Quit Kicking Jesus out of Worship

A friend of mine recently wrote a blog entitled “7 Tips for Increasing Congregational Participation” where he addressed the fact that worship leaders often lament that the congregation seems disengaged from worship.  It was a great read (and it’s linked above so you should go read it, after you finish here, of course) and I told him so in a quick note.  But true to form, I also shared with him just one more tip from a family ministry perspective regarding participation in worship.  I stole it right from Scripture where it says, “From the lips of children and infants, you have ordained praise.” (Ps. 8:2).

Simply put, this is the idea of our worship times being open not just to those who have graduated from high school (or middle school or elementary school depending on where you attend), but being times where the entire congregation, the corporate body of Christ, the full contingent of worshipers gather as one to praise the One.

As we prepare to gather in worship, we need to consider the following regarding congregational participation.

1. The congregation doesn’t start at age 18 (or 14 or 12)

The body of Christ is made of up people of every age, from the very old to the very young.  He calls forth worship, not just from adults, but from young and old alike. In Psalm 148, the psalmist is declaring to all creation to “praise the Lord” and where does he end his plea?  With the command of praise from “young men and women, old men and children.”  But somewhere along the way, we’ve dropped that last one off and sent our kids to “praise the Lord” elsewhere so we won’t be disturbed.

2. The congregation can’t participate if they’re not there

Don’t get me wrong.  I have no problem with Sunday School and Kids Church and I am an advocate for these things within a church setting.  However, I am not an advocate of these if it means there is never a time for the children to engage in worship with the adults, especially their parents and their church leaders.  Learning how to worship, engage with liturgy, and participate in community is part of being the church and our kids need to see and experience worship in the fullest sense.

What happens when they don’t have that chance?  A recent blog post on why millennials don’t attend church by Pastor Tom Fuerst sums it up nicely.

Millennials aren’t attending your church because they’ve never had to attend your church.

Think about it. From the time my generation was born, we were thrown in the nursery with other babies. Then we went to children’s ministries with other children to be entertained while our parents when to “big church.” Then we had middle school ministry. Then we had youth group. Then we went away to college and we found a church with a stellar college ministry.

It wasn’t until we graduated college that we were actually expected to be a part of the intergenerational community called “church.” We’d been segregated by age for the first 22 years. And you not only allowed this, you encouraged it.

So there you have it. The congregation can’t participate if they are not there, and sadly, many of this generation are not there at all.

3. The congregation doesn’t gather for a show; it gathers for worship.

My friend Kevin does such a great job of developing this point so seriously, go read his blog when you are done here.  But, having worked in Children’s ministry for a while, I’ve noticed that whenever I bring up kids participating in worship, what is often heard is, “The kids are going to get up front and sing a song for us today.”  In other words, the kids are going to put on a show.

But that’s not worship.  That’s performance.  It is imperative that we instill in our children a heart of worship that seeks to come together with the community of believers and put the focus on God.  Otherwise, they will learn that worship is just a show.  Let the children read the Scriptures, participate in communion, and lead the community in worship but don’t put them on stage to perform and say that you’ve let them participate, because you have not.

Look, I know it is a challenge to have kids in worship.  I know that they smell funny, make weird noises, talk out of turn, wiggle a lot and can generally be a distraction at times.  I understand that it is not always appropriate to have them there.  But I promise you this, the issues you experience in those corporate worship times are nothing compared to the issues you will face when a generation walks away from church because they don’t know how to worship or where they belong.

We are called by God to “make disciples of ALL men.”  That includes the little ones.  Consider what Jesus says in Mark.

Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.

Are you receiving Christ and the Father into your worship?  Are the children welcome in your midst?  My “8th” tip for congregation participation in worship is to invite the whole congregation to worship. Find time somewhere to welcome the children and in doing so you will welcome Christ.


For more information about practical discipleship in the home or transitioning to a more family-focused ministry at your church, go to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page.

About the author

familyChristina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partneringsmallbadge with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.

