Since the main task that I have as a pastor is to preach well; it is logical, then, to conclude that the main task of my congregation is to listen well.
The Lord Jesus, Himself (in Luke 8:18) said, “Consider carefully how you listen.” He also frequently punctuated His parables and teachings by saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Jesus cares about how you listen to the preaching.
As a parent, I believe that I have a duty to help my children learn the discipline of listening to a sermon. When it comes to the issue of where children should be during “big church,” there are extremes on both sides. Some think that family-integrated worship (i.e. all ages, babies included, are in the service together) is the only way to go. Still others have embraced the unbelievably popular notion of family-segregated worship as the norm (i.e. Children’s Church vs. “Big Church”).
I personally tend to lean towards a more family-integrated approach. When the epistles were originally written and delivered to the churches, they were read before the entire gathered congregation. (See Col 4:16, 1 Thess 5:27) That means, then, when the apostle Paul, in Ephesians 6:1, wrote, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right,” he was assuming that children were sitting in “big church” with their parents, listening to the main sermon. This, among other reasons, is why I lean in this direction.
Having said all of that, I think that children can and should be in the main worship service, watching, learning, listening, and experiencing the gathering of God’s people. And even though the church I pastor has a weekly Children’s Church service, my wife and I have decided to have our oldest boys in the sanctuary with us. Why do I share all of this?
Well, to help my boys get an early start on listening well in church, I recently created a sermon notes worksheet for kids.
Not only does it guide them to take notes about the sermon, but it has questions about the other parts of the service. There is a place for a child to note: their favorite song sang in church, whether or not there was baptism or the Lord’s Supper, as well as a section for writing our words from the message that they do not understand. Each Sunday, around the lunch table, we discuss their notes and questions. (There’s also a place, on the back, for drawing a picture of something they heard – we have a friendly art competition for the best drawing too.)
My 5 year old sons gives it this endorsement,
“I like it! It’s fun to write on and draw and has good pictures. I like it!”
When asked if he though it was a good idea, my talkative 7 year old son responded,
My oldest’s son’s veiled enthusiasm not withstanding, they both enjoy it a great deal.
If you’d like to use these with your own family, feel free! Click this link to download a free .pdf of “My Sermon Notes” for kids. (I typically print mine as two-sided…so that they only have one sheet to keep up with.)
If you (or better yet, your children) decide to use it, send me an email and let me know. If you have suggestions on what could be added or removed, send those on as well. I’d be thrilled!
Additional Resources About Listening to Sermons (For Adults)
How to Listen to a Sermon by Phillip Ryken (Free Article!!!)
Listen Up: A Practical Guide to Listening to Sermons by Christopher Ash (Book is only $2.39!!!)
The Family at Church: Listening to Sermons and Attending Prayer Meeting by Joel Beeke (Booklet is only $4.50!!!)