Why I don’t teach my children to sit still in church can be misconstrued in so many ways. There are many times that sitting still is necessary . I am by no means implying that you should not require your children to learn the fine art of sitting still. I am gently reminding you that sensory issues dictate that your child do what is necessary to make it through what is probably a loud and painful worship service. Sitting still is never a requirement or necessary for them to listen to and hear the sermon.
Let me clarify why I don’t teach my children to sit still in church before I give you some pointers to make it work. Sensory issues aside, we all worship in different ways. What works for me is not what works for Michael. I sing, sway, and raise my hands during the music. I write notes in my Bible as well as highlight passages. I talk back to the pastor while he’s preaching. Michael does none of those things. Does that make his worship less pleasing to God? Absolutely not! It is more important to me that my children find what they personally need to do to be ushered into the presence of God. Autism or not, it’s different for everyone.
Logan doesn’t sing, wears earplugs or noise cancelling headphones and reads a Bible commentary during the sermon. He sits criss cross on the pew and never looks at the pulpit. NEVER. From his outward appearance, he is not paying attention in the very least. He can however narrate the sermon almost verbatim afterwards as well as name every song that was performed. Madison bounces her leg and colors on herself or in a book the entire time. She claps and has been known to dance during the worship songs. Her approach to worship is completely different from Logan’s but it works for her. Just like in autism though, different does not equal less.
I must warn you that depending on the church you attend, this approach to worship styles is unconventional. You will get stares and murmurs from those who believe you are being irreverent. I have had to politely tell people it’s not their business. That said, you also don’t want your child’s shenanigans to be a distraction to others. Here’s some tips I have found to work well for my family.
- Don’t sit near the older generation. While I don’t want to be stereotypical, we have found those who are older normally have set expectations of how worship should work. Change is hard for everyone not just kids with autism.
- Sit near an exit and/or at the end of the aisle. This gives you access to a quick getaway if necessary. Just knowing I had a way out lessened my anxiety at times.
- If you are concerned what others are thinking then sit in the back where you are less likely to be seen. This doesn’t work if you talk back to the pastor. Then you have to yell your answers. Trust me, I know.
- Let go of needing approval from others. Your child needs to know his worship style is personal to him. You want Spirit filled servants of God? Teach them to walk with God, however that looks for them.
When my children are adults, I want them to know that I accepted them for who they were. I don’t care how they meet with Jesus. I just care that they see Him as a friend. I want them to know intimately what the whispers of the Holy Spirit sound like. I want them to know worship is whatever they make it. There are no right or wrong answers.