As any parent of a 2-year-old can tell you, they can be unpredictable, squirmy, loud, messy and make even the thickest-skinned parents embarrassed to sit in worship. So how does one do it?

First, come and come regularly. The first time we do anything with our 2-year-old there’s no way to gauge his reaction. It may go perfectly. Sometimes he’s fearful, hiding in our arms. Other times he goes straight to tantrums. For toddlers, repetition and rituals create comfort. That’s why weekly worship is of paramount importance.

Expecting kids to behave when your attendance is irregular is simply not fair. It takes time for children to learn worship patterns and to feel safe. By making worship a regular ritual, your children will grow in comfort and build a foundation of faith.

In our case, worship has been part of my son’s life since he was born. Never has the gift of new life been more evident than worshiping with my 6-day-old on Easter Sunday! Over time he’s come to know the congregation I serve as a nurturing place to learn, grow and meet friends.

Next, come prepared and ready to engage your child during the service. Bring a well-stocked diaper bag—books to read, things to color, snacks to eat, quiet toys to play with and everything else—and invite your child to participate in worship as they are able.

Our son sits up in front where it’s easier to pay attention. This also allows me as a pastor to hold him as we sing and listen to special music together. Sometimes he comes forward as I preach and lead, but I just roll with it. He loves to pass the peace and bless those around him with water from the font. When he started breaking bread and pretending to offer communion around the dinner table, I knew we were on the right track.

Finally, give your little one—and yourself—grace. Worship won’t always go according to plan. Your toddler (or you) may need to step out for a break. They might make a little more noise or move around more than you would like, but those are the sounds of life!

Worship is a place to build and strengthen our relationship with God and one another. Bringing your children there is a gift for them and the congregation. Their presence alone makes church more lively and meaningful.

Practices

  • Bring a little bit of church home. “Play” church by passing the peace, sharing blessings, praying and singing a favorite hymn. This will help make worship more familiar and fun.
  • Infuse faith into your bedtime routine. Light a candle, talk about your days, say a short prayer, bless one another and blow the candle out. Then point out the candles and prayers at church.
Felix Malpica
Felix Malpica is pastor of Faith Lutheran Church, Janesville, Wis.  

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