Help Children Learn to Listen in Church

We have attended Family Integrated churches for many years now.  Before that, we tried to keep our children in the church service as much as possible.

One of the biggest fears of a young mama in a family-integrated church setting (or any time she takes her children to a place where they are expected to be quiet) is the fear of her children making a terrible racket all throughout the service and totally disrupting everyone’s worship time.  (Ask me how I know.)

We bring in toys and coloring pages and a million other distractions, but then we wonder if they are soaking up any of the actual teaching that is going on at church.  We know we want to worship as a family, but we don’t seem to be very good at it.

A few years ago during a church service, I happened to glance over at another family’s well-behaved children and realized they were all sitting there with some sort of worksheet and a pen, listening quite intently to all that was going on.  Curiosity got the better of me and after the service I casually walked over to where they had been sitting to sneak a peek at what had been captivating their interests.  The worksheets contained a list of hand-written “church” words and the children were putting tally marks next to each of the words as they heard them in the service.

Brilliance!

I kept telling myself someday I would do that…and I kept forgetting.

Well, I finally got around to it this past week and I want to share them all with you!

Listening Page #1

Listening Page #2

Listening Page #3

Listening Page #4

Listening Page #5

As an added bonus, my friend Lauren at Mama’s Learning Corner (who did all the formatting for these listening pages – thanks a million!), has created a younger versions of these worksheets for your non-readers!  Click on the link to snag those and then let me know if you use them this weekend and how it goes!

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138 thoughts on “Help Children Learn to Listen in Church

  1. Amy, I LOVE this post! I used to make Children’s bulletins to match the sermon at church each week, but it literally took me hours to make each one. These are excellent and serve the purpose well. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Love the idea for the non-readers. We have done something similar to this in the past with our readers/writers, but could never think of anything for the younger ones. They are quiet in church, but never really engaged – they seem to zone out and then about 15 minutes before the end of service start asking “is church almost over?” So this might help! Thank you!

  3. Like you, we’ve tried many things. It’s still a bit of a disaster with my headstrong 2 yr old. She knows when I’m busy with the baby, so I try to have my mom hold the baby so my hands are free to “help” my 2 yr old. Our 10 and 12 yr olds are great note-takers. Our 8 yr old is still learning to take notes. Often, my mom or I will write a phrase and let her copy it beneath. Our 5 yr old is so easily distracted that we quit letting him “take notes” b/c it always turned into is drawing and not paying any attention at all to what’s going on. Now he just sits quietly. I think yours is a great idea and I’m going to try that with him. I’m not sure if he can recognize all the words, yet, but with help I bet he could and you’re right it will keep him listening. Thanks.

    Celee

  4. Thank you for these! What a great idea! I have forwarded your blog to my entire homeschool group and to other friends as well. I can’t wait to try this.

  5. Nice idea! Even a teen who is zoning out during the message might benefit from this…or maybe even…an adult. :)

    Seriously, this is a really nice resource. Thanks for sharing.

  6. My sister-in-law taught me this trick in April when we were visiting. Though she’s only 20 (unmarried and childless), she’s wise beyond her years in child rearing. I have my in-laws to thank! The church they attend has nothing more than a cry room, so we brought notebooks and pencils for our oldest two. After the service my eldest showed me the list his auntie made for him and all of his tally marks.

    We’ve since carried this over into the church we attend in our new city and it has been such a blessing with my eldest.

    Also, thank you for the non-reader version. Hopefully this will help my almost reading 5y/o!

  7. I Love this! We have be struggling with Genesis with this very matter. I printed some off and plan on utilizing these this Sunday. Thanks for sharing.

  8. What a great idea Amy! I have saved the pages and hope to use them in coming weeks. We belong to a Reformed Presbyterian church, all of which practice family integration, so our children have always sat in the service with us. This gives me something to prompt the older ones with.