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4 Faith Talks for Family Movie Night

Invite Jesus into the everyday.

I say this to parents a lot.  It’s something I feel very passionate about, but also something I recognize isn’t easy to do.  It requires intentionality, creativity, and patience.  But our family has experienced some really special moments in these times of everyday life where we make room for Jesus in the midst of it and one of those places is our Family Movie Night.

Our kids get SO excited when we say, “Take dinner to the living room; it’s Family Movie Night!”  As the girls have gotten older (11 and 9) it’s become increasingly more difficult to find movies that are both appropriate for their age and fun for the whole family.  As we’ve broadened their movie selections, we have been intentional in doing so and have tried to use these family times as springboards for deeper faith conversations.

Here’s four faith-forming movie moments you might want to utilize for your Family Movie Nights

1. The BIG Story

Every movie has an overall plot and many times the plot has something to do with good vs. evil.  Of course, we always want good to win and just when it looks like evil has taken the lead, good comes from behind for the BIG win.  Does this sound anything like another story you’ve heard in your life or read in the pages of the Bible?  The original good vs. evil story took place in the narrative of Scripture and is repeated in all of the small stories we read over and over again, not the least of which was the resurrection of Christ that we celebrate on Easter.  Some examples of questions you could ask your kids:

  • Where does the idea of good and evil come from?
  • Who was the good guy in the movie? Who is the ultimate good guy?
  • Can you give an example of the Bible where good beat evil, like in the movie?

2. The BIG Lesson

Most movies have a “lesson” or moral they are trying to get across to their audience.  It may not be a deep lesson (Dumb and Dumber anyone?) and it may not be a healthy one (50 Shades of Let’s Not Go There) but there is some lesson behind the story.  Before you watch the movie with your kids, be aware of what the messages are and ask your kids if they can find it or figure it out.  I’ve been amazed by some of the insights my girls have come up with about the messages in movies.  Here are a few questions to help you get started.

  • What is the main message this movie is telling you about life? love? relationships? friendship?
  • Do you think the message is true or false?
  • Do you think that is a the same message Jesus would give you?

3. The BIG Picture

Movies try to paint a certain reality, whether it is set in a high school or outer space, the movie tries to pull you into their alternate universe and have you believe it’s real.  Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on the movie, the fact is that reality is not real.  Sometimes kids especially have a hard time discerning that as their minds are still developing the skills necessary to tell  the difference between fantasy and reality.  Here are a few thoughts you might want to share with your kids before and after the movie.

  • Before the movie: Look for things in the movie that are different from your reality.
  • After the movie: What did you think was unrealistic?  Why?  How has that been different from your experience?  As a Christian, what would you have done in that situation?

4.  The BIG Hero

Oh, we love our heroes!  My girls recently discovered Indiana Jones and MacGyver (Thank you Daddy and Netflix) and they think these two men are simply amazing.  Every good movie has a great hero who always rescues the needy ones, loves the unloved ones, and saves the lost ones.  It’s as though they had a prototype to work off of (hmmmmm), an ultimate Hero that could change the whole world (AHA).  We of course know His name, but let’s make sure our kids know Him too. Here’s some ways to start that conversation.

  • Who in the movie needed rescued and who was the hero?
  • How did we know that he/she was the hero?  What makes a hero heroic?
  • Who is the ultimate Hero of the world?  Who has He rescued?

These questions and conversations flow easily in our house now since we started them a long time ago, but at first it can be a little awkward.  Don’t let that awkwardness stop you.

These types of conversations carry more meaning than in just that moment; they begin to help your children build a framework through which they watch television and movies in the future.  They will approach these things with a mind that is looking for more, critically reviewing the messages they receive, and developing a worldview based on the reality of God’s word.

And to think it all started with some pizza, popcorn, and pop (soda, coke, whatever) in your living room on Family Movie Night.


For more information about practical discipleship in the home or transitioning to a more family-focused ministry at your church, go to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page.

About the author

familyChristina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partneringsmallbadge with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.