Children’s Church: Worship on their level or just a way to keep parents sane?

As a new children’s minister I have spent a lot of time thinking about Children’s Church and all of the implications that go along with it. There will always be questions of when should children be in the sanctuary, what age is too old for a separate church service, and how much should we do for children during our typical service. But for me it really just comes down to the balance between creating a space where children can truly worship and learn about God and balancing that with the need for families to worship together and for children to see their parents living out their faith in a church setting.

There is one school of thought that says separate kids for everything. It gives the kids learning on their level and it gives their parents a way to worship without distractions. As a children’s minister I hear this idea articulated a great deal. Parents are tired, stressed, and desperate for some adult time. As the parent of a 2 and 5 year old I understand their longing for just one hour without having to say “sit still” a couple of hundred times. I understand this mindset and want to create programs that help out parents like this.

But there is another school of thought that is developing in my head (and in many other places as well) that says parents and children need to find time to worship together. Children need to be involved in the church and see adults in the church worshiping and living out their faith in community with others. When we only separate our children we are taking them away from an opportunity for dialog between parents and their children.

There are many great reasons why children should spend time worshiping with their parents (at least when they are able to read well enough to keep up). Even if it seems like they aren’t listening having children part of the service creates a great chance for dialog later. Parents can bring up talking points based off of the sermon and can carry the discussion of God things beyond the church and into the car and into the home.

Of course the biggest downfall is the boredom factor. Most church services are designed for someone 50-60 years old. Even the parents sitting in the congregation may feel a disconnect with what is happening. For years church have been warring over the inclusion of stuff in the service that appeals to youth age worshipers, imagine what happens when we tell them that we have to go even younger.

But if we are going to honestly say that we are a community of believers and that everyone is valid from the youngest to the oldest then we must find ways to help everyone have something , some small part of the worship experience that is on a level that they can understand. In order to have this happen then the people who are more mature Christians are going to need to be willing to sacrifice so that those who are less mature can connect with God and with the church community as a whole.

2 thoughts on “Children’s Church: Worship on their level or just a way to keep parents sane?

  1. Meagan says:

    I agree, I see both sides of the fence. The only problem I see is the lack of connection between parent and child. I would be on board with keeping the children with their parents during a segment of worship if the parents would be parents and explain, engage, and communicate with their children about what is actually going on in an adult service. The problem is that adults do not do this. The missing link are the parents maybe not even knowing they are supposed to “walk” their children through an understanding of worship. A system I have seen at The Oaks in Waxahachie, Texas is called “Orange Live”. It is a way to combine parents and children in a fun, interactive way and it really seems to work! They use it one Sunday a month. Here is their website: http://www.theoaksonline.org/ministries/orange-family-ministry/

  2. Chrsitina Vargas says:

    Wow! So much to say about this subject. Ten years ago, I became the first children’s pastor of a small bilingual church. If you think “old school church” has negative connotations for children, “spanish old school pentacostal church” has even more! My pastor and I shared a vision to reach kids in a relevant and relational manner. I went to every conference, and we labored to provide children with an environment they could worship and learn in at their level. Over time though, I became dissatisfied with the degree of separation between the children and adults. I read accounts of times in the Word, when God’s people gathered together to worship and hear the Word, adults and children, often followed by revival or repentance. I became worried that in our effort to connect children to Jesus in “their world” we were disconnecting them from the body that we were working so hard to prepare them to be a part of. I also became a victim of a certain degree of burnout, being that our congregation was not large. In short, God saw the situation and worked out and confirmed many of the issues we were facing. Last summer, our youth group experienced a revival. They became hungry to worship God in all areas. It was like a total transformation. That spread. Our church worship services became so vibrant and refreshing. Because many of my after Sunday School volunteers were youth (who were experiencing this great refreshing), I made the decision to cancel our after care and leave our nursery open. I was nervous about how that would go, but there was no need to worry. Over the next several months, I watched as our children became active participants in the corporate worship. Some were not as active as others, but observed. What we have seen is actually an increase in family worship within our corporate worship as well as an improvement in behavior among the children when the congregation is gathered together. I came away with this conclusion. While separate ministry is important for the instruction and relational components among the body, God never intended families to approach worship and life in a separate and compartmentalized manner. At home for dinner time, we don’t have the children eat in one room, the teenagers in another, the college aged student at the coffee house and the adults at the main dining table (At least not in a solid, stable home). So, why as churches should we not encourage that same unity. We talk all the time about the church breaking down walls and barriers….racial, ethnic, socioeconomic. Well, I believe we need to break down some of those generational walls as well. The experience of one generation empowers the next. The empowerment of that generation has the potential to produce excellence in those who come after. Following this shift in worship, we have experienced marked growth. We are working on how to meet the needs and still provide that time of corporate worship which includes as much of the church, young and old, that we can. But, I am not stressing. God always has a way of leading us, if we take the time to listen.

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