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Big Church Hurts

Debbie Vallejo and Jennifer Hooks

"The sermon has nothing to do with me."

Worship service topics are often at a higher intellectual level than most elementary-age and younger children have the cognitive ability to process. Additionally, because children tend to be visual learners by nature and have short attention spans, they can't focus on a monologue for more than a few minutes. An adult-focused message isn't geared for kids, and therefore has no relevance to their lives.
"I went to my parents' service and I was always having to ask my parents to explain what our pastor was saying," says Jenna Williams, a fourth-grader from Frisco, Texas.

This is a tough issue to overcome, because very few children's ministers have influence over what the pastor chooses to speak about, and even fewer would lobby to make the weekly sermon developmentally appropriate for kids. It's just not going to happen. So kids who sit through the sermon and listen usually walk away with a very different message than adults do. They understand clearly that this portion of the adult service applies to them in no way.

"I must not be expected to worship because I can't see or read the lyrics."

Churches do a lot to make songs accessible to people, such as printing lyrics in the bulletin and displaying them on video screens up front. If you're a 7-year-old or even a 12-year-old, though, there's a good chance you can't read a lot of the words or don't know what they mean. Kids (and even adults) who are unfamiliar with a tune may stand up, but they don't participate because they feel awkward. The ultimate result is that kids interpret that they aren't expected to participate in singing praise because they can't read or don't understand worship songs.

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