Normally we try not to whisper too much in church. I’m advocating today that you whisper more!
The worship whisper we know all too well is the disciplinary one. You know,
“Stop bugging your sister.”
“Sit down and keep your hands to yourself.”
“Child, if I have to tell you one more time, we’re going out.” (and we all know what that means!)
Sometimes those disciplinary whispers are needed. Let’s face it, kids need discipline in church just like everywhere else. But, not all worship whispers have to be disciplinary. Whispers can redirect, teach, help and answer.
Redirecting whispers are probably the ones you’re using if you’re like me with a toddler in the pew. These are the ones you use to prevent a mini-meltdown and they’re typically said with some excitement and pointing on the part of the whisperer.
“Look! Pastor’s walking over there now! What’s he doing?”
“Oh, see the people singing? Don’t they sound pretty?”
“Oh, another song! Let’s sing to Jesus!”
“What’s on the bulletin cover today? Look, a butterfly!”
Or maybe your redirecting whispers with your older toddler are to get his attention on something closer to you in the pew.
“Here’s some crayons. Why don’t you color this picture?”
“What snacks did we bring today?”
These whispers might be able to catch your kids’ attention, at least for a minute.
Sooner or later kids find they have a voice. This voice comes with one volume level – LOUD – and with no real convenient volume control. Kids usually find it best to test out this voice during silent parts of the worship service by asking questions, loudly, about things usually unrelated to church.
“What are we having for lunch?”
“Can we go home now?”
Or the ever-popular, “Are we done yet?” and “I’m bored!”
Sometimes, there are just no whispers to help you recover from that. Rest assured, most people probably think your little announcer is adorable. We’ve all been there.
But then one day your little will use their voice to start asking you questions during worship. Legitimate questions about the service and faith. She might ask what that big churchy word means, why we give money to church, why we’re singing again. When that happens, take a second, bend down and whisper the answer as best you can.
And then eventually your little will want to know about even more complicated things that you may feel you need a seminary degree to answer (you don’t, by the way). Things like, why we pray, why does pastor call us lambs, what’s an angel, why are you eating and drinking that. Take another second, bend down, and answer those questions, too. What if you don’t know the answer? Be honest and tell your child, and then figure out the answer later together. These are the teaching, helping and answering whispers, and they may just be the most important.
Why this focus on whispering? I believe we do our kids a huge disservice when we brush off their questions about God and faith or when just don’t answer them at all. Giving even a little whisper of an answer in church lets your little know that it’s okay to have questions and that there are places to go for answers. Whisper right away, when the topic is fresh in your mind and you have your child’s interest.
You can even start the whispering by asking your little questions or pointing out things during the service. Maybe a little redirection would help draw his attention to the front of the church.
“What colors do you see up there?”
“How many crosses can you count?”
“See the words on the screen? That’s the song we’re singing.”
Use some teaching and helping whispers to pique your child’s interest in what’s happening in the service.
“Oh, this is my favorite song. It talks about Jesus love for us.”
“You’ll like this Bible story. It’s about a bunch of animals on a boat.”
“See Pastor? He’s reading from the Bible. The Bible is God’s Word.”
“Do you hear the music? We’re singing to Jesus.”
“Let’s fold our hands and pray to Jesus.”
We’re not trying to start long conversations in worship. What we want to do it take advantage of being in this place, doing this thing. Often the language of the church is unique and we only experience it while we’re in worship. This is the most natural time to ask, answer and point out the special things our kids are seeing and hearing. Our littles are like sponges and are learning so much during these early years. Take advantage of their desire to learn, their interest in what’s in front of them, their sense of wonder. We’re opening the doors for faith conversations with our kids that extend beyond the church walls.
So go ahead and whisper a little with your little!