by Shannon Rains
Worshipping with children sounds simple enough. But, for many church leaders and parents, the thought of keeping children engaged throughout the typical worship service is daunting. Practically, many churches choose to offer children’s worship designed just for kids so that parents may enjoy the freedom to concentrate on the worship service.
Sometimes, though, churches host “family worship,” and all children attend “big worship” with their families. However, if families actually engage in worship together is questionable. Too often, children are nothing more than passive observers in a service designed for adults.
Due to social distancing rules, many churches will choose to include children in “big worship” in the weeks and months ahead. While this may be unfamiliar to many churches, there are many good reasons for children and adults to worship together. The benefits come when children are thoughtfully engaged and while inviting them fully into worship. Children, as their whole selves, are worthy of inclusion in your worship services.
Recently, I asked my friend, Summer Morris, to share some thoughts about worshipping with children. She has excitedly extended permission to me to share her suggestions in this article. Here they are, along with a little of my own suggestions mixed in.
Ideas for Worshiping with Children
- Impress on the congregation the value of children’s spiritual formation by leading them into worship intentionally and with spiritual purpose.
- Avoid tokenism. Tokenism occurs when church leaders are not putting the child’s spiritual formation first. For example, children may take up the collection for missions because people want to help children out and may give more.
- When children are engaged in worship, parents are able to worship with less distraction. Parents will also appreciate the worship leader’s effort to spiritually nurture their whole family.
- Children love to sing songs that they know. Choose a song or two that children are excited to sing. Songs from their children’s worship or Bible class, from the radio, or songs with motions are good selections. Also, remember that 3rd grade and under have a difficult time reading unfamiliar words on slides that change quickly. Consider a song of the month so that children have time to learn the words.
- Engage children with visuals. Movie clips, creative storytelling, and pictures hold the attention of children and help children make connections with the topic even when their vocabulary is limited.
- Encourage imagination. Invite congregants to wonder about the elements of worship. Questions that begin with the words, “I wonder …” engages the listeners’ imagination and they will think more deeply about the topic.
- Don’t expect perfection in worship service, especially when children are involved.
- Remind parents often that your congregation loves children and that it is a no-judgment zone. Children will occasionally have a melt-down, drop the collection plate, