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.