Tuesday Tips for Parenting – Notes for Pennies

My, how quickly Tuesdays arrive. In an attempt to cover up the fact that I hadn’t come up with anything include the children in the writing of this week’s parenting blog, I asked Joshua for help this morning. Our conversation went something like this:

Mom: Joshua, what parenting tip should I cover this week?
Joshua: [Blank, slightly hostile stare]


Mom: You know, for our Tuesday Parenting blog.
Joshua: [Blank stare followed by dramatic shrug] Again, Mom?

I beg of you ...

Mom: [Slightly exasperated now] Help me out here, Josh, can’t you think of any interesting parenting tips or hints I could share?

Joshua: [Looking over his shoulder, calculating the distance needed for escape] Hmmm. Um. Let’s see, um. [Long pause]

Mom: Never mind. I’ll figure something out.
Joshua: [Relief etched in his features, exhausted by the effort] Great, good luck.

you gotta do it yourself mom

Mom: [Sarcastically] Yeah, thanks Joshua, you’re a big help.
Joshua: [Big smile, racing off to do something easy, like math] Any time, Mom.

So obviously Joshua is not going to be a big source of help with this blogging series. Tim had a long, tiring day hanging out with the President. Oh, nope, that’s not quite right. He was in TRAFFIC while the President’s motorcade went by. He was “near” President Bush for a good part of the afternoon. He’s too tired to think up brilliant, witty, or wise parenting tips. I’m on my own. This may be a short one. :)

Notes for Pennies – Sitting in Church

Our church has two morning services. Tim leads an adult Sunday School class during the first hour. The children are all in classes of their own during this time. We do our best to span almost the entire youth department — from kindergarten all the way to middle school. Don’t even ask, we will NOT be adding a baby to the nursery.

During the second hour we sit together in church, with the exception of Sarah who stays for a another hour of preschool. She will join us when she transitions to her new class in the Fall. It’s both a joy and a challenge having the children in church with us.

They wiggle and squirm and fight over who gets to sit next to Mommy. They drop their books, bother each other, sit when you’re supposed to be standing, clap when the clapping ends and just generally distract everyone within a three pew radius.

That covers the first 10 minutes.

They have even been known to, and this is the worst offense of all, knock over the precious cup of contraband (a.k.a. hot coffee) smuggled into the sanctuary. Repeatedly.

My friend Christy stepped in to help the situation with this awesome Christmas present.

gotta love me some starbucks

Now my coffee remains in a spill-proof, safe, travel mug (staying hot for hours).

I want my children to learn how to worship God with a body of believers and develop the discipline of sitting quietly and hearing from the Word. I would like them to experience church intergenerationally, not always segregated by age, separated into their own classes. I found a wonderful article online written specifically about including children in a worship service. One portion of the essay featured a check list for the church staff or worship team.

  1. Our pastor includes at least one example, illustration, or story in each sermon that relates to children’s experiences.
  2. Our church education program teaches children about the basic actions of worship and worship-related words that are difficult to understand (such as “alleluia,” “amen,” or “sacrament”).
  3. There are children regularly involved in the worship leadership team of our congregation.
  4. Our pastor has met with every church education class to answer the questions the children have about worship.

What a richness and depth it would add to family worship if some of these ideas were embraced by our churches today.

One thing we have started to do with Daniel and Rachel, who are old enough to sit still and listen but a bit too young to be completely engaged in the sermon, is Note Taking for Pennies.

I look over the sermon notes and make a list of four words that follow the theme of the sermon. For example, we have been studying Hebrews 11 this month, examining the heroes of faith. In this case, I might write down:


rachel's bible

Rachel is poised and ready to take some power notes!

I leave two spaces empty so they can add words themselves that they notice emerging as key themes. I encourage them to listen carefully to the sermon and make a tally mark each time the pastor repeats a word on their list.

Here is the key factor — I pay them one penny for each recorded word!

This may not seem like much but it rapidly adds up. I’ve been known to come out $3 or $4 poorer in a single church service. It’s worse if the children have friends visiting. The kids hand me their papers with glee. I’m just glad they didn’t stand up in the middle of the sermon, shouting: “Bingo!”

