photo by ThunderChild tm
Two recent Problem of the Week posts, one called Weekly Church Attendance and the other Boring Sermons, had a commenter touch briefly on encouraging a child to take notes during a Sunday morning sermon as a way of engaging him. For those who look at church as an obligation this may seem a bit much to ask for. If a child scoffs at schoolwork, what makes us think he’ll willingly go along with taking notes at a church service?
Nonetheless, this is a good way for promoting ‘church’ as an opportunity for learning about God’s Word as well as a door to family discussion. Many churches already provide an insert in their bulletin designed specifically for taking notes that you can take advantage of. I’d like to provide some other pointers that should help make your pastor’s sermons more effective in hitting home with your child.
* Take notes along with your child. Don’t leave him to figure it out for himself, and don’t assume he should know already how to do it.
* Buy small, sturdy spiral notebooks for the both of you. Nothing too big that will make him stand out but one that can be tucked away in a back pocket or inside his Bible. Let him choose his cover design if that will help.
* Tell him that you’re going to compare notes after church, not to see how well he did but to discuss important points. Use this time to offer constructive teaching in what to look for the next time.
* Consider recruiting one of his friends to join him in taking notes. Perhaps you can convince them that they stand on the brink of starting a great trend among their peers.
* If a friend joins him you can encourage some friendly rivalry, spurring better concentration as they try to outdo each other in listing important take away points. Use this good-naturedly. Gratuitous conflict may cause the opposite reaction. Know your child.
* Know your pastor. He may be given to posting the take away points on an overhead screen, using alliteration (all his points start with the same letter), or following an acronym. Maybe he uses a particular gesture or stance when he gets ready to make his next point. Cue your child in to looking for these as he takes notes.
* Have him list Scripture references as they come up. Use these later to help motivate discussion about what the sermon was about.
There are some people who prefer to just listen to the sermon, and to take notes would be a distraction to their ability to hear what the pastor is saying. My husband is like that. It becomes interesting when our pastor says something that really strikes him, though. He makes a mad dash for a pen, searching pockets and Bible leafs, hoping to find one before he forgets what struck him, and before he loses track of what the pastor is saying. Somehow I always end up a pen short from what I came to church with.
For a child who shares this inclination you would alert him that you’ll press him for general details after the service. You’re not aiming to test him as much as propelling him into holding up his end of a discussion.
At some point after the service (my suggestion would be sometime that afternoon, while things are fresh) compare notes, discuss what you each agree or disagree with, refer to the Bible for clarification (referring to the Scripture verses listed in your notes) and talk about how you might apply what you’ve learned. You might even take one of the listed verses and memorize it in the coming week. This is something else I encourage you to do alongside your child.
Remember, your goal is to help your child want more of God’s Word and to be able to think critically through his faith so he can stand on his convictions. Your pastor’s sermons can be an effective tool to reach your child for Christ if you’re willing to help him see how.