For Dino's 7th birthday, we got him a Bible. Not another Bible storybook (though we have several really good ones) - a real, complete Bible. I have gotten each of my little sisters a Bible when they turned 7, with their name embossed on the front and a zippered cover to protect it when it gets flung around amongst their toys. At 7 years old, they are old enough to read some and to follow along when someone else reads.
The worship service at our church includes everyone together during prayers, announcements, singing, and offering. Before the sermon, they invite the 3-6 year olds to the steps in front of the stage for a children's sermon. This is almost always a condensed version of the preacher's sermon, focusing on the main topic or verse, but in a way they can understand. Then these young children are taken up for children's church, where they will do an activity and talk more about that Sunday's theme while the preacher gives his sermon in the sanctuary.
I absolutely love that this church sees the importance of worshipping as a family. It is important for children to see their parents worship God, to see how the church works, to know the songs and traditions that speak to our hearts. I love that this church also acknowledges that a 7-year-old child has been in school long enough to sit still for another half-hour and follow along with the sermon. He may need a small coloring book and crayons handed over from my church bag at some point if the sermon gets too long and he gets too restless, but I know he is still listening, even if he doesn't yet fully understand.
I have always given the NIV Adventure Bible, because that is what I had as a child, too. Dino loves, just like I did, all the little extras in that publication - highlighted verses, explanations about ancient money and measurements, colorful maps, and insights for the morals of the stories. That first Sunday, he was so excited to sit with us through the whole service, and for me to turn his Bible to the pastor's sermon verses. He got a little frustrated, though, when the pastor skipped around through the long passage, just reading one or two verses at a time then pausing to discuss them - I guess Dino expected him to read straight through and be done!
That week, we had Communion. This church celebrates The Lord's Supper the first Sunday of each quarter. I grew up in a church that served the bread and juice of Communion every Sunday, as a continual reminder of Jesus' sacrifice for our sins each week. "For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes." (I Cor. 11:26 NIV) "On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight." (Acts 20:7 NIV)
The sermon that day was from I Corinthians 11:17-24, on properly revering The Lord's Supper, ensuring that our hearts are right with God before partaking. I am sure Dino has seen Communion in church, but it has probably been a while. He was wide-eyed, asking what was going on. While the elements were being passed out, I read to him quietly from Luke 22 (in his own Bible!), explaining what the bread and juice represent, and talking to him again about Jesus' sacrifice. He was satisfied with the explanation that those who have been baptized are the ones who receive communion.
The next week, in the middle of the sermon, he asked if we would get a snack again! No, not until January... Or Christmas...