One of my favorite experiences while raising my daughter has been teaching her to appreciate art. She wasn’t born with an innate love of art and art museums. In fact, some of our first experiences were almost painful. I was even known to utter such enlightened sentences as “We may never get to Chicago again and you are going to see the American Gothic painting whether you want to or not!” or the equally popular “Look at this painting. One day you will learn about it in school and you will want to remember seeing it in real life!”
We continued to drag her through art museums all over the country and then one day the light clicked on in her. She asked (at a rather young age) if she could see a specific art exhibit in a rather obscure museum on the Mall in Washington, D.C. She was studying it and wanted to see it in person. Needless to say, we made sure we got to that museum. Fast forward a few years and she was actually nagging us on her first trip to New York City to get her to the Museum of Modern Art and to allow her a full morning to enjoy it. (She still whined about my need to stare at French Impressionists and Picasso, but at least she had developed her own favorites!) The pain in those early years was worth raising a child who loves art and enjoys art museums.
Call me a rebel or maybe I’m a little crazy, but I love the idea of children being in the adult worship service. Now before you start pelting me with i-bibles, yes, I have been seated with multiple small children through many worship services. And yes, I know it can be distracting for the adults caring for them and the adults around them. In the rush to make sure the adults aren’t distracted though, I think we are depriving our children of something very special.
In the Old Testament, God spends quite a bit of time encouraging the Israelites to make sure their children know the Law and their history as God’s people. When the Law was read to the people, the children were to be present. Parents were to discuss the Laws of God constantly with their children.
I grew up in a musical family. We all played several instruments and would try to play anything that might create music. Our stereos were all cranked to almost top volume and you could hear us singing along enthusiastically. All of us that is, except my father. He always claimed he played the checkbook and sang the “also” part.
In church though, my dad always sang. Our fellowship has a history of a cappella music. In most congregations, it means quite a few people have developed a good ear for music, taken voice lessons and love to sing four part harmonies. My favorite part of singing at church is that the tone deaf people will sing just as loudly and enthusiastically as the more musically inclined. I personally think God loves to hear from them just as much, if not more, than those He gifted with beautiful singing voices.
My husband and I have taught Sunday School numerous times during our marriage. We love trying to make the Bible stories come alive for the children. No matter how hands-on and interactive our lessons are, we always seem to have one or two children that are basically falling asleep on the table. It always concerned us that these children were getting nothing from one of the valuable hours of Bible study in their young lives.
Then one quarter, we stumbled across the answer by accident. We had written a fun unit on the Jewish holidays and how they connect to the New Testament and Jesus. As a part of each lesson, I would bring in a traditional food that was eaten when celebrating the holiday. Suddenly, my two sleepy heads perked up and participated better than almost anyone else. We had taught these two before, so we knew the difference was the food.
When our daughter was about four or five years old, we decided we wanted to make sermon time more relevant and not just a quiet play time. Realistically, she was not old enough to listen to or understand an entire sermon. We wanted her to learn however, that the preacher was trying to teach Bible lessons during sermon time.
I went to the school supply store (I believe you can find them in office supply stores also) and found a spiral notebook that has story paper in it. The top of the page is just white space and then there are a few lines in the last third to use for writing.
During sermon time, whoever was helping her “take notes” would draw pictures about the story or theme of the sermon. My daughter could then spend the rest of the sermon coloring and adding to the drawings if she knew the story.