Do Your Children Know How to Worship?

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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!

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I'm a long term church educator and Director of Ministries to Children seeking to share practiced and lived good ideas just as she benefited from the mentorship of those who have gone before.

Worship comes from the relationship we have with God. Kids don’t need the ‘how’, they need to meet the ‘who’. Change the programme from teaching, and worship will follow.

Worship is absolutely a relationship with God- so support what parents are hopefully doing at home by including elements in your children's worship such as

1) Allowing children to lay down on the ground and inviting them to close their eyes as you lead them in a guided meditation (perhaps start by inviting kids to feel their heartbeat and use the resonance from thumping the soundbox of a guitar to simulate a heart beat. Then speak about the Spirit as you encourage them to breath in and out.)

2) Demonstrating and encouraging kids to join you in different forms and types of prayer.  Ask them to think about what forms feel most comfortable to them in different situations (kneeling, hands lifted, laying down, "arrow prayers," listening prayers, praying in color, etc.

3) Speak of offerings as being how we show God we love Him. It might be sharing money to help others or support the church but it might also be the gift of art work they have put time into to illustrate a scripture verse or a song they practice to give to the Lord and to contribute to their corporate worship.

4) Invite kids to help write different kinds of prayers from their own hearts (prayers of adoration, supplication, thanksgiving and confession and prayers as conversations they might have while sitting with Jesus.)

5) Invite kids to interpret prayers and scriptures through drawings or pictures or movement.

There are lots of wonderful ways to help kids "learn" how to worship that are actually invitations to them to reach out or be still and listen for the God that is behind and within the very air that surrounds them in the moment. I find that an image of a pregnant mother cradling her belly with a superimposed drawing or image of the child within her womb can be a valuable way to help kids think about and "visualize" the love and nurture of the God who is surrounding, supporting, sustaining and loving them even when they cannot see Him. Listen......

 

Thank you Cordelia, these are fine suggestions for children and adults, and should be included in the worship services. Your children will wonder why adult church is so one dimensional when they attend it.

I have advised churches on how to broaden the experiences of worship, and generally it has been ignored. Church leaders are afraid of dumbing down the service, having to deal with disgruntled adults, and needing to work at the idea. And so they choose the status quo.

Please bring these ideas into the main service.