One common concern I often hear from parents and other adult church members about including children in the corporate worship setting is that kids won’t “get” anything out of the worship or the sermon. From an adult perspective, there are certain things we want to walk away from church with such as a sense of having been in God’s presence or having learned something that will help us grow in our faith. We presumably come to church for a reason and it is easy for us to assume those same reasons apply to our kids.
But they probably don’t.
You see your kids are young in their faith. They don’t understand the desire for fellowship or the beauty of corporate worship or the need for continued learning and growth in their walk with Christ. They go to church because they follow you to church; they are your disciples and they are learning what being a Christian looks like by watching and emulating you (if I were a psalmist, I’d write a “Selah” after that and encourage to to “stop and think about” that for a moment).
So, parents often express this concern:
My kids are only going to church because I make them. It’s bad enough when they are going to Sunday School where they get to have fun but when they are just sitting in “big church” and they don’t get anything out of it, it seems rather pointless.
I get it, I do! I have kids and I know that often the worship service is geared towards adults only and not applicable or appropriate for them (future blog for churches in that). I too have struggled with the fact that they don’t seem to “get” anything out of those corporate times. But I have also seen and read many studies that show definitively that these times of worship and learning in the midst of the larger congregation are one of the leading reasons for increased “stickiness” of faith in young adults. Thus, there must be something to it, even if what they get out of church is not the same as what we adults “get” out of attending church service.
So, what is it? What do little kids “get” out of going to “big church”?
1. They get SEEN
I have been at churches where I have seen kids dropped off by parents in the Children’s Area as soon as they walk in the door and picked up as it is time to leave. More than once I’ve heard it said in the hallway, “You have kids? I had no idea!” That makes my heart hurt.
It has been shown that one of the most important and meaningful thing for kids is that someone knows their name. When kids are secluded from the congregation, not only are their names unknown, their faces aren’t even recognized. They are for the most part a dismissible part of the church and wouldn’t be missed except by a few volunteers and staff members if they never came back… which is often exactly what happens when they are old enough to do so.
2. They get to SEE
One of the main ways that kids learn is through emulation by watching activities and actions and imitating them. Every church I’ve been to has had its own form of liturgy or way to worship. Some churches have prayers that are prayed each service. Some celebrate communion. Some engage in corporate prayer, take up offerings, recite a creed, or have a time for sharing testimonies. Some use hymnals, some projectors with contemporary praise and worship. During the service, Scripture is read, Bibles are opened, and the Word comes to life.
All of these things are imperative for kids to be discipled in. It may seem like they are not “getting” anything out of it, but they are learning and growing in those moments. They are watching Mom and Dad and other adults they respect and trust show them how to worship. And if they don’t learn from the church, they will learn somewhere else. The world has plenty of things to worship and are more than willing to teach kids how to do so.
3. They get EXPERIENCE
For a moment, I want you to think back on your own walk of faith. Do you remember the first time you took communion? Got baptized? Found a Scripture verse in the Bible by yourself? Put money in the offering plate? Prayed at the altar? Maybe even shared in front of church?
For many of us, those things happened in the context of congregational worship. Now, I bet you did some of those things in Sunday School or Kids Church before you did them with the larger congregation, but I also bet there was something meaningful and affirming about doing it with the whole church.
When my girls got baptized, they shared their testimony in front of the church and after the baptism, the congregation cheered and hugged them and loved on them in a way that left deep impressions on their hearts of their place in God’s church. We don’t attend that church anymore since we moved, but the experience of being accepted in the body of Christ has stayed with them. Having the experience of an entire congregation embracing them gave them a sense of belonging that is not easily forgotten.
It would be naive to think that this is a simple or easy task.
Kids are… kids. Churches would be wise to find ways to make it easier to invite kids into worship (like I said, keep an eye out for that blog). Parents should be prepared for the inevitable eye rolls of boredom or occasional acting out and having to do follow-up after the service to reinforce what was taught.
But I firmly believe these frustrations of the moment are far less painful than the alternative – a generation who is unknown, disengaged, and separated from the larger body of Christ.
By giving our children a place to be seen, to see, and to experience their faith with others, we give them so much more – we give them a foundation for their faith that will leave lasting impressions on their heart.
To read the follow-up blog, Do Not Hinder: Welcoming Kids to Worship, click here.
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
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.
I agree that it is important that kids participate in church.
Thanks Sharonah, I know that it isn’t always possible to make that happen and some parents struggle with this, but I do feel it is so important to make sure there is some time for kids to worship together with adults and serve in ministering together!
I’m looking forward to that next blog post Christina. The church needs to do a better job of making everything applicable for the WHOLE church. Too often we see young people as future members of the church and not current members of the church. Children are people with gifts and abilities that can be used in the body of Christ. Everyone gets more out of something if they have ownership and are contributing to the success of that entity. Let’s include the kids in the whole life of the church.
Thanks for the encouragement. I am praying a lot about this next blog! I’m looking forward to it too 🙂
I think this is an awesome message and needs to be spread worldwide. The children are the 1st that Christ would invite to sit and worship with Him; because they are so honest. Do they get bored at church; of course they do; if they don’t know whats going on and if they are not included. They to are the body of Christ. They will learn other ways in the world; if parents don’t teach and have worship and daily devotion at home; church will be meaningless to the children; unless they get blessed enough to have some youth minded ministries reach out to them and manage to give them enough at church to want to be there. I promise you, every crying baby in the congregation; every out spoken word from a child; every rolled eye will be totally worth the reward, when your child walks down the isle, when your child gives a testimony of faith, when your child leads another to the Lord. They are not just children, they are God creation, they are His vessels, if we do not raise a child in the way he or she should go, they will find their own way; but will the road lead to Christ. Thank you so much, whoever is leading the move to leave the children in the regular service, they can be and are part of the service. i have never had a child turn me down if I ask them to read or sing a song or arm restle the pastor. They always want to be a part; but until allowed, and taught, they don’t feel like they belong. Look around in the churches today, go visit a few dozen if your pastor will let you leave long enough 🙂 you will see the children are gone…….or hid away ………..playing video games, disco ball dancing, asking where’s my mommy? All my children are grown; but if I see a young person in the church with a small child a encourage them to keep them close, I engage with the children. Try it, you find that your children lead you ……………..
I love that you engage with kids and I bet you are blessed each time you do! It’s not always easy for everyone to engage with the littles among us, but I believe when we do, God uses them in our lives as much as he does us in theirs. Blessings, friend!
I think it is so important for kids to see their family worship, that’s priceless!!! It’s also important for the kids to feel connected to the church as a whole, not just their age group. Excellent read!!!
Thanks! And yes, especially that feeling connected part – I don’t think we (as the church overall) understand the tremendous affect it has on a child to feel a part of something bigger, especially the body of Christ!
Think Orange is trying to change that 🙂
I agree with this completely. Every person in every Church from the Senior Pastor, to the newest member should read this. To many times we are missing the boat in our Churches when it comes to our kids. They are the most important part of the Church, We often say they are the Church of tomorrow, That is not true, They are the Church of today.
There’s a song I’ve often heard Sunday school teachers share with kids that goes, “I am the church. You are the church. We are the church… together!” But then so often I see the opposite happen and it’s more like, “I am the church over here” and “You be the church over there” but ne’er the two shall meet. I hope and pray that we are starting to recognize that isn’t what church should be. Thanks for your encouragement!
Thank you so much for this… I really appreciate your words. We are challenged in our church regarding families and corporate worship. We’ve lost a few families because we don’t offer a children’s program that the parents deem “suitable”. They all seem to want an easy fix and don’t want to put the time or effort into creating worship that brings families together instead of segregating. I feel that our Pastor has done an excellent job in showing and communicating inter-generational worship and we have focused quite a bit on Faith 5 but we are also getting the big push back from families. I’m sorry to be so negative and discouraged. I’m not sure how to show parents that their children are valued by our entire community and that their presence in our congregation is important and vital for all of us.
Thanks for your comment. I understand where you and where the parents are coming from. When things have been done one way for a long time, unless you see the need for change and grasp the “why” behind the “because” it is difficult to accept or understand change. One thing I would encourage you to do is to give the parents who are concerned or upset a voice and listen to what needs are not being met. Perhaps they don’t know how to worship with their kids with them. Perhaps they have viewed church as “their time” to get a break from their kids and don’t see the need for corporate worship and intergenerational culture. And maybe legitimately, there is a need for age-focused discipleship that the church needs to make space for. There certainly isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” for family ministry; it requires much prayer, discussion and willingness to explore and change together. I’ll be praying for you, your pastor and your families as you walk that road. There are a lot of resources on the resources pages for this blog – a good one to look at as you consider what type of family ministry works best in your setting would be “Three Perspectives on Family Ministry” edited by Timothy Paul Jones. Prayers!!
Two other resources are books I wrote: HOW DO OUR CHILDREN GROW?: Introducing Children to God, Jesus, the Bible, Prayer Church – (a study guide for a parent’s group is in the book) and SIDE BY SIDE: Families Learning and Living the Faith Together (ideas of learning situations for families, including some on why we worship and church seasons) I also suggest my son’s book: ONE BODY: Integrating Teenagers Into the Life of Your Church (He references “sticky faith” and how we put people in silos in our church.) The thoughts hold true for children as well as youth.
I agree with the fact that kids need to be in church but also know that there are reasons you may not understand why children are dropped off in children’s church. Sometimes that parents need to gather their thoughts in order to help there child be a better Christian in the next week. So hopefully we can all understand the choices that parents make with there own children also.
I remember working the Nursery in high school for a moms that had kids with downs syndrome and autism. I understand these are one on one cases but we should never judge why the parents take there kids to the nursery.
Erin, thanks for commenting. It actually sounds like you and I are on the same page. I absolutely agree that there are times when kids and parents aren’t together and I try very hard not to judge individual parents/families (this blog was intended to reach the broader church audience, not specific individuals). If you read my other blogs (check out the one called Quit Kicking Jesus out of Worship) you’ll see that I am an advocate for Sunday school, Kids Church, Nursery, Small groups etc BUT not if doing those things means that kids will never have the chance to interact with their parents, church leaders and other adults in corporate worship and relationship-building. I really do believe that if we want the next generation to stay connected to their faith as they grow (unlike the most recent generation) it will be because they were welcomed and knitted to the whole church, not segregated from the community of faith. This article was intended to remind us (parents, churches) that there are important things we gain from having kids in church and we can’t afford to overlook them and their benefits! Blessings to you as you serve!!
A long time ago, in a church bulletin there was an essay on boredom and how kids went from kicking the back of the pews and drawing quietly to actually listening, learning and celebrating, but also using their boring time to figure out how to handle that bully on the bus, or deciding what they want to study when they go off to college. In a busy world where nearly every hour of our children’s days are filled with stimulation, a twenty minute period when they are “bored” and are stil expected to sit quietly and respect other people around them by sitting quietly is gift that frequently goes underapreciated or is totally unopened. While many parents see their child being bored as a failure on their part, giving them the gift of boredom is something that helps children with both emotional and intellectual growth. I had that essay on my fridge for years and it was lost in a move, and while the church tried to find it again for me, they never could. Even as an adult it changed my viewpoint on the word boredom. I now see it totally as a gift. If a child complains of being bored, parents need to tell the child how wonderful it is to have the time to sit quietly and think about whatever they want and that their mind is as exciting as an ipad. Being bored is a choice, and we need to give children time to learn how to make good choices. Gosh, it’s been almost 30 years, and I still wish I had that essay!
Hi Patricia, I’ve seen that essay before I think and I hear what you are saying. I think the problem runs a little deeper than boredom though to a culture that is more comfortable with age-segregated church services rather than intentional intergenerational community. Kids get bored. Adults do too. In my opinion church can’t be about making sure that no one is bored. But I do think church needs to be about creating a community of believers that serve as one body as the hands and feet of Christ, and that’s hard to do when portions of our community don’t ever interact with one another. Building that community for all ages has to be intentional and meaningful, and I think the commitment and benefit found in those deep relationships will supercede the occasional boredom for either us or for kids. Knowing that we are with a group of people who knows us, knows our name, is praying for us, and considers us a part of something bigger is a great motivator, even for us big people. Blessings!!
