Children in Worship, Worship for Children (Part I)

2014-06-11
Children in Worship, Worship for Children (Part I)

Sunday School has let out for the summer at the church Adam serves. An off-hand comment a mom made has me thinking about children and worship. In passing, this mom shared that she has trouble getting her kids to worship when there’s no Sunday School because they get bored. Our church, like many, has commercial Children’s Bulletins, but either they are not the right age-range for these kids, or they are insufficient for an entire service.

There are larger conversations to be had about children and worship, but on a practical level how can churches engage kids in worship during the summer months?

 Being a “spirituality person,” my first thought was to try and adapt spiritual disciplines for children to do in the pews (or the back of the sanctuary) during worship. From there I began brainstorming other activities kids could do while remaining in the sanctuary. But this morning in worship, I started thinking about what worship is, what we’re doing in worship, and what we hope people will get out of worship. I realized that rather than simply coming up with creative activities to keep kids entertained, what I want to do is find ways that allow kids to worship.

Way back in 9th grade, confirmation class taught me that bulletin headings often convey a service’s structure (e.g. preparing to hear God’s Word, hearing God’s Word, Responding to God’s Word). Thinking along those lines, here’s what I came up with for what we do in worship, why we go, and what we hope people will take away and/or experience while they’re there:

  1. When we worship, we intentionally place ourselves in God’s presence
  2. We hear God’s word
  3. We respond to God’s word (and God) through prayer, song, and gifts
  4. We pray for the world, our communities, our families, ourselves
  5. We receive the charge to go out into the world to serve God

You can disagree with me on the particulars, but however you answer those questions, my question is how we translate that for children who are sitting in the pews. I don’t have any definitive answers, but I think the first step might be turning the above list into questions we can answer:

  1. How can we invite children to be aware of God’s presence during worship?
  2. How can we help children hear God’s Word (through Scripture)?
  3. How can we invite children to respond to God through prayer, song, and gifts?
  4. How can we encourage children to pray for the world, their communities, their families, and themselves?
  5. How can we inspire and charge children to go out into the world to do God’s work?

I’m sure the answers to those questions depend on the context of individual churches and their styles of worship, but I also suspect we could all use some help brainstorming answers. From finding ways to adjust our current services, to including children in worship leadership, to providing materials for children to engage in when traditional sermons cannot hold their attention, there are endless possibilities for each of the questions above. Over the next few posts I’d like to think together about how we could answer these questions and I’d love your help. I’ll propose some ideas for each question, but I’m hoping you’ll contribute in the comments section of each post.

Before we start, does your church do something for children that helps them worship with the adults on Sunday mornings? Or do you think I’ve missed a key element of worship in the lists above?

Children in Worship, Worship for Children Series Links:
Part I: An Introduction
Part II: Inviting Children to Be Aware of God’s Presence
Part III: 7 Ideas to Help Kids Hear God’s Word (Through Scripture)
Part IV: 9 Creative Ways for Kids in Worship to Respond to God

4 comments

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4 comments

Carol Collins 2017-04-04 - 9:03 am

This summer is our first attempt at giving teachers/leaders Sabbath for June/July and including the children in the entire worship service. I can come up with ideas for including the children. It’s not the children I’m worried about. I’m worried about the response from parents. I told my small group what we are planning to do and a dad responded that their family would take a break from church for the summer.

Have you written anything about how to help get parents on board? I know I’m going to get a range of responses from parents.

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Children in Worship, Worship for Children (Part II): Inviting Children To Be Aware of God’s Presence 2014-06-21 - 2:51 pm

[…] my previous post, I raised the question of how we include children in worship during the summer months when Sunday […]

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BrIan Bowen 2014-06-12 - 10:10 am

We struggle with what to do with our 7 yr old daughter during worship. At home we are able to engage our children in various God and Bible related activities but through the eyes of a 7 yr old an adult oriented service is just not compelling. We are thinking of bringing an I-pad and having her do some Bible related activities but this is at best a second best solution.

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Andrea 2014-06-11 - 8:40 pm

We do Sonja Stewart’s “Young Children in Worship” program year round for kids age 3-2nd grade which I love. Kids 3rd grade and up should be tied into the regular worship service somehow. Interested to see other replies.

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