Children's choirs. Children's bulletins. Children's sermons.
Children's church. Sounds like kids in our churches today are
really a part of the action, right?
I've asked pastors and other worship leaders how they involve
kids in worship. These people usually list the standard
things-bulletins, choir, sermons.
Are these the only ways children are part of worship services?
Sadly, yes. The churches that break this pattern are few and far
And the kids are paying for it. Two-year old Morgan cries when
no one speaks to her during greeting time. And 11-year-old James is
really in between-too old to be part of a children's sermon, too
young to join the "adult" choir. Kids such as Morgan and James need
to be involved in relevant worship experiences.
In a CHILDREN'S MINISTRY Magazine survey, 60 percent of churches
say they provide alternative experiences to involve kids in
worship. Forty percent of churches said they involve children in
the regular worship service. For both types of churches, involving
children in the worship life of our churches should be a priority,
a privilege, and a blessing.
But how can you make children feel part of an adult corporate
worship service? Try these kid's ministry ideas:
*Form a committee! Not just any old committee,
but one that includes children of several different age groups.
Also include at least one adult who'll be the children's advocate
when discussing changes with the worship committee. Some of our
best ideas in children's ministry come straight from the kids
themselves. Do they want to help pick hymns to sing? light the
candles? be ushers? What about having a regular Kids' Sunday where
kids do everything-from reading the gospel message to singing
*Include children. Get kids doing things often
during the service as readers, soloists, acolytes, greeters, and
ushers. Give them each a job and teach them how to do it. Pride of
ownership is an important part of belonging.
*Teach kids about your worship traditions.
Incorporate the parts of the worship service, such as a special
prayer response or offering hymn, into the Sunday school hour.
Periodically, kids can learn a new part of the worship service-it's
more fun when they can join in!
*Involve specific classes. Have different
Sunday school classes and their teachers lead the prayers of the
church during the worship service. And remind congregation members
to pray for the children throughout the week as well.
*Have kids create prayers. During Sunday
school, have a class write a special prayer or litany to be used
during the service by the entire congregation. Then allow that
class to lead the congregation in that prayer or litany.
*Use kids' artwork. Ask different classes to
design bulletins to be used for the worship service. Photocopy
their artwork to make the bulletin covers for everyone in the
*Educate parents. For the smallest children,
print a brochure for their parents with suggestions about
appropriate church toys and snacks. See the "Church Survival Kit"
box for ideas. Although some people object to these diversions
during the service, it's better to make the worship experience
enjoyable for small ones. A gradual introduction to the worship
service is a good way to teach children proper behavior during the
*Provide resources. Put your children's library
books on a cart or shelf near the church entrance and encourage
children who might be restless to check out a book or two to look
at quietly during the service. So much the better if the books you
place on the shelves correspond to the sermon message!
*Make sermons relevant. Encourage the pastor to
include examples that involve children's lives and experiences
within the sermon. If the pastor's sermon is about loving your
neighbor, why not use an illustration about two friends fighting
over a bike and how to resolve the conflict? Children have an
easier time grasping the true meaning of the message when they're
clued in that it also includes them.
*Use various mediums. Although children thrive
on predictable routine, encourage worship leaders to vary parts of
the service. A drama that retells the Bible story or even a puppet
show can share God's message in a meaningful way to children and
adults alike. Have the children act out the Bible story as an adult
*Revamp the children's sermon. Encourage the
children's sermon leader to sit and speak on the kids' level.
Suggest that he or she focus on one point at a time, using props,
and citing examples from a young child's perspective. If a
children's sermon is truly for children, then it must be simple and
to the point. Advise the children's sermon leader to avoid abstract
object lessons that often go over a child's head. Rather, check out
this article: "5-Minute Messages". Or buy the exciting
children's sermon book Let the Children Come by Brant D.
Baker (Augsburg). These interactive messages will transform
Another point: The children's sermon is just that. It's for
children, not adults. If your children's sermon leader is using the
sermon to subtly (or not so subtly) communicate to adults, gently
correct him or her. If a children's sermon is all your church does
to involve children, it's a crime to make it so heady and adultlike
that kids still feel worship is not for them.
Take another look at your worship service. If you have children
running cars over the pews, climbing between parents' legs, or just
bored to tears, you need to do something. When you welcome and
involve children in worship, you'll follow Jesus' admonition to
"let the little children come to me"-for they belong to the kingdom
CHURCH SURVIVAL KIT
For church-friendly toys and snacks, let parents know these do's
Do bring: Books, soft toys, blank paper or
coloring books, crayons, Wikki Stix (available from Group
Publishing), pipe cleaners, and Magna Doodle or
Don't bring: Toys with lots of pieces such as
plastic building blocks, marbles or puzzles, cars, hard toys with
banging potential, or plastic figurines.
Do bring: Chewy fruit snacks, a closed thermos
with water (if drinks are allowed), Cheerios, and Wheat
Don't bring: Citrus fruits, peanut butter,
bananas, crumbly foods such as granola bars or cookies, or soft
Debbie Trafton O'Neal is an author in Washington. Please
keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and prices are subject