I’ve spent time with my grandchildren just “listening to the quiet”! You are right. They have VERY little (if any) time to do their own thinking, and they need it. I remember climbing into a tree and just sitting there, thinking. We program our kids’ lives too much.
The church I went to as a child read responsive Bible readings each Sunday, and I learned a number of scripture passages by heart after hearing them and reading them over the years. On the other side, developing the habit of not listening is not good!
As a mom, I always find it interesting to hear my kids repeat things they have heard at church when I thought they were not listening 🙂 But on a serious note, I find it is helpful to have questions for the kids to answer or let them color a picture about what the pastor is saying while they are in church. I’ve been amazed at the truth they so often glean from sermons and worship times.
I sat with my mom in church from the time I was in the nursery until she could trust me to sit with the middle schoolers, and then I had to be very, very good. But when I was little and bored, I took a nap with my head on her lap. My other worship service activities as a small child included drawing pictures on the bulletin, singing hymns with the congregation, trying to keep my eyes closed during prayer, and listening to my daddy preach (rarely, but sometimes). Now, from the perspective of senior citizenship, as I look back and in my heart’s eyes see the loving members of those congregations, I am overwhelmed by the fact that they wanted us kids right there in church with them. What they were doing in worship was so important to them that they wanted us to know about it. We were that important to them!! I wouldn’t take a million dollars for those hours that I spent as a child in “boring” worship services.
To send children away to children’s church tells them that what we’re doing in worship isn’t important so they don’t need to be there. To keep them in the services with us lets them know that what we are doing there is extremely important, and that they are so important to us that we want them to know Who we are worshiping. They may not recognize those subliminal messages until they are much older, but where they are during worship service will affect their lives in the meantime.
Hi Evelyn, isn’t it great when we can look back and see how positive things that happened as we were young have shaped us today? As I’ve shared, I think there are good reasons to have Kids Church too (my kids absolutely learn so much from the small group leaders at ours) but I think to only provide that means of worship exclusively for kids is not in the best interest of them or the church. We have much to gain from one another!
Thank you, Christina! You’ve hit the nail on the head! We simply must quit entertaining our children and allow them to worship with the whole family of God!
kids are hearing even if it looks like they are bored or playing. Case in point: during a sermon on Jesus temptation, I paraphrased/dramatized “turn these stones into bread”. A three year old stepped out into the center aisle, looked up at me and said “NO WAY”
This spurred a thought for your blog about things being appropriate for the WHOLE church. If things are not appropriate for my little ears, they are probably not appropriate period and should not be said in the manner in which they are delivered. It is interesting to me how my precious old concordance does not include many of the adult words that are used behind the pulpit at times. If we stick with the biblical terms, we are much more in alignment with the Word.
As a Minister to Children and Families I have struggled with this question for almost 50 years. I am in agreement with the original blog but I also seek to understand the needs of parents and children in the big ‘life’ questions. So in my last three churches we have handled it in this way.
Parents pick up their children from Sunday School and take them to worship. They enjoy corporate worship together through the hymns, prayers, scripture readings, offering experience and a Moment with Children. They come forward for this and are engaged for a while by one of the ministers in a very personal and often creative way. At this point, children 4 through 2nd grade leave the service for a time of learning focused on worship. They learn the choruses of hymns, the recitations of prayers and affirmations of faith, the meaning of symbols found in the sanctuary and hear a Bible story. When the children are in the 3rd grade they have opportunities of leading in worship by praying, reading scripture and leading in responsive readings and receiving the offering.
I really think this provides the best of both worlds. They worship with personal family, they worship with church family, they experience corporate worship, they get to know their ministers and they learn things to assist them in corporate worship. They begin to understand what they are hearing. Parents are able to focus on a message that they need to help them in their closeness to God and in providing faith development for their children. And everyone is happy, which doesn’t hurt the fellowship.
