Why should kids listen to hymns?

Today's post is written by Holy Hen House sponsor Matthew Scott - bassist of church band Koine' There’s magic in hearing your kids sing. Most likely, they’re slightly off key, out of rhythm and they butcher the lyrics, but it’s still magic. I didn’t always appreciate children singing. In fact, when my wife, a teacher, invited me to hear her class sing in church, I couldn’t understand why she would extend an invitation to which I had no personal connection. I was foolish, and this is why.

I am now a father of 3 wonderful girls, all under the age of 5. While they are developing their own interests and personalities, I realize the most fascinating aspect of watching someone grow is seeing how their passions move them. What they choose to learn, repeat and perfect are the things that resonate with them, the things that they hold dear.

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I play bass for a band called Koiné. We specialize in arranging traditional Christian hymns with modern instrumentation. So, instead of singing along to Of the Father's Love Begotten or I Am Jesus' Little Lamb accompanied by a pipe organ, we play guitars, keyboards, and drums. I want my girls to know what I do and how I use my gifts to serve the Lord and His church. The effects of all this became very real to me the other day.

I was caught in bumper-to-bumper traffic, very aware that I was going nowhere. My “to-do” list running rampant in my head, I was sweating what I had left to do before getting home to make dinner and get everyone to bed. From the backseat, I hear my two-year old singing In Christ Alone. Not, just the chorus, but multiple verses. “How do you know that whole song?” I am astonished. Thank you little lady for turning my brain back to what really matters.

My kids sing hymns. My kids know hymns. Not just modern hymns like In Christ Alone, but obscure hymns like Amid The World's Bleak Wilderness, or older hymns like Salvation unto Us Has Come. Why is this important? It’s opened opportunities for lessons I don’t know I would have had otherwise.

“Do you know what salvation means?” “Do you know what grace is?”

I’m not saying that listening to hymns alone replaces daily prayer or family devotionals, but it’s definitely been a supplement in my family’s walk with God. I’m thankful these resources have been created. Having CDs for listening at home or on the road has been extremely helpful bridging the gap between people they know from the Bible with more complex concepts of faith: grace, salvation, God’s covenant with us. Their knowledge and repetition of the lyrics gave me an easy opportunity to offer some explanations. Do they understand it all? Not always, but maybe just as they pick up the lyrics and melody through repetition, something will click with them the next time we have a conversation.

Proverbs 22:6 - Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

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Koiné has recorded 7 albums to date. Koiné (Self-Titled), Gesangbuch, Church Bells, The Vine, Visit, Emmanuel Lux and Anno Domini are available for download on iTunes, with CDs available in their online store.

*** Use coupon code HENHOUSE to get $5 off the purchase of a CD. Limit 1 CD per customer. *** Coupon expires May 31, 2015. 

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You can also watch concerts and videos on the band’s YouTube Channel. Find all this and where Koiné will tour next at koinemusic.com.

Sitting in Church with Kids: When There is No Nursery

When there is no nurseryI have gone to church for almost three years without a nursery... and I like it. Here's why.

I have learned that...

1. Churches that have a "nursery" may not use it like one.

One Sunday I was visiting a church and my 6 month old son was hungry and tired. It was near the end of church and I wanted to keep it quiet for him to fall asleep so I walked to the nursery to feed him. I sat down, began feeding my son, looked up and there I met the eyes of the congregation leaving church. The window for me to see worship was now a window for others to see me nursing! The door was open! Could I have closed it? Yes, but people walked in and out of the nursery with snacks & sat on the chairs anyway. I played a staring contest with a pre-teen boy. He lost. I slid my way to the stairs with baby attached to hide behind the wall but was then met with more church members that were coming from the balcony seating upstairs. This was no nursery my friends.

That story isn't unusual. I have seen nurseries used as a play room, hang out for teens on their iphones, Sunday school room, left over storage room, and a place for post-church snackers to eat and drink.

2. I can nurse in the church pew. Nursing in the pew is less distracting to those around me and to my other children. There is no need to pull out the circus tent (my nickname for the nursing cover) anymore if I have a blanket or trendy infinity scarf that can double as a nursing cover with ease. My circus tent is brown with red polka dots... yeah, now that's eye catching!

With my first child I wasn't nearly as experienced of a nurser as I am now so I spent a lot of sermon time sitting on the ivory throne (the toilet) nursing my baby. I regret this. If you have a church without a nursery and don't feel comfortable nursing in the pew ask the Pastor if you can sit in his office. Maybe your church can set up some audio from a speaker or a TV that shows worship in a meeting room?

These days I snuggle my baby close, pull the blanket over his head, and discreetly nurse in the pew not missing the sermon or letting my baby's cry escalate which would draw more attention. The majority of the time others do not even know I am feeding the baby!