  9. Thanks so much for these pages, especially the ones for non readers. We do not attend a FIC, but we still want our children to worship with us as a family. We know this is going to cause some head turning, but we want to be true to what the Lord is calling us to do & be a great example to others. Praying these sheets will help in our endeavors :)

  10. Oh Amy I love these. I can hardly wait to try them out. I for years have always brought pen and paper for my children but I like this so much better just simply for the fact that they have to listen. An amazing idea. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Thanks for sharing these. WE have a few but this might give some variation. Would it be okay if I shared these with our secretary at our church to use for the children’s bulletin?

  12. A lady who use to go to our church used this method also. It had to be close to 6-7 years ago and it wasn’t something I could do with my kids yet. I too had forgotten about it! Thank you so much for reminding me of this wonderful idea! Looking forward to Sunday!!!
    Blessings,
    Jill

  13. We believe that it is important for our daughter to be with us in worship-we believe that worship behavior needs to be taught from the time they are infants!
    These worksheets are good. I have used this method with my daughter for a couple of years. We also take the outline given out by our preacher and underline the scriptures and/or comments as she hears them.

  14. Thank you so much. Our son has been struggling and we have been at a loss as to what to do. I think church will be much more fun this weekend.

  15. I have done the tally marks with my children-just a sheet of paper divided into 4 or 6 sections with the word at the top of the section, but the younger children’s version is awesome! Those would be such a huge help!

  16. Thanks for this post. This is something we have been struggling with in our youngest ones lately. We’ll be printing these out. Thanks again!!

  17. I make something very similar to these for my children. Our Pastor makes an outline of his message available during the week prior so I use that information to compile clip-art pictures of what our kids might hear during the week. I use a half size sheet of paper that fits nicely in their Bibles. I also print the word under the picture so my oldest two can try and copy it(our kids are 4,3,2, & 8mo). There are also 6 small circles under each picture that they can fill in or cross off as they hear the word that the picture represents. My two year old mostly just draws on the sheet but she sits so much better getting to do what the “big” kids do!
    On a side note, our Worship Pastor also makes the coming weeks songs available so we sing those through out the week -and discuss them. Since none of our children read yet this helps them to learn the songs as well as to understand what they will be singing.
    Having our family worship together in the Church gathering isn’t easy but it sure is worth it!

    • I’ve heard of churches doing this and it is so wonderful and thoughtful to be able to help the families worship together. Thanks for sharing!

      • Yes, our church is not family integrated -but we have been able to use resources they put out for adults(sermon outlines) and ask for those we needed (being part of the weekly worship planning list) to help our family worship together to the fullest(along with lots of prayer and training). My husband and I have been a part of this local church family since birth, it is a Bible believing, Bible teaching, and to the best of our ability a Bible living church so we have not felt God’s leading to join a new church even though we have felt His leading towards family worship. He has lead us to family worship and He is graciously helping us learn how to practice family worship for His glory in our local assembly, even though we are the only ones.

  18. I love this idea!! I’ve always thought it was a good idea for kids to be in church and listening as soon as they were old enough to do so (we let them go to the nursery or children’s church when they were very young) but I never liked the idea of just bringing toys and coloring books for them to play with during church. I wanted them to learn to focus on what was being taught and not have to be entertained during the service. My kids are way past the age of using these but if they were younger I’d be jumping all over them! haha! Great job!!

  19. I’ve been watching families in church since I was a little kid. Here’s what I’ve learned:
    1. Sit in the front. The less distractions there are between the child and what’s going on, the less the child will be distracted.
    2. Being out of the church service should never be more fun then being in the church service.
    3. More toys and fun activities don’t make church more fun. They usually create more distractions. That said, some/most kids do need at least something to hold in their hand. Depending on the kid, the object could be something to love, like a stuffed animal or doll, something to move, like a squishy soft ball, something to see, like a small book of animals or something to draw or color with.
    4. But if you start from birth, with the expectation that you will teach your child to stay in the church service, and you go out when absolutely necessary, then come back in, children will learn to sit and listen – quietly.
    5. Have listening quietly times at home, such as family worship, stories on tape, etc., every day, so the child learns what you expect of them in a less public situation. You could even practice listening to sermons or adult worship books a few times a week. Kids really can learn to sit and listen, and when they are doing that, they can’t help but learn.
    6. Before the church service, make sure that the child has had a chance to walk around, get a drink and use the bathroom. Once they have had that taken care of, they should need to use that as an excuse to do something different.
    7. Maybe this should be #1. Pray for your child ahead and the church service ahead of time. Ask for the heavenly angels to surround the child and bless them. Ask for wisdom to deal with the situations that arise. All through the service, keep praying for that child, and their heart and mind.
    8. Remember that this is just a tiny part of the child’s life, and your life. You might not get as much as desired out of the sermon during the initial training years, but you will soon start reaping the fruit, if you don’t give up. When I go to church now, I see families sitting around with children that were once wiggly toddlers. The ones that persisted have pre-teens that are sitting quietly in the row beside their families, listening to the word of God. And you see that reflected in their lives.

