As churches begin to reopen, the majority of congregations are not opening children’s ministries. Families will worship together. This change is drastic for most churches, creating a bit of anxiety for parents and preachers alike.
There are several obvious challenges that come with having kids of all ages in the worship space.
- Kids distract parents from worship. They wiggle. They whisper. They have one hundred questions or observations. Parents don’t get a “break” to worship on their own.
- Kids can’t sit through the whole service. Kids don’t have many environments where they have to sit still and be quiet for a lengthy amount of time. Parents will have to leave the service, causing distractions and causing them to miss the service.
- Kids won’t get anything out of it. One of the major reasons that we typically have children’s ministry is to provide age-appropriate learning opportunities. Pastors typically preach to adults. There is a legitimate concern that we “waste” kids time by not providing age-specific instruction.
- Kids might distract others. Kids can be distracting even at their quietest. Is it really fair to the other adults to be distracted by whispers or cries or other strange noises?
These challenges are real. But what if God is using this time to do something unique in our churches and our families?
What if in this season…
- Parents play a more critical role in discipling their kids on Sunday morning. Instead of pulling into the parking lot and going separate ways, the whole family worships Jesus together. It is a sacrifice on the part of parents, but it is a long term investment in children’s spiritual lives. Deuteronomy 6 does not tell parents to disciple their children everywhere except for church.
- Kids learn how to participate in a corporate worship service. There are some things about church life we just can’t teach in children’s experiences. Kids will sing the same songs as their parents. They will experience the ordinances of the church. Sometimes they will have to be taken out. But the long term benefit outweighs short term frustrations.
- Kids learn more than we expect. When my oldest daughter was a preschooler, I would take her into the service with me. She would color while the pastor was preaching. I didn’t think she had a clue what was going on. But then he asked a question. She looked up at me and answered it, spot on. Don’t expect that kids will repeat all five points of the sermon, but they will absorb more than you think. Plus, now that everyone is experiencing worship together, families can easily continue the conversation after church is over.
- Distractions are not the end of the world. Many of our churches need a little bit of the life that kids bring. What better time for kids to learn now to respect others than while they are cute enough to be quickly forgiven? That’s much better than when they are an obnoxious teenager or an adult. Most people in churches will be forgiving. We are truly all in this together.
In Isaiah 43:19, the Lord says, “Behold, I am doing a new thing.” As our churches experience another season of new things, may we find joy in the messiness of our families worshipping together in one room.
Posted on July 1, 2020
Jenny serves as Minister to Children at West Bradenton Baptist Church in Bradenton, Florida. She is passionate about equipping the church to disciple children to follow Jesus. Jenny also loves investing in other children's ministry leaders.
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Thanks for finally talking about > Тhe Challenges and Jоys of Fаmilies Worsһippіng Together | Church
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In a Parish without children where the average age is ~70, the sound and “distraction” of children is welcome. Most of our members say that the sound of children is the sound of life and to a person always tell the parents who are mortified by the fussing of the child – don’t worry, kids are kids and mine did the same things.
To the point of children getting more of church, a seminary professor related a story of their granddaughter (~4 or 5 years old) in church one Sunday at Communion. The Priest knew the granddaughter had been baptized but wasn’t aware if her friend (a visitor) was baptized. Since the second child didn’t “follow the procedures” for receiving Communion, the Priest simply gave a blessing to the child. The first child proceeded to break her wafer in half and turn to her friend and say “if he isn’t going to give you Jesus, I will.” The child gets it, maybe better than many adults.
An interesting ministry, which probably wouldn’t work today with social distancing, could be to have “designated grandparents” that the children are comfortable around who can have the child sit with them during worship. That temporarily relieves the parents of the distraction of the children and establishes a multi-generational connection.
I grew up sitting through church with my family. We had a program for 2-3 year olds when my kids were that age. They left just before the sermon. I like the idea of families worshiping together. We had special bulletins for the kids to do that usually went with the sermon topic. I think it makes them feel a part of the larger church and can see that church has people of all ages in it.
Some churches are learning today thanks to COVID-19 what other churches were learning back in the 1970s and 1980s. The socialization that goes on when children and adults worship together is a two way street. Children learn how to worship adults and adults learn how to worship with children. Children catch the faith from the whole community of the church and not from a handful of volunteers. In turn, adults benefit from the faith of the children in their midst. In the Christian Church through much of its history children were not separated from the rest of the congregation. They were part of the congregation from infancy. For a number of years I was involved in the music and worship ministry of what was at the time a new church plant. While we had a nursery for infants and toddlers, the other children remained in the service with their parents. We also had parents who kept their infants and toddlers with them and we did not discourage the practice. We planned our worship so that children would be able to participate as well as adults–songs with refrains or repetitive lyrics and easy-to-learn tunes. We were a liturgical church and the children learned the responses, the prayers, and other liturgical elements by heart. They were often more enthusiastic worshipers than the adults and set an example for them. Liturgical worship involves a lot of physical movement and gestures. Physical movement and gestures are one way of engaging children in worship. We also involved the older children in various ways in the service–lighting candles, reading Scripture, leading prayers, passing the offering plate. Other churches in the same tradition had discovered that when children were separated from the rest of the congregation and relegated to their own service, they came to prefer that way of worshiping. When it came time for them to worship with the grown-ups, they had difficulty making the transition to what for them was a new and unfamiliar way of worshiping. When they became teenagers, they would either migrate to a church that offered a worship experience similar to the one they had grown use to as children or they dropped out of church altogether. Churches like Saddleback and Willow Creek had a similar experience with their seeker services. Those whom their seeker services attracted did not make the transition to their regular services.