Kids in church

Posted: March 11, 2013 by J in Church
Tags: , , , , ,

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Ok so here’s my issue: we want to have the kids in church. Why? Because they’re human. Usually. And so they belong together with the rest of the new humanity Jesus is gathering. We want them to feel like they belong to that, like part of the team. We’re done with the ‘divide and conquer’ approach to church, where each demographic has its own private personally tailored service to provide perfect customer satisfaction. We want to be all one in Jesus. We want to live ‘all one in Jesus’.

There are other reasons too. We only have one gathering for worship/preaching the gospel each week. If the kids go out, then adults have to go out to mind them. Then someone misses out. Probably the same someone every week. That’s bad. In the end the people teaching our kids will be the worst taught people in our church.

Also, how can I put this, we like kids. We feel better when they’re around. They bring a smile to our faces. It makes us feel more like a family when they’re there doing their crazy stuff and interrupting and needing to be channelled into suitable activities. And family is what we want to feel like.

Another reason is, we know that if we take them out now, we won’t be likely to get them back until they’re 35. They’ll be trained to need a ‘special’ youth service until then. And what are the chances of them coming back at 35???

So there it is – we want to have kids in church.

But the question is, how to do it? There’s a bunch of challenges. Essentially it’s about making sure they feel that they’re part of things while they’re there. It’s not enough to have them in the building. It’s also about making sure their parents feel comfortable about the kids. Here are some of the challenges.

‘Churchy’ parents seem to be programmed to expect the kids will go somewhere else during church. They come looking for this. “Oh, you’ve got a Sunday school, we might try your church”. If the kids are in the service, it feels to these parents as though they’ve gone to a lecture at uni and had to take their kids along. Embarrassing. A nuisance. Why was there no child-minding?

It takes a heap of effort to have a kids’ activity slot in the service that a) is good and b) relates to the rest of the service, to the sermon etc. It’s probably too much for your average preacher to manage this each week. So then he has to co-ordinate with someone else so they know the topic, and then they have to come up with something creative.

Next issue, which bits of the service do you expect the kids to take part in actively? The singing? – often the words are hard. Listening to the bible readings? Also can be hard, and boring when badly read. The prayers? ditto. The sermon??

Let’s talk about the sermon. Who do you aim it at? Not just content, I’m thinking tone also.  In my tradition we aim at the more educated people in the room, we give a very erudite sounding talk like at university, and everyone else has to scramble to keep up. That way no one feels talked down to!

You could aim it at the middle of the group, a few of the WASPy nerdy males will feel a bit patronised. Others will be happy – but it will still be largely over the heads of the kids.

Or you could try to speak in a way that the kids will get more of – and lots of your adults will feel a bit patronised.

During the sermon where are the kids, anyway? Are they all together somewhere off to the side or back? They’ll probably like that, but it’s a challenge to keep them from being noisy. And maybe a challenge to get the congregation to accept that there will be background noise. Or do they stay with parents? In these days of one-two child families, that probably means they’ll feel bored and isolated.

And what are they doing during that time? Colouring is often popular for primary age. That’s easy enough. But is more needed? And what about teenagers? Not easy to come up with good activities that relate to the sermon topic. Thirteen year old boys probably want something to do. If they’re not happy, their family won’t come. Gone are the days when Dad just dragged everyone along to church regardless.

So those are some of the challenges. Sounds hard doesn’t it. We’re having a go at it, and want to develop things further.

What I’m looking for is your thoughts and suggestions. Has anyone tried this? What have you done that worked? Please share!

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Comments
  1. Charlie Ellis says:

    Quite a challenge you’ve set there Jono. Haven’t really been to any churches where the kids are expected to stay with the main congregation through the whole service.

    Was at a big country church in Orange (Orange Evangelical Church) in 2011 where they used to have singing, then a dedicated kid’s talk for all the kids before the main sermon. This was done by a rotating roster of different people from within the congregation. It worked well. They did have 200 kids in that church, and you really noticed when they left for their respective kids church activities.

    I guess people brought their kid’s along to the sermon on the mount…

    Charlie

  2. Matt Moffitt says:

    I’d be really interested to hear what you end up doing on this.

  3. Raytown Christian Church (raytowncc.org) has Children’s Worship during our 9:30 contemporary service. The service opens with kids sitting with their parents. After Welcome, Opening Prayer, 3 Songs, Elder’s Prayer, and the Lord’s Prayer, kids (3 years old thru 2nd grade) go to the Children’s Chapel and learn about different aspects of worship. After, they go on to Sunday school or with their parents. Our 8:15 service doesn’t offer a nursery, because who can get their small children ready in time for an 8:15 service? There is a nursery for infants to 3 year old children during our 11:00 worship. Sunday school for children ends at 11:15, so older children join their parents in worship if attending at 11.

    I found your site because I was looking for an image to use on my blog post: Hospitality (pray.outsideofablog.info)!

    • J says:

      Sounds good, Carol. You’ve obviously given quite a bit of thought to how to include the kids, and you’re doing it better than most.

      We are now getting the kids to play musical instruments during our singing: percussion mainly, and also some flags to wave. They love it.

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