"I don't really fit in here."
In big church, we sometimes view kids as a disruption risk
rather than worship participants. Wanting kids to sit still and pay
attention isn't a bad thing. In fact, many children's ministers
tout the virtues of having kids in big church so there's no abrupt
transition from the "fun and games" of children's church to the
seriousness of big church. There's merit in this.
"Children socially learn when they see others older than them
learning, singing, worshipping, praying, and reading scripture,"
explains Dr. Tommy Sanders, professor at Dallas Baptist University
and director of the masters of arts in Christian education
children's ministry program at DBU.
"Yes, children can learn with other children, but they miss the
bigger picture of what church is and does when they are only with
their peers," says Sanders. He rejects the idea that children
should become adults before they experience corporate worship with
an entire body of believers. "Their vision of church is limited
when kids never worship with the entire church."
But when the service clearly makes no accommodations to include
children or speak to them, the message is loud and clear: You
aren't included in this. This isn't for you.
Children fear being excluded, so for impressionable children to
sense that they're excluded in big church is a significant problem.
Over time, that sense of not belonging can evolve into the hardened
belief that church doesn't include the child. The seed of
discontent is planted: If I'm not part of it, why should I go? The
obvious danger here is that kids begin to resent going to big
church-and eventually church in general.