Helping preschoolers get ready for 'Big Church'
As a teacher, you have the privilege of helping prepare older preschoolers to participate in congregational worship services. Here are six tips to help you set the stage for a child's lifelong experience in worshiping God.
1. Use the Bible Often
As you teach preschoolers, provide frequent opportunities for children to handle the Bible, locate Bible pictures and verses, and use Bible markers. Encourage care in handing the Bible through your example and gentle guidance. If a page becomes torn, enlist a child's help in repairing the damaged page.
2. Demonstrate Worship Activities
Tell the session's Bible story in part or in whole to individuals and groups of children. Hearing the Bible story, singing Bible-related songs, and praying are activities that the children will observe and enjoy when they participate in actual congregational worship services.
3. Plan a "Show and Tell" Activity
Invite visitors to share what they do at church. Prior to the classroom visits, prepare visitors by encouraging them to use simple language as they talk to the children. Provide several items used in a worship service, such as an offering envelope, bulletin, Bible, and hymnal.
- Invite preschoolers to choose an item and tell how it is used in a worship service. Or, you may want to pass an item around to each child while you talk about its use in a worship service.
- Invite a musician to your class to show and play his instrument for the children.
- Play a recording of your church's worship music during parts of the session such as rest time or snack time.
- Invite an usher or greeter to your classroom to tell boys and girls about his "job" during worship services. He may want to bring each child a bulletin to take home.
4. Take Children to a Portion of the Worship Service
With the help of several teachers and parents, take the children to the worship center for a portion of a service. Good planning will ensure that you have a designated area to sit and adequate adult help in getting preschoolers in and out of the worship center.
- In advance of the visit to the worship center, help preschoolers know how to sit in a pew, stand for singing, and listen during quiet times.
- Arrange the spacing of adults so each teacher or helper can sit with a group of three or four children.
- Plan to leave the worship center with the children during a time that will avoid disrupting the service.
- Once you have returned to the classroom, take time to talk with the children about what they saw and heard during the service.
5. Encourage Parents
Your moral support will help parents as they begin taking their child to a worship service. Listen to any concerns parents express regarding their child's behavior during worship services. Ask your preschool leaders to provide copies of the book: When I Go to Church.
Provide a list of suggestions for parents, such as:
- Tell your child you are happy he is "big enough" to attend the service.
- Pray that God will help you be a positive example to your child.
- Take your child to the rest room and to get a drink before the service.
- Sit beside him in a seat where he can see.
- Introduce him to other worshipers and encourage him to greet others.
- Help him know when to stand, sit, sing, and listen during quiet times.
- Give him money for an offering and assist him in passing the plate.
- Help him practice how to whisper when he has a question.
6. Be a Child Advocate
Assist other preschool teachers and your church's worship leaders in encouraging other adult worshipers to greet children; smile at them; be good role models; and overlook minor disturbances when children wiggle, drop items, or forget to whisper. Just as Jesus welcomed children in Matthew 19:14, we can help preschoolers feel welcome in their church classroom and church worship center.