There are two sides to every coin.
Two sides to every story.
Two perspectives on every angle.
When it comes to kids in worship, the arena opens even wider. There are a variety of opinions and beliefs about what is appropriate when it comes to kids participating in church and growing in corporate faith.
For the last several years, children’s ministers like myself from around the world have been encouraging parents in their role as the primary disciplers of their children as outlined in Duet. 6:4-9 and recognize that the church simply cannot replace them as the faith formers for their kids.
In 1888, H. C. Trumbull, professor at Yale, was calling for much the same thing but from another perspective.
He observed that families that had neglected “family religion” so much that the incoming classes for Christian universities such as Yale and Harvard boasted only 5 confessing Christians and only 1 person who attended communion service. His plea was to churches to remember that Duet. 6 was not given to parents and families alone but within the context of community and encouraged churches to give priority to the funding of Sunday School and inclusion of children in their worship so parents would be supported at home.
His conclusion and mine are the same:
We encourage age-appropriate ministry with intergenerational opportunities.
And we both recognize the challenge that presents. Specifically for the inclusion of children in corporate worship.
But those challenges need not signal defeat. The advice that Trumbull and the pastors he cites nearly 130 years ago still stands today and, I believe, if heeded will grow the kingdom of God in ways we can’t even imagine.
On Learning From Children
“When I stand in my pulpit and present, as God gives me ability, the gospel message to adult men and women, I do it in the earnest hope that I may win some of them to Christ. But I see many in my audience to whom this same gospel has been faithfully preached for years. They are, it may be, respectful listeners, kind and generous parishioners, and excellent neighbors and citizens. But they have grown up in unbelief, and have become more and more hardened in their unbelief from year to year. And of these, there are some who sit as undisturbed under the most moving appeals of the gospel, even in times of revival, as an impregnable castle wall, defying all the best aimed missiles.
I go now from my pulpit into my children’s training class. What a change! Every eye glistens with attention and responsive interest. The eager, hungry souls feed on the living bread.
On Kids in Worship
Children are indeed expected to attend the church services where preaching is a prominent feature, and where it is even counted a means of grace; but the pulpit preacher does not, ordinarily, recognize, as a corollary of this expectation, his corresponding duty to adapt his preaching to the capacities and needs of his children hearers.
Claiming, to start with, that God’s appointed agency for the winning and training of souls is pulpit preaching rather than Bible-school teaching, and that therefore children ought to attend on that appointed agency, the modern church practically deprives those children who do thus attend, of the chief advantage of that agency, by couching the addresses of the pulpit in language which is to the children an unknown tongue.
Whether looked upon as out of Christ or as in Christ, a child has a stronger claim than an adult on the preaching service of a minister of Christ, when the two are brought into practical comparison. If more ministers would preach to the children of their congregation, more of the grown people would understand their ministers.
On How to Practically Welcome Kids in Worship
“Papa, are you going to say anything to-day that I can understand? ‘ asked a little girl of her father— a Massachusetts pastor — as he was setting out for church on a Sabbath morning. This tender appeal touched the loving father’s heart, and he could not answer his daughter nay; he could not say to his child that she must sit in penance through all the long service with never a word designed for her instruction and cheer.
So, as he preached, he said, ‘And now, children, I will say something to you about this.” At once the face of every child in that audience brightened. Sleepy little ones started up ; tired ones took fresh heart.
Looking first at the minister, then at each other, again back to him, they were all eagerness for his message, as though now there was something else for them than to nod and yawn and ache un-cared for; and although the pastor’s following sentences to them were few and simple, doubtless many felt as did the child who had pleaded for this attention when, on her return at noon, she said contentedly, ‘ Papa, I understood all that you said this morning.’
Dear children! Who wouldn’t do as much as this for them in every sermon? — they are gratified so easily.”
Indeed, who wouldn’t do so much?
I can conclude no differently then Trumbull did so many years ago, “Those who realize the distinctive character of Christianity as the religion of children and of the child-like should realize, also, the truth that the extension, the upbuilding, and the establishing of Christ’s Church, must, in the plan of God, be done chiefly by means of work among and with and for the children.“
All quotes in this post came from The Sunday School, its orgins, mission, method, and auxilliaries” written by H.C. Trumbull and available free on Google Books.
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About the author
Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering 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, Seedbed, and D6 Family.