I love this approach and I think it’s great your church has found a way that works best for you. I don’t believe in cookie-cutter family ministry; each church has unique culture and needs that must be met in order to best reach the whole church. But I do believe in Family Ministry and being intentional , as it seems you are, about creating that space for corporate worship. Here are some ideas I’ve come across in other churches I’ve visited and served: http://refocusministry.org/resources-for-ministers/family-ministry/practical-ways-to-welcome-kids-to-church/
This is the problem in all America with adults AND children!! It’s NOT about US and what we will GET!!!! We gather with believers because we love the Lord and want to obey Him!! It’s not to be entertained! Until we realize that, the Church in America will struggle. Very sad!
I read an article the other day from the Boston Globe where they were talking about the age segregation in America and the effect it has on all of us. It makes it clear that if we want to create intergenerational connections, we will have to be intentional about doing so. I think the church should be the ones who lead that charge. (Here’s the link to the article http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2014/08/30/what-age-segregation-does-america/o568E8xoAQ7VG6F4grjLxH/story.html)
Thank you everyone for your comments! I am so blessed that so many have engaged with and share a similar heart as me in this. Just so I am clear in my communication, I don’t want to come across as not seeing a place for Sunday School, Children’s Church and other age-appropriate programming in a church setting. There are definite benefits to those times as well; however, if those times are the only worship experience our kids are getting and they never get to engage with the church at large, the consequences are clear and the results disheartening. Corporate times of worship build community and community leads to relationships which lead to discipleship and lifelong faith. Check out my follow up post at http://refocusministry.org/2015/03/14/do-not-hinder/ and let me know what you think! Blessings!!
I am a church musician, so my son was with me every Sunday in worship from the beginning of his life. Beginning when he was 3 years old, after church on our drive home he would regularly make the most profound statements related to our pastor’s sermon. I don’t believe this statement, because my own experience with my son belies it.
Kathleen, if you read the blog post you’ll find I don’t believe this statement either. I think kids get so very much from church! Just as your son has demonstrated 🙂
Reblogged this on aaronagregory and commented:
Good thoughts for those of us who have children and take them to church!
It is encouraging to see kids in church. However some kids reach an age where they have a choice. They choose not to go and that is heartbreaking.
I agree and it is heartbreaking. I think one way we can help them make the decision to stay is to create a place that is welcoming, that encourages them to form relationships with a variety of ages, and provides an environment that let them know they will be missed by many if they choose to leave. Intentional community with a heart for intergenerational relationships and support of the home a two things that young adults who choose to stay in fellowship point to as reasons they continued to attend church. Our pastor once asked us, “What breaks your heart?” My answer, “The many, many young people I see walking away from God and the church.” That’s why I started this blog, to hopefully encourage the larger church community to seek ways to engage with our kids at a deep level while they are young. Blessings to you!!
Pat Streett. Church of the Holy Comforter
We as a church are now getting into the area of trying to make our children part of the service. Acolytes and readers of the word. Sometimes they do a skit or small play to interpret the gospel. They love doing the Christmas pageant and participateing in the music during Easter. Our goal is to grow our church by having more young adults, with and without children to carry on God’s Gospel and spread it into their world by their actions they have learned at church.
Love that vision! Thanks for sharing!
When my children were small I wanted them to see the celebration of God. I did not want them to feel going to church was just one more thing they had to do.
I agree and I truly feel if churches recognize that need to include kids in the greater context of corporate worship, then care will be taken to make sure kids are able to celebrate, participate, and congregate without feeling like all they can do is sit still and listen. It’s something that in many churches will take time to refocus on but I do believe the end result will be that most kids will WANT to be in service, rather than feeling like it is a chore.
Thank you for your post. I always felt it was important for kids to be present during church. I have a respect for a father in my congregation who removes his wiggly or unhappy children from the service to the room outside the sanctuary and not directly to the nursery, teaching them if they don’t care to be in church,they can go play.
Adding to my last post. He’s not teaching them the choice is church or playing. It’s more you’re choosing to be with us or sit quietly alone with one parent outside of the service
Christina, well said. I found this post on the Wisconsin Conference of the United Methodist Church facebook page. I look forward to reading the next article about welcoming kids into church.
This is an issue that we have grappled with as a family. Background info: I was raised in the UMC, have attended UMC churches in large and small towns in my adult life, including the small town in which we now live. My family (husband and 2 kids) have recently switched to a different church in our community, for a host of reasons, but one of which was lack of engagement with youth, as we have 2 kids, ages 11 and 6.
I care deeply about the United Methodist Church. It will always be a valued part of my spiritual formation. I so hope that your influence and like minded leaders in the church heed this opportunity to engage with the larger church (both UMC and otherwise) and think strongly about how it engages with youth and young families. The church we now attend does a REALLY GOOD JOB at engaging with kids. Yet, it still embraces what I would call a traditional worship. The difference we’ve seen since our switch to this new congregation is phenomenal. And it comes with many of the things you highlight.
1. People know my kids’ names AND they are more than ‘cute’ props. Their names were known at our old church, but I felt our kids were inappropriately given the job to entertain the adults. Things were set up where they were ‘cute props’ during the service, either in children’s choir, which was required to ‘perform’ at all 3 services, ‘cute’ skits, or in a cutsie ‘children’s moment’. Note to churches: don’t do this. We are part of a church now where there are a number of children their age. They aren’t put on stage to be cute. They are truly nurtured, both at Wednesday night activities, and with a really well run Sunday school program. Our kids feel the difference. They feel cared for. Their only job is to be themselves—not to entertain the masses. They ask to go, both to youth activities on Wednesday nights and worship on Sunday morning. This has never happened until now. This. Speaks. Volumes.
2. There is a well thought attention to liturgy. All churches have their own way to organize worship. The church we now attend has the first half of its service as a prepared liturgy, with both song and responsive scripture. My kids love the singing we do. I don’t know what happened in our old church, but it seems so much time was taken up with announcements or performances or other kinds of things, we had little time to sing–two songs at best. We sing for have the service now. My kids love that. They participate and enjoy it. Side note: in our old church, there was a lot of complaining at one time about the quality of preaching. Having a practiced liturgy, such as this, takes a lot of pressure off of having to have a ‘perfect pastor’ or ‘perfect sermon’, neither of which are necessary for quality worship. In our old church, too much emphasis was put on what I call ‘performance-oriented-church’. In this new space, we all participate. It is much less focused on a person or people occupying a ‘stage’, but on God.
3. Children are encouraged to be in worship. Almost all of the moms I’ve been close with when my kids were young and now wanted their kids with them in church services, from cradle on up. We didn’t want to drop off our kids in a nursery. Rather, we wanted to be in a space which made us feel like our kids were valued in church services. I’ve been in churches where pastors say this at the top of each service: “We value children in service, so don’t worry if they make a peep or two, they are worshiping in their own way.” How cool is that to be given that gift of welcome.—it takes the pressure off, and any lingering sense of self consciousness. In our new church home, it says on each bulletin: “Children are valued in the worship service. For children under five, there is nursery care available if you desire, but we encourage children to be with us.” Beautiful. I think this sentiment needs to be carried forth in all churches, for all the reasons you listed. I might add, it would be welcoming to have a ‘breastfeeding welcome’ sign both in the sanctuary and in the nursery. Mothers should be encouraged to feed baby when and where they are at… the Pope welcomed mothers to nurse in Mass… I think we all should have this same attitude. A message of welcome and acceptance goes a long way.
4. Time, attention, and planning for kids care, is built into the structure of the church. In this new place we attend, care for children is cited as a ‘core value.’ I can tell you it is lived out. Kids were an afterthought at our old church. Our old church had lost it’s critical mass of young people, so it was very difficult to get any kind of programming going. In this new place, food is ordered in bulk for kids programs, so it’s there to be made, in the church kitchen. All we need to do is prepare it. I help out with this along with a handful of other moms. It’s great fellowship time for us. But it’s not on our shoulders to come up with a menu, make it at home, transport it, and all of that. It’s planned for ahead of time. I can’t tell you how much this means to me as a parent. It speaks volumes. It makes participation so much easier and much more fun.
Many blessings to you, Christina, as you continue your ministry. Lead, preach, and teach the UMC and the larger Body of Christ to attend and care for children and young families. They are an important part of the larger and church—certainly not the only part, but a very important part. Church, read and heed.
You are so right, terivl. Very well said.
Hi! I see that before I could respond you found my follow-up blog. It sounds like we share some of the same concerns and passions. Thank you for sharing!!
In Deuteronomy 32, God gives an powerful word-picture. He says his teaching drops like the rain. He compares teaching about him to 1) rain, 2) dew, and 3) showers. Isn’t it interesting that the same rain feeds the grass, herbs, shrubs, and those huge trees? Do our human ideas of “my child gets nothing” and “children can’t learn on the same level as an adult” line up with what God says or might they come from other motivations?
In much the same way, when we read New Testament epistles which were read aloud in the corporate assembly, we see Paul addressing children. Why? Because they were there and the words he shared were for everyone. Blessings on you as you share God’s word with all!
This is great if you are dealing with Christian families but after being in ministry for 38 years l realize sometimes you have to look at how best the gospel is taught to the whole family those unchurched and english is their 2nd language no understanding or training of sitting in church.In these situations taking the children out at least during sermon time and teaching them bible stories they have never heard and allowing the parents to listen undisturbed and everyone else around them has worked very well.l pray we all have unchurched families coming to our churches.
Hi! Yes, I agree. I am not opposed to age-appropriate ministry and am quite aware that in situations like you’ve described above, children need time to learn at their development level and adults need time to be discipled. The purpose of this article was simply to point out that expecting children to “get” the same thing out of a worship service as adults do is faulty. They will not “get” the same thing as a fully-developed adult does but that doesn’t mean they aren’t getting something…because they are. These are only a few things that I think they are getting from being invited to times of corporate worship with the whole church, but even these few are important and shouldn’t be overlooked. I hope that makes sense and clarifies what the article is saying. Blessings to you and on your church’s ministry to the unchurched attending there!
Reblogged this on MVUMC Youth Programs and commented:
Are you wondering if church is right for your kids, for you? Give this a read and know you are not only welcome, you are specifically and enthusiastically invited to come to church with us at Mountain View UMC.
I discovered that my children listened. In the midst of drawing a picture and coloring my daughter suddenly let out a “Yuck!” During the reading of the scripture when Peter cut off the ear of the centurion, later in college she discovered she knew more Bible stories than any other student and was able to interpret for them the stories depicted in stained glass windows when visiting cathedrals in Europe. Never underestimate the impact being a part of a worshipping congregation can have on children, when a congregation affirms the presence of children and the children know they belong and are welcome they become comfortable in church and enjoy being there.
We were missionaries oversees when we started having our daughter join us for worship in “big church”. Many questioned if she would get anything out of it…especially because it was in another language. She was 5 years old. What left an impact on people was that not only was she able to pick up on things and talk about it after church, she was often paying attention better than the adults. We began by having her draw pictures of things she heard. Things that she understood and things she didn’t understand. We gave her a journal that had several boxes on the page…sort of like a comic book. This way she could draw the pictures in order. Sometimes she would try to write a word. We are back in the states and still deal with people rolling their eyes at us for having a child in the “adult service”. Our daughter is now 10 and she takes notes and follows along in her Bible. Are there things she doesn’t understand? Of course. But she writes them down and we talk about them. We also encourage her to ask the Pastor about some of them to help develop that relationship with him.
Kids are smarter than we give them credit for.
Thanks for writing…looking forward to reading the follow up.
I love this. Thanks for sharing!
How do you know whether or not they’re “getting anything” out of it? They might not have a firm grasp of it now, but when they reach adulthood they’ll be GLAD for the years of learning. I am 87 years old, and I remember MUCH from early childhood, “junior” department, “Young People’s Union” and all sorts of other church opportunities. I would not feel the assurance I now enjoy had it not been for a lifetime of CHURCH.
Yes, as you might have read in the article, I think kids get a whole lot out of church!
I agree. One thing I learned as a child is that worshipping God was very important to my parents and the other adults, so important that they all wanted us with them during the worship service. I developed a desire to know what it all was about, and so began my own journey toward God. We kids sang the hymns, not totally understanding the meaning of the words, but today when I hear those tunes and listen to those words, so many of them have come true during my 72 years. But the thing that really sticks in my mind is that our parents wanted us with them. I am so glad we didn’t have children’s church.
Great article . That is so true. I am so glad my parents took me to church . I
Thank you for sharing. .