3. My kids should not get rewarded for their poor behavior. Have you ever thought that kids disobey in church just so they can get to the nursery? I have sometimes prayed that we had a nursery for me to let my kids (and myself!) just hang back while they play with toys as I try to listen to the sermon over the fuzzy speaker. It would be easier to just let them dig in the germ infested bin of toys, flip the puzzles over, and pull the books off the shelf than to discipline them and sit back in church. Is it really? In the long run - I disagree.

When my children act up in church we leave out the side and they have to sit on the church stairs that lead up to the balcony or down to the basement for a few minutes before we return to church again. Do they enjoy it? Not really. Would they rather get back in church with their busy bags and worship? Yup! That's the point I'm after.

4. You can always laugh later & you get to tell some fun stories! One church that didn't have a nursery did have a baby changer in the bathroom. But there was a catch. There was a sign above the diaper changer that read..

Please take soiled diapers along with Yup! You had to take "soiled" diapers and stuff them back in the diaper bag. No dumps allowed. Literally. And you can safely assume that my 1.5 year old would fill his diaper during sermon. If something smelled in bible study it was likely coming from the diaper bag. The jokes on them!

5. Less is more. Less is more. Less is more. Have you seen the mom with the kids that stand and sit at the correct times in worship, join in prayer, sing or hum along the hymns, and listen to the sermon? It's not me! But when you do sight one look and see how many toys and snacks she has. Most likely it is none. One of our readers, the Simple Homemaker, commented that her children have one writing utensil during worship and that's it. I'm not sure if our family will ever get there but it's nice to know it is possible. :)

6. Keep consistent and have clear (but low!) expectations. Don't exasperate the kids. If they didn't get a nap or good night sleep expect the morning to be a little more rough. Your child's heart is more important than them "looking" obedient in church. Worship can be enjoyable but not necessarily entertaining. When we bring them to worship the Holy Spirit works faith in their hearts. The mornings feel long but the consistent efforts can be rewarded.

Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. I Corinthians 15:8b

7. Snacks after church are a great reward! When we used to hand out snacks during the sermon my kids would whine and cry for the food leading up to the sermon. "Is it sermon yet mommy?" "I'm so hungry!" "Grooooan" accompanied with pretend faint on pew.

And of course the sneaky one tried to unzip the contents of the bag to find any snack, crumb, or old apple core to eat in their desperation.

One of the churches we went to had fellowship snacks afterwards. This I found was a great alternative and a reward for good behavior during worship.

8. Your toddlers and babies are listening! There will always be distractions that seem more appealing than worship. Even as your kids grow into adults! There are toys and ipads now and in the future there are iphones, sports, and relationships outside of the family. Training our children the value of God's Word and the gift of God coming to us in worship is priceless!

... continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it,  and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:14-15

Share! If could choose, what would you have in your church nursery? What do you like about your church's nursery? 

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For further reading about kids in church, take a look at our other posts in this series –

Sitting in Church with Kids: When We Feel All Eyes Are On Us

Sitting in Church with Kids: 5 Ways to Help the Single Parent

Sitting in Church with Kids: 10 Church Bag Ideas

Amanda2

Sitting in Church With Kids: 10 Church Bag Ideas

I carry big bags around with me wherever I go.  Big beach totes, hobo bags, over the shoulder bags.  Even if my kids aren't with me, I'll search around for fun goodies to tote along.  Church is a great place to bring a cute bag. I should be honest about this church bag thing, though.  My kids are really edging out of the season where they “need” me bringing one.  BUT, I really love carrying around a cute tote containing a few of my favorite things.  So, as long as I can get away with it, I’ll continue to prep my stuff each Saturday night.  I’ll keep on pinning quiet activities here, and take on whatever challenges pop up during the service.  My bag and I are ready!

10 Church Bag Ideas

As of late, these are ten of my favorite church bag things:

  1. The Bag Itself - Like I said, I have a bit of a collection of mom bags.  For church, I tend to select the pretty purple professional tote with a laptop compartment.  I use the dividers for books and spots for pencils, leaving the zipped compartments for my own personal effects.  The structure helps keep the water bottle upright.  Yes, I have over-thought this.
  2. My Bible - Something for me!  I like to have my own Bible for notes during Bible study.  It’s my friend, and using another Bible just isn't quite the same.
  3. Water bottle - The air is dry here in Colorado, so having water on hand minimizes our trips out for drinks.  I do ration, otherwise my little ones are frequently out to the restroom.
  4. Pencils - My oldest is 8 and rarely needs any items from my bag, but if we do have a wiggly day, he underlines words he likes in the bulletin or sketches little drawings of the sanctuary.
  5. Cute Little Pouch from Thai Village - holds my cute tissue packs, hand sanitizer, and lip balm from Diddles Dairy.  I’m ready to handle kid goobers.
  6. Tiny Plush Animals - These work great for a little comfort item if needed.
  7. Crayons - I use the same old same old crayon style, some ladies love the twistable crayons for durability.
  8. Mini Activity Books - These fit great in the bag, and are a little more discreet compared to large coloring books.  If discretion is at all needed with coloring books, I don’t know.
  9. Handmade Felt/Button Snake - Several examples can be found on Pinterest.  My kids are a little big for this now, but it was one of my favorites around ages 2 or 3.
  10. Lift the Flap Bible Books - All the little windows and flaps keep little hands quite busy, also good around ages 2 or 3 or so.  When using these, I get tons of questions from the kids about the Bible stories.  It seems these books bring out their Sunday School knowledge.

