October 2, 2012

Including Children in Worship? All, Some, or None?

Having young families in a church is a sign of congregational vitality. And it goes without saying that having young families also means having young children.

As a young mother, I welcomed childcare at church when it was available. That was my quiet time, when I could worship, pray, and even collect my thoughts. But some parents prefer to sit with their children, because they see it as a time for family worship.

As clergy families, it is different for us, because one or sometimes both parents are upfront leading the service. And there were a couple of times, my pastor husband had to say something directly to our kids to make them behave. That was embarrassing, because I was doing the best I could in the pew and obviously, sometimes, I lost the battle.

But now that my children are grown and one even has children of her own, I enjoy seeing and hearing kids in worship. I think it is important for them to drink in the experience, even if they don't fully understand---but then, who does fully understand God anyway. But it is also true that a baby crying during the pastoral prayer or during the sermon is a bit distracting for the preacher and congregation, but not to God obviously.

Currently in our church we have children's church. Kids stay for most of the service, but have their own program during the sermon time. What we've noticed is that since we started up children's church again (there was a time when we didn't have anyone to do it), our attendance has gone back up and is increasing. I don't pretend to understand what all that means, but I think it means that most parents like to worship with fewer distractions. And I think it means that the kids get more out of an age-appropriate lesson then they would otherwise.

Still I also know there are churches where children are to be seen and not heard. In my experience, those churches are dying. Is your church welcoming to children?

Want your church to grow? Offer something special for young families. Something that they want and need.


1 comment:

  1. Options are good. My preference is for the congregation to embrace children in the worship space, not because of what they may or may not get out of it now, but what it means to be part of a worshiping community. If you take age out of it, you could argue that some get more out of more academically challenging, intellectually stimulating sermons, while that alienates others who get more out of more heart/feeling oriented--Should these people worship in different times and places so they can "get more" out of church? Or do they attend different small group studies and read different types of personal devotional material, but come together at the same time and place to worship? I would suggest the latter is healthiest and the same concepts apply when talking about age-based ministry. There is a time and place for both age-directed and communal worship. That said, I've seen a single mom of 5 struggle to keep her kids in line and know that if there is an opportunity for her to let her kids be somewhere else for an hour she would appreciate an hour to just herself and God, so to speak.