When do you expect your children to be able to fully participate in the corporate worship service? (4th grade? middle school? High school? Adult hood?)
Have you ever asked the question: what is the long term goal for what we expect of and provide for our children during the worship hour? Whether we anticipate the result of our decisions about kids' participation in worship accurately or not, we usually get exactly what we planned for, but maybe not what we hoped for.
When children are not in "grown up" worship at all they often
- never get to see their parents in silent or confessional prayer
- never see their parents and other members of the congregation become encompassed with a sense of the Holy Spirit in music or in prayer
- miss out on observing adults focus on what the pastors are saying as the very words of Life!
- do not perceive themselves as relevant to, or included in, corporate worship!
What are the consequences of these missed experiences and conclusions? When children ARE in worship:
- the adults in the church family are far more likely to speak to and show an interest in them
- they come to feel familiar with who the pastors are and with the rhythm and flow of worship
- they feel valued and invited to join men and women who are modeling respect for God, concern for one another, the importance of honesty, humility, confession, giving, and, most importantly, the Word of God.
If your plan for children during worship is child care, Sunday School or a kids’ version of a youth group they are likely to feel like a fish out of water in a worship service that is very different than what they have come to expect. In other words they may not “know” how to worship WITH you and are therefore likely to be less than thrilled to be in a place where they are expected to passively be on their “best behavior” in a room of mostly strangers speaking or singing songs, prayers, rituals and liturgies with which they are unfamiliar.
I would like to suggest that if we hope that our children will come to appreciate and remain a part of our worshipping communities we need to teach them how we worship and that means including them in corporate worship for an appropriate length of time and content exposure in corporate worship before commissioning them to participate in a kids’ version of the same.
Let your children see and hear the concerns of the church and the congregation at prayer. That can be powerfully formative! Give them a children’s message that contributes to the overall service and then release them to a KID SIZED service in another space that looks like a space for worship where the message is age appropriate, the songs are at tempos and rhythms that welcome wiggles and where kids can take leadership in the same kinds of tasks that adults do in their service as a training ground for the future. If you PLAN FOR and then allow kids to worship with their hearts and minds as readers, song leaders, prayer writers, musicians, mission reporters, ushers and prayer leaders you will find that they will be comfortable and honored to take these roles on for special occasions in a corporate worship experience that will make the angels smile and LIFT the hearts and spirits of your adult congregation as well! Try it!