What are your goals and thoughts about activities for little ones in church?  Please share your favorite church bag ideas!  We'd love to see your church bag photos on Facebook or Instagram.  Use #whatsinmychurchbag

For further reading about kids in church, take a look at our other posts in this series -

Sitting in Church with Kids: When We Feel All Eyes Are On Us

Sitting in Church with Kids: 5 Ways to Help the Single Parent

Sitting in Church with Kids: 5 Ways to Help the Single Parent

6 ways to help single parents There are a variety moms that come to worship and manage their kids single-handedly. A single mom, a pastor's wife, a wife without the spiritual support of her husband, a wife whose husband is away for work (military, oil, farming, business, music...), and it can even be a grandma with her grandchildren.

I realize that a single parent can be a mom OR dad but since this is a women's blog I am going to address this topic from a mom's perspective. Onward Christian soldiers...

1. Get rid of high expectations.

She may come on time or late. Her kids may sit quiet or have outbursts. She may be dressed up for once or have wet hair and no nylons. She may make it to church every week or miss services occasionally.

Don't expect that the kids will behave or misbehave. Do plan on them being who God made them to be - kids!

Like Colleen commented on Corissa' s post, When We Feel All Eyes Are On Us "With three little ones, church can be a struggle. Especially if your husband is not able to be there to help. My husband is in Koine, and travels most Sundays to different churches. I keep trying to perfectly pack the diaper bag to keep all three kids happy during church. The littlest one needs random objects to keep her hands busy. And, if we attend the “late” service, she will want lunch right in the middle of the sermon. The older two are fairly well behaved, but still want snacks and the occasional coloring activity. There are some Sunday mornings that do not go as planned. I cannot imagine the kids cooperating during church. We go anyways. I usually am surprised on these days by their behavior. Then there are others like two weeks ago… baby is on the move and can be impossible to hold. The middle decided he should keep his hands down the back of his pants the entire sermon. And the oldest was wanting to be mommy and boss her siblings around. Being at church, no matter the struggle some days, is still worth it to me. I love hearing the kids sing along or ask questions about the sermon. They are listening…"

2. Share your stories!

Storytime! Share stories of when you didn't have it all together. Moms often think that their children's cries and nudges are noticed by those around them. *insert paranoid shifty eyes here* Hearing that we are not alone and that this phase will pass is great encouragement! Check out our friend and mentor Linda Buxa's timely blog post - To the moms who take their squirrelly kids to church.

3. Don't be a grabber.

Always ask before you take a child "off her hands." It may make things worse. Church may happen during nap time, the child may be shy, not feeling well, or like most children they prefer their mommy in a crowd. This is okay and it doesn't mean anything against you.

After church I'll be in several conversations and then next thing I know I have no idea where any of my kids are! Most of the time I can safely assume my kids are playing, eating one too many cookies, or are in the loving care of my church family (and hopefully still in church!) but it is always appreciated when people ask first.

4. Grandparent the family.

Some church couples have kids in high school, out of home, or are grandparents. If you fall in one of these categories consider asking a mom if you can sit next to her during worship to help. Do you have a teenager who is interested in babysitting? She can help out during worship!

This can be a wonderful help and creates a greater sense of church family and consistent support for the family. We've got each others backs!

Be a sister's keeper. You can sit with her kids when she goes up for communion, plays music, or sings with the choir. When she has to change the baby the older children can stay seated next to you and hear the message in church. When she has to feed her baby in the pew or in the nursery the older children will helped.

Either you or an usher can help the mom get the crew back to the car. There is so much to carry! Sunday school papers, busy bags, diaper bags, the infant carrier, and the same wiggly kids. Parking lots are tricky and having an extra hand for the littles ones to hold while crossing the parking lot is a life saver.

5. Simply smile and say "Thank you!"

When you are in church you will likely get distracted from a kid's cry, a hymnal slamming to the ground, Cheerios cascading to the ground, or water cups (even children!) rolling under the pews. But when you look over your shoulder and make eye contact with the mom - instead of quickly glancing away - smile! It shows that you are happy her family is there. Especially acknowledge any good behavior or character you noticed to that specific child. Children are the church's future!

Women AND men, acknowledge the effort and sacrifice single parents make to bring their kids to church. It would have been easier for them to not come at all. May our actions and attitudes make kids feel ever so welcome to come into God's house. In a way we are kind of on their turf...

...for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:14-16

What are some other ways we can help single parents?

If you are a single parent, how can we help you?

In Christ we are family.

Amanda2