Kids on Screens During Church
This post was first drafted and shared to my original blog in December of 2014. It immediately struck a cord with readers and For Every Mom reached out to ask if they could share it on their blog – Over the years, it has made its way around social media, but today, I want to share it here with you: Kids on Screens During Church.
We’ve seen it over and over again…parents handing a child their phone or tablet to use “while the grownups have church”. Friends, if you’ve followed along with me for very long you know I believe technology is an incredible teaching tool. I love the opportunities it provides even the youngest of children. It has been amazing to watch our children develop technology skills that I know will serve them well in the years to come. In an effort to be totally transparent, I will also admit that when we are taking an extended car trip, I am very thankful for the tablets my kids have. So please know I am not suggesting children be banned from interacting with technology.
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What I am going to share with you today is why I feel strongly that allowing them to engage with it during a worship service is of very serious concern.
Gone are the days when you will see children doodling on the back of the church bulletin. These days, it is quite common to see kids of all ages playing games, texting, scrolling through their Instagram feed, etc. during the church service…all while sitting right next to their parents who are allowing this to take place.
Would you allow me to suggest what I believe this is communicating to your children?
Church is for grownups. The music, the prayer time, the teaching from the Word has no relevance to you as a child. The musicians, the pastor, God Himself does not expect your full attention and respect during this time. You do your thing while the rest of us do ours. It is perfectly acceptable for you to detach from social situations. You are not a part of this gospel community, and you are welcome to separate yourself from the group. There is no reality in this faith of ours. It is void of any life-changing power. Please just sit there and stay busy until the service is complete.
While I realize that [for most parents] it would most definitely not be their intention to communicate the above messages to their children, but I believe that when you allow your kids to completely disengage to do something apart from what the rest of the faith community is doing during that time, one can not ignore what this is teaching your young ones.
As a mom of little ones, I am so thankful for the nursery teachers that have cared for my babies at times over the years. Their service is much appreciated. However, as our oldest began to enter into the preschool years, we became intentional about beginning to train him to join in the corporate worship time. Has he continued to attend classes over the years? Sure! So have his siblings, and we love what they have learned in those environments.
However, we want our children to know the name of our church…the name of our pastor…the theology in the songs that we sing…the importance of being still and meditating on God’s word. Our goal is to slowly transition them into this, and we have started by simply bringing them in to the service with us.
Sure, some weeks have gone more smoothly than others, but it takes time…training.
Not too long ago, we observed two middle-schoolers [seated next to their parents]. One was playing Madden, and the other was playing Deer Hunter. These two kiddos did not stand and sing during the music time. They sat and played games. They did not participate in corporate prayer or readings. They sat and played games. They did not engage during the teaching time. They sat and played games.
Directly behind them sat a four-year old little boy. Yes, he fidgeted a bit as four-year olds do; He required a few whispered reminders from his parents throughout the service…as four-year olds often require; but it was clear that this was not his first time joining in on the worship service. This is obviously an area where his parents had been intentional about providing him practice and training, and it most definitely takes a lot of practice and a lot of training.
I realize that all children are different…their desire to “push the limits” will vary….developmental progress will not be the same for all…and it is only fair to recognize that some children have special needs that play a role in their ability to handle certain environments. I understand that you know your child…their abilities…their struggles…but might I plead with you (no matter what choices you make on Sunday morning regarding your kids) to make sure your children are understanding the importance of respecting God, the life-changing power in His word; the incredible gift of a faith community.
We can not allow our children to disengage from worship and then wonder why they are not experiencing life change as a result of a relationship with the Savior.
We can not treat church is something “just for the grownups” and then wonder why our children go away to college and have no desire to continue on their faith journey.
We can not say we believe verses like Deuteronomy 11:19: Teach them to your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street, talk about them from the time you get up in the morning until you fall into bed at night. when the only thing our children are doing when they’re sitting at home or walking in the street or falling in to bed at night is playing on their screen.
You may feel that I have spoken too strongly already, but would you allow me to go a step further and make a suggestion for those who are struggling in this area?
If you do not feel that your church is presenting God’s truth in such a way that your entire family is grasping it in real, tangible ways, would you consider praying about possibly making a change? I am not encouraging you to simply switch churches based on your preferences or out of any other selfish motive; but what I am saying is that I think it’s important for all of us to ask God to direct us to a place where our families (as a whole unit) can learn, and grow, and serve together – making a difference for the kingdom…together. We are so thankful for a pastor who shares truth in a relevant way – His commitment to the Word and apologetics-based teaching has had a powerful impact on our entire family!
A Few Practical Tips that Might Work for Your Kids:
1. Practice quiet time at home! These days, kids are so busy…running from activity to activity. Provide your kids with opportunities at home to engage in quiet play, silent coloring, alone time in their room. Some of you may be laughing out loud thinking, “Yeah right, my kid would never do any of those things.” Let me tell you, this did not come easy for my oldest. When he was little, he wanted to be engaged with me…all the times… so I had to be intentional about practicing these types of things with him.
If this is a new concept in your house, start small: Set a timer for 5 minutes. Instruct your kiddo to color quietly during that time. If you have to go hide in the bathroom, do it. We can not expect our kids to sit quietly in church if they’re not used to have quiet time anywhere else.
2. Encourage your kids to take an actual Bible to church with them. As the pastor shares various Scripture verses, allow your kids to have silent races with their siblings/friends – seeing who can find the Bible passage the fastest. Make sure your kids know the books of the Bible. I love that the Bible is available on our phones, tablets, etc. (and we definitely enjoy using some of the available apps and such) but we want our kiddos to know how to dig in and navigate the Word on their own.
3. For young ones, allow them to doodle with pencil and paper (yes, during the sermon). For some learners, this can be an effective way to encourage listening skills. You know your children and whether or not this would aid in their comprehension or prohibit it. For older children, ask them to take notes during the teaching time. Allow them to use their notes as a reference during lunchtime conversation following the service. Let them know you care about their thoughts. Encourage them to ask questions. Make sure they understand that you also have faith questions. As a family, pray about those questions.
Proverbs 6:21-23: Bind them upon your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you; For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life.
I love your ideas, your blog and social media posts. You put a lot of time into them.
I too prefer if kids are off technology during service.
However as a parent of two autistic children, sometimes the device is what keeps them regulated. I have used it as a last resort a couple of times (Normally I know before church if my childrens church experience will be successful).
I can totally relate, Dee. If we do not have a one on one buddy to go with our son to his class and children’s church, it’s not happening. When covid hit and everything went online, it actually helped us attend church as a family.
So good! Thank you for sharing this! I would never opt to give my kids technology during church, and thankfully the have an awesome kids church program. But there are so many other things you included that are fabulous suggestions! I love the idea of getting our kids used to “big church” by going when they are young. And I love the important reminder to talk about what they learned (even if they went to kids church).
Thank you for touching on this subject! As useful as Technology is, it makes me a bit sad that many children of today don’t know what it is to have the carefree adventurous spirit of the great outdoors because more often than not they are glued to a screen when they have any spare time. Our children are not aloud technology in church either and yes some do fidget with boundless energy and for some its no problem. When my oldest was younger, she would draw a picture of what she heard that morning and it was fun to see her perspective on what she got from the message.
Love this post! We encourage our kids to draw pictures of what they hear the preacher talking about during the service. It’s amazing the things they pick up on that I wouldn’t have thought. My kids are still young, 5, 6 and 8, and this has been a great practice for us as parents to know what they are understanding and how to expand on it at home. You are so full of wisdom and ideas and I am so thankful for your posts!