    P.S. You will know you are getting somewhere when the pastor asks a question in the sermon that he doesn’t really expect to be answered, and your four year old loudly blurts out an embarrassing answer for the whole room to hear.

  20. Ohhhhhh Amy! Your article is an answered prayer!!!! We just recently began having a family integrated approach to church and Bible study. We haven’t found a church that supports us in this yet but are working on it! In the meantime…we struggle with what to do with our children during the service as they are SO new to sitting with us during the entire service. Our 8 yr old is used to going to a children’s church while we were in the service and our youngest, 3, to the nursery or a little children’s church. Church became entertainment and we were all segregated by age. God has been leading my husband and I in growing in understanding of God’s Word on this subject and we have come so far in the last few months! We so badly want them in church with us but were stuck with a “church bag” with toys and seek and finds and such that completely distracted them from what was happening in the service. This is a BRILLIANT idea! I have printed all of them off and shared them with my husband. He is all for it! We will be trying them out starting this Sunday! Thank you SO much for sharing them with us! God has answered my prayers through you today, friend! Thanks again!

    Blessings!

    Mrs Mary Joy Pershing

  21. THIS IS FANTASTIC!!!!!
    as i was reading through your post, i kept waiting for some idea that would never work for us because i have already tried it. but this is BRILLIANT! i love it!!!!!
    thank you so much for sharing.
    God Bless!!

    kate

  22. These are great. My children are too old but I’ll have grandbabies one day. I copied them off and bookmarked this page and the link for non-readers. Also posted on FB.

  23. This is brilliant! And so helpful for me on a couple of levels… first of all, the obvious reason, to make sure my littles are listening in church. But, second of all, we are missionaries in Ukraine, so I am going to add the Russian version of these words next to the English version… to find out how much of these Bible words they are actually comprehending! Thanks for the inspiration!

  24. This is an awesome idea! i’m so excited to try this out with our 3 yr. old. I’ve really been longing for something to encourage him to take more interest in the service that was actually at his level. Thank you! I’ll be sharing these with as many people as will listen :)

  25. Way TOO smart! I have had Sprite take notes in her journal. But this would have been a good starter activity for younger ages. Fantastic job, Lauren, on the printables.

  26. Thank you so much. These are terrific. I have been looking for something to help the children in our worship services listen more attentively. I think this will help tremendously. I am using one in tomorrow’s service.

  27. I used both versions of these today for my 7 and 5yr old…I even added a few words to each once the sermon was going and I knew what words would come up! My kids LOVED them!! They were even sad when church was over while normally they keep asking how much longer!! Thanks so much to both of you for providing these! We will def be using them every week from now on! They were even able to tell me what the sermon was about based on what words had the most tally marks! :)

  28. Thank you for sharing this wonderful idea! We attend Spanish-speaking church, but I am going to print them just like they are, so they’ll be listening extra-hard.

    Love from Mexico,
    Anna

  29. AAHHHHH!! You are a genius. Or that lady you saw in church is a genius! Either way I am soo thankful for these. I have been trying different methods and this one seems like the best. I have 1 reader and 2 non readers and 2 that could just tear the paper up or eat it if I handed it to them :) Printer here I come!

