In this series, we have considered how we can help children engage in worship, particularly during the summer months when there is no Sunday School. We have asked how we can help kids in worship become aware of God’s presence in their midst, hear God’s Word through the Scripture readings and sermon, and respond to God through prayer, music, and offering. In this post, we will consider how we can inspire children to do God’s work in the world and help kids hear God’s blessings for them. In a traditional service, these happen in the last moments of worship through the charge and benediction. It is a time of summation, exhortation, and blessing. Depending on the church and the pastor, the charge and benediction can be anything from a standard formality that takes the same form every week to a mini sermon that varies from week to week. Whatever the format, how can we help children in worship hear and understand the charge and benediction?
When I preach, I often use the charge as an opportunity to distill the sermon’s message into a single sentence—something people can take home with them to think about or consider during the week. And, if I am feeling particularly inspired, I will adapt a traditional blessing (May the Grace of God, the Peace of Christ, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you now and always, Amen.) to reflect the broad themes of the sermon or scripture reading. While I like this exercise because it forces me, as the preacher, to make sure my sermon has a take-away point, I’m not sure it’s the best format for children in worship. Instead of giving people something to think about, kids might respond more positively if they are given something to do.
As with other elements in the service, it might be most effective to address children directly when charging them, and offer them ways to share their response. For example, a service focused on the story of the Good Samaritan might end with a separate charge, addressed directly to the children in worship, that invites them to find a way to help or be nice to one person (perhaps someone they would normally ignore). In addition to issuing the charge, give kids slips of paper to take with them and ask them to bring them back next week with them name of the person they helped written on the paper. The following week, have kids post the names on a prayer wall or add them to the offering plate. By giving kids something to do during the week (and following up with them the next week), you both help children do God’s work in the world, and help them realize that the charge and benediction is for them as well as for the adults.
The blessing or benediction is a reminder that God does not send us into the world alone or empty-handed. Rather, we go with God’s blessing and God’s presence, trusting that God will provide the opportunities and resources necessary to do God’s work in the world. Most blessings invoke the triune God (Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer), reminding us that we were created by God, that we are loved by God, and that we will be inspired by God. If our goal is to make sure children in worship know these truths, we might need to adapt our traditional language to something kids can readily understand. It can be as simple as changing “May the grace of God, the peace of Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you now and always,” to “know that God loves you already, Jesus will see you through the hard times, and the Spirit is with you always,” or some variation thereof. You could also invite any children forward and do a special blessing just for them and/or have them help you offer the blessing to the congregation. Any of these three approaches will help children know that they are included in the blessings given at the end of worship.
As with all the elements of worship, the children’s moment or children’s sermon provides a great opportunity to introduce children in worship to the charge and benediction and help them know why we say them and what they mean.
What do you think? Is it even important for kids to understand the charge and benediction?