I try to look surprised and overwhelmed by the big bucks the note taking costs, all the while hiding my joy. My loss has become their gain as they walk out of the worship service with a deeper understanding of the scriptures, an awareness of the themes repeated in the passage, and a mind that has been engaged during the sermon rather than distracted and bored.

I will gladly pay that price. BINGO indeed!

Project 365 – Day 239

Edited to say – this series of pictures of Joshua were from a different day when we were being silly. He is a very helpful young man and is more than willing to assist on our blogging projects whenever possible. I didn’t mean to misrepresent him for the sake of some blog humor.

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13 thoughts on “Tuesday Tips for Parenting – Notes for Pennies”

  1. If only mom and dad had offered pennies for my sermon notes way back when…..ha! A very good idea Kathy!

    I had to chuckle at your apt description of the 3 pew radius – that’s us when Jacob is with us! That along with the loudly whispered “is it time to go yet?” 15 minutes after we sit down (sigh). Did I mention that it becomes a very long service sometimes???? ha!

    A great Tuesday parenting tip!

  2. Thanks, Posie. What are you doing up this late???? If it’s late for me (and it is), I KNOW it’s late there. :)

    Do you get requests to go to the bathroom right in the middle of the sermon? I’m not suspicious, no, I totally understand. Long sermon = sudden need to use the bathroom. ha!

  3. I agree I think children should be sitting in listening to the sermon. It is wonderful what they do take in .At our church each child is given a printed piece of paper to write down the hymn numbers, Bible readings and any notes on the sermon they want to write. I think it is a great idea as our youngest is seven and enjoys writing a few words for the sermon notes.

  4. Although I wince somewhat at the idea of bribing my children to attend church, my conscience is assuaged by several thoughts:

    1. We don’t give the kids an allowance very regularly, and, when we do, it isn’t excessive (a quarter per year of age).
    2. My children are very generous with their money in buying gifts for one another and for friends’ birthdays, etc.
    3. I hope to get them to contribute to the fund I’ve set up to buy a new gaming computer (since our existing machines have low-quality video cards).

    There is a pastor in Oregon whose thoughts on parenting have influenced us lately. He pays his kids a dollar per verse for Bible memorization. When challenged on this blatant bribery, he asks people, “How many verses have your kids memorized?” Food for thought …

  5. I like the penny tip! You all have great ideas for tying rewards and incentives to things. DO not muzzle the ox while he grinds the wheat. smiling. And I identify with the wiggliness. Ben, age 6, excellent large motor skills man….manages to do what appears to be complex yoga positions, quietly right in his chair, lost in his own world of stretching and contemplation. We marvel.

    Two of the last few churches we have gone to do a neat thing to prepare little ones to worship with adults. Depending on the church, four or five year-olds stay in for worship with adults until sermon time, then they leave and the little ones have a kid-oriented service that trains them to be in adult worship (they have a little offering time, songs, and a sermon and learn about why we do each thing.) Then they return to the adult service for communion. (Our current church has weekly communion — what a delight!) After they are “of age” (5 or 6), they stay in for the full service with the adults. I like that they worship with us, but that they have something geared to their age group to learn HOW to worship corporately.


  6. Oh I love this idea!!! Thanks for sharing it. I’ll be having my kiddos try this out THIS WEEK! :-) I really am loving your Tuesday Parenting Tips, Kathy & Tim. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Tim, my childhood pastor’s parents used to pay his grandsons to do this as well. Apparently they paid out A LOT of money over the years (they are all grown now) but all of them know a lot of verses as well! :-) I think whatever works – works. :-)

  8. Great idea for getting them to pay attention. I’ll have to remember that when mine are old enough. I thought the pictures of your son were adorable. He looks like a gem! I’m giving away a copy of the book, The Power of a Praying Parent this week at And She Prays… if you’re interested, come on over & leave a comment!

  9. This is a GREAT idea. When Trevor was younger, we’d let him draw–but after seeing a picture or two of Michaelangelo the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtle, I changed the rules so he could only draw Bible stories. We’ve changed churches a few times, and my kids were not much into the children’s church. NOW I have a new plan, thanks to you!

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