  30. Amy, I’ve tried your listening pages for the past couple of weeks with our 9yo dd and 6yo dd, and they have really enjoyed them! Thank you so much!

  31. Hi Amy,

    I am so thankful to have found your blog! We have been using these for weeks, and my kids are enjoying them. Now, if I could only come up with something that would keep my talkative 3 year old son quiet during church!

    How do your kids do in church? We don’t go to a FIC, so the other kids get dismissed after worship, and my kids want to go to children’s church so badly. We have been keeping them with us in church for 2 years now, and they are ages 9, 7,7, and 5 (our 3 year old and 1 year old are in nursery). We discuss the sermon, cuddle with them, etc., and have explained why we want them in the service with us, but they are still not very excited about church. We really like the teaching at our church, and the only FIC near us does not even have a staffed nursery. Since my husband’s work schedule has him working several Sundays, I am often alone with the kids in church. Any thoughts or words of wisdom would be most appreciated!

    Thanks!
    Dyan Croushore

    • Hello! FIC’s typically do not have nurseries, but I have found that they are so committed to helping families stay together that there will be those who are perfectly willing to help you out with your little ones, especially since you are alone so often. All you need to do is ask and I think you will be pleasantly surprised. :)

  32. I am LOVING these, my boys sit quietly and really listen closely to the sermon so they can fill in their pages. After church we discuss the sermon and they remember much of it thanks to having to listen to intently! :)

  33. My kids just love these. They help them to be more focused during the preaching and can always tell me what the message is about. I would love it if you could create more of these, they are Wonderful.

  34. I also, do this with grades 6-8 at my church. I have always worried about the older kids at my church during worship service. They all sit together at the front of the church with all the others kids their age and without their parents. They just don’t pay attention. They are day dreaming or drawing, etc. Some of the kids at our church did not grow up there (their parents don’t come, they come alone) and most all of the kids don’t know some of the leaders in our church. So, I ask them questions. If they turn their paper in to me after church I give them a piece of candy, because some of them would not do it. You would not believe the difference in their attentiveness during the worship service. Some of the high schoolers want to do it to.

    #1 What deacon led the altar prayer or who sang special music, etc. #2 I will ask what song did we sing for call to worship or what song for praise and worship? #3 What is the scripture for the message? #4 How many times did the Preacher say Jesus? #5 What was the sermon about? #6 How can you apply this message to your life? #7 What color is Ms. Jeannie (she is our music leader) wearing? This question helps them learn people in our church that they don’t ever talk to.

    The kids really enjoy the church sheets and I believe they are learning more by doing them. I change the questions each week, but they are along the same lines.

    • I love the more specific questions of who did what and such! I truly believe attentiveness is something that has to be taught otherwise we just let our brains go to mush! ;)

  35. I love this. I needed to read this because I’ve been concerned if my children are really getting anything out of church. They color and look at books. This is great and I’m going to try these sheets. Excited!

    • Cheryl,
      You are welcome to use them in any way you see a need! They only thing we ask is that the copyright stay in tact for both my site and Mama’s. ;)

  36. What a wonderful–and meaningful!–idea! I’m so excited to try this. My husband has often not wanted to attend Sunday evening services because there was no children’s program and he was so concerned about their behavior. I hope that we can try these to overcome that! Thank you for sharing!

  37. We just recently began attending a family integrated church and I remembered seeing these on your site a while back. So glad they were easy to find again! I would love to know of any other resources or tips you have on FIC. Also, will your family be changing churches now that you’ve moved back to the country?

    • If you look under the topic Family Integrated Church, you’ll see my other posts on the matter. We won’t be changing churches because we’ve only moved about 4 miles. :)

  38. Amy, may I begin by saying that your forgetting was a huge blessing to me! I am very new to homeschooling having come into later with my 3 boys. They are in grades 8,7 and 3 this year. January and February have been pretty tough. Seeing the sun shining again is encouraging. I am forgetful. I am so forgetful that I forget to look in my planner! Terrible! But aside from that, this idea is just fantastic. I am going to suggest it to our church’s children’s pastor. The children are in the service for at least half the time and this would be wonderful. Also, there are parents who keep their little ones there throughout. And on some Sundays we just don’t have scheduled classes, nor throughout the month of August to give the Sunday School teachers a break. At the very least, I will use it with my little one. I think that I will try to come with something more involved for my 2 young men.

  39. This is great I have been trying to find ways to keep my girls listening in church for years, but all they want to do it color so I’m going to try this out this weekend, hopefully it will work.

  40. Been wanting to make something like this to facilitate concentration, but have been “too busy.” Thanks a bunch, I truly appreciate it!

  41. I printed the Listening Pages for non-readers for my kids and made prints for our church as well. I then came over here to print the ones for readers to share with our church. I love this idea. Thank you!!

  42. I LOVE THIS idea! I am researching children and church and of things to help children worship better in church! I am hoping to do a 8 week series on children and worship and will certainly incorporate this idea (of course sending them your way!) Now to adapt for us Lutherans!:) Too bad it is Saturday evening…..

    I have read your blog quite a few times, I really enjoy you family. As a mom who lost a baby in pregnancy, it is hard to talk about it. That is when I found your site, when I was seeking comfort. Thank you.

  43. Thank you so much! These are great, and will help put the “church bag” together for my younger children…I have a form for the older children to take notes from, already, but this fits the bill for the youngers!

  44. Thank you for this! I was looking for something to supplement our Bible study topic of Kids in Church tonight. This will be perfect!

  45. These sound perfect! My older ones take notes and reflect on the teachings in their lives, (sometimes on their hands in marker…) but I have struggled to find a way to incorporate my younger ones into the service. We have a wonderful sunday school program for ages 4-7ish where the children are taught a simplified version of the lessons, then they return to church for communion, song and more prayer, but I feel they should be getting a bit more out of the time spent in church.

  46. This is so wonderful! I was just thinking this past Sunday about what I could do to help my children, 3 and 5, stay focused during worship. We are part of a small house church and listen to our sermons on cd every week. It is hard for them to sit still and listen when they can’t look at the person speaking. I will DEFINITELY be utilizing these worksheets and creating some on my own. Thank you!!

  47. Brilliant! Found this post on Pinterest awhile ago. My husband took my 6 year old to a different church today to attend a relative’s baby dedication. The church is quite different from our home church, so I was a little concerned. I remembered this post right before they walked out the door, grabbed a little notepad, stuck it and a pen in a little purse for her to carry and have her the instructions. She came home an was soooo excited to show me what she heard! “Mommy! He talked about love a lot, but he didn’t really say anything about prayer today.” Awesomeness!!! Thanks for sharing the idea!!!

  48. I think this is one of the best ideas I’ve seen. I wish I had this when I was growing up. Are these general words or do you go by what the sermon is going to be about? Thank you for posting this!

  49. I have to say that while we go to a rather large Church with separate “services” for all ages up to regular Church services for adults…their father prefers that we all sit together as a family to worship. While I understand his reasonings I was adament that the children go to their own services so that they can worhsip with other children their ages and be able to get so much more out of it. I remember growing up in a Church that was FIC and how unbearable those long sermons were to a child….sad to realize as an adult that it was only 1 hour I was “forced” to sit through! :)

    I think these sheets will be a wonderful way to start having the whole family together to worship. Plus they will draw the kids into what is going on since they have to follow along to mark everything. Knowing my kids they will turn it into a competition. But I’m ok with that as long as they pay attention and can give us a basic run down of what they learned!

    I had been trying to purchase a CD of the service afterwards each week because dad & I missed so much of it dealing with the kids during it. Now we’ll save $3 each week! Thanks for coming up with this concept. Now I’m off the get the ones for the non-readers as well so we’ve got the whole family covered! Thanks so much!!!!

  50. My 8 year old used this for the first time on Sunday & really enjoyed it. He asked to have a fresh page for next week. I really think this is a great idea!

  51. I want to thank you so sincerely for making these available to other mothers like me who don’t know how to create these wonderful resources, and for not charging for them like SO many others are nowadays! A true blessing for our family and our local church!! :)