Young children can learn through church-sponsored community outreach.

How Parents Can Encourage Their Children to Be Active in Church

by Molly Thompson

Seeing that you're actively involved and enjoying an activity virtually guarantees your child will want to get involved in that activity. This is especially true when it comes to church. Children need to see you engaged in church programs so they understand these are important to your family, rather than just something they "should" do. Get involved in a vibrant, active, family-oriented church that offers a range of programs for all age groups, as well as activities in which the whole family can get involved.

1. It Starts With You

One of the single best ways you can help your child be active in church is to start at home. If practicing your faith is a central aspect of your family's life both in and outside the home, your child will learn from an early age that this is important and a priority in your lives. And as with so many aspects of children's development, what you do yourself is critical. Model the behavior you want your child to learn. Take your child with you to church services and other church-related activities, particularly those in which you're an active participant.

2. Help Your Young Kids Get Involved

Find a family-oriented church that meets your spiritual needs. Try several until you find the one that seems welcoming to children and family members of all ages. Talk to people at the church or look at recent newsletters to find out what types of activities and programs the church offers. A church with an active children's ministry or youth program will be your best option for getting even your youngest children involved. Besides a basic nursery or Sunday school class, look for fun or interesting activities such as a children's choir, holiday musical, vacation Bible school or weekly family activities that include young kids.

3. Take a Friend

Children are likely to be more willing to participate in activities when they can do so with a friend. For younger children, it provides a sense of familiarity and comfort. For older kids, it helps them feel more like part of the crowd and less isolated, particularly in church programs where few of their school peers may be involved. Let your child invite a friend to participate with her in church activities, or encourage her to make new friends within the children's ministry programs at your church.

4. Find a Niche

Not every church activity appeals to every child. Let your child try several activities to find the one that catches his interest and keeps him engaged in the church. Your musically inclined child might find his niche in the children's bell choir, while your preteen might enjoy being allowed to help in the nursery or with children's games. Older children can participate alongside you in mission projects; even young children can help with food drives or similar community service programs. And kids of all ages can have fun at family game nights, recreational events such as boating or picnics, or participating in the Christmas play.

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