that way. Hmmm…. Another idea you can try this Sunday is to simply incorporate a printed worksheet or a blank notebook. (I tried this this past Sunday and talk about it at the end of the video above.) Even I have to still practice biting my tongue and being patient with the process. I must give them space to figure out what works and doesn’t work on their own (remember my children are in 6th and 7th grade). However, when things are stalling, they (and even I) need a reminder as to why we keep trying. Each child and each family is different so beware of comparisons and envy. We do not know everything that goes on behind closed doors…but God does! And He has already provided everything for us anyway through the blood of Jesus Christ. I am so thankful.
Well, that’s it folks! Thank you so much for reading/listening. I appreciate the question, Anna. Thank you for asking it!
You’ll notice more content coming out in the future. I plan to share more about what I have been learning from my reading of God’s Word coupled with “real life” examples to encourage you (and me) to grow deeper in relationship and action for Christ. Most importantly, I hope to portray WHY I feel Jesus is relevant for our day to day answers through our most pressing life concerns and questions. Reach out and share your thoughts and responses with me.