The debate rages between children’s church advocates and opponents. Where should children worship?
“I’d sooner try to hold fire in my hands than attempt to restrain a child in a setting that sometimes lulls me to sleep.”
“The church has done the family a disservice by providing for the dividing of the family.”
Get Thee to a Children’s Church!
In my travels and 20 years as a children’s church helper and leader, I’ve experienced very few valid “family” worship services. Children sit, stand, squirm, and make their staid Christian parents almost as uneasy as they are throughout the gathering. They draw pictures, fold offering envelopes, tell jokes, and develop new ways to stick ripped-out songbook pages to the underside of pews. Children in the average family worship setting would be better off sleeping in on Sunday mornings.
Granted, if there were such a thing as a “family service,” one that appealed and ministered to all ages, I’d be the first to applaud intergenerational worship. But chances are “intergenerational” in your church translates into ADULT.
So, I say, “Send the kids to children’s church!” Send them to a room where enthusiastic adults and teenagers present the gospel on an understandable level using creative, kid-friendly methodology. Free them from the chains of pretending they’re little adults. Deliver them from parents that would work against the Manufacturer’s blueprints in attempting to contain the unpredictable energy in motion that’s called “a child.” I’d sooner try to hold fire in my hands than attempt to restrain a child in a setting that sometimes lulls me to sleep.
Here’s why children should go to children’s church.
The Bible was never meant to be boring.
God’s Word is the most exciting book ever authored. It was written about the most incredible person that ever walked planet Earth. We must constantly present God’s Word in such a way as to excite children about its content and its application to everyday living. Excitement for God and eternal things can and will grow in a child’s heart in the well-tuned children’s church service.
Children aren’t made to sit.
Scripture says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” We have been training generations of children in the way adults go-to sit on a pew and be quiet. We’ve raised an army of pew warmers. It’s God’s plan for the church that everybody be active in the Body-kids included!
Children’s church provides constant ministry involvement and training as a child matures through the elementary years. The child who learns to take part as a worship leader, storyteller, actor, or object lesson assistant will grow up to be a Sunday school teacher, children’s church leader, or even a pastor. The child who grows up sitting quiet and still in the morning service will grow up and remain sitting. After all, this business of training a child works both ways.
Church was never supposed to be punishment.
Children should love church and their pastors. A child whose earliest memories include Mom or Dad forcing silent submission on a hard wooden pew will grow to despise that which should be joyful. Children need joyous church experiences. Children must not be allowed to grow up believing that the Bible and the worship service are some kind of unjust weekly punishment.
God’s love isn’t complicated.
It’s our duty as children’s ministers to bring the love of God to each child in unique and understandable ways. The typical four-point homily often shoots over adults’ heads. Most children have a nearly impossible task discerning the relevance of an adult sermon. Children’s church gives you an opportunity to present a simple theme. Using a variety of methods, you repeat that theme until every child knows that theme and has a God-birthed desire to live by it.
God isn’t supposed to be difficult to find.
Last Sunday, eight children, ages 9 to 12, gave their lives to Jesus for the first time. These children heard the gospel presented on their level. They responded to a message where hefty theological terminology was discarded. Eight boys and girls came to Jesus in a children’s church.
Am I saying they couldn’t have come to Christ in a family worship service? Of course not! God can and will draw in the salvation net where he will. I am saying that these eight may not have known a response time was being given in the adult setting. They might’ve continued in their silent vandalism of the pew backs while a linguistically inappropriate service was concluded.
Send your children to children’s church. Take the first step toward blessing each child by providing a valid worship service where every child can take part, understand, and receive from God.
Dick Gruber is a children’s pastor in Minnesota.
Keep Families Together
The Bible has a lot to say about teaching children. Most of the references have to do with parents teaching their own children, not hired guns or, more appropriately, the local church’s children’s department. We in the church have designed church programs that actually encourage parents to abdicate their God-given responsibilities.
Offer a family service.
In many of today’s churches we have a “family service” where the babies are in the nursery, the preschoolers are in their rooms, the children are in their classes, youth are in their service, and the adults are in the sanctuary. In this age of specialty, everyone has a specialist minister or teacher to deal with a particular area. I think it’s time that we as ministers take a stand for the families of our churches.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says “These commandments that I give you today…Impress them on your children…talk about them…at home…as you walk along the road…when you lie down and get up.” It’s difficult for kids to see parents fulfill the Scriptures that instruct us to worship God if they’re in a different room. Just as tough is passing the torch of our Christian heritage through walls of brick and mortar.
Don’t divide families.
The church has done the family a disservice by providing for the dividing of the family. Will the children of tomorrow have a worship model? Will the model be only that of the professional minister or the Sunday school teacher? Do kids ever see “real” Christianity in action? Will parents be transparent enough to allow their children to see them worship? Will parents care enough to want their children to know how to behave in a worship setting? It has been said, “It is easier to form a child than to reform him when he’s grown.” Sitting in church with a wiggly, squirming child may not be anyone’s idea of a good time, but the end result has eternal rewards.
Kids learn by example.
If a child attends church every Sunday from birth to age 12, he or she will have had 624 worship opportunities. In most cases the child will spend most of his or her first three years in the church nursery. That leaves 468 worship opportunities. The average first grader will spend around 180 days in school this year for about six hours a day. That amounts to 1,080 hours of education in one year. What a child learns in first grade is very important; it’s what the remainder of his education is based on.
What a child can learn by experiencing worship with his parents will give him the foundation upon which his life will be based. He will see Dad trusting in the eternal God when his world is crumbling around him. He will see Mom finding strength in her worship even though her heart is breaking at the death of a loved one. But he can’t see the “behind the scenes” life of the children’s pastor or the personal struggles of the Sunday school teacher.
Keep kids in church longer.
Are not our children worth at least half the investment that we make in the education of a first grader? According to the Assemblies of God churches’ Annual Church Ministries Report, 37 percent of children disappear from the church in the seventh grade. This is the year that most churches graduate children from the children’s department to the youth department. Where do they go? More important, why do they go? They’re there in the children’s church and Sunday school one year and gone the next year.
For the first time, many children have to attend adult church on a regular basis. Thus the war begins and, sadly to say, the child wins more times than not. The child is allowed to stay home while the family goes to church or the family drops out completely.
Don’t be negligent.
I believe we’ll be held accountable for our negligence. Not only will heaven show the reward of passing the heritage of the Christian faith, but judgment will accompany the regret of failure.
The kids in my church have 24 family worship opportunities per year-twice on Communion Sunday, once in the morning and once in the evening. I’ve been asked to cut that in half. Children in my department from ages 6 to 11 will now have less than 100 family worship opportunities in the most formative time of their lives.
Psalm 78:5-7 says, “He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, for which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they would in turn tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.”
Is there any question? The Scripture is clear, children should be in worship with their parents!
Chris Daniel is a children’s pastor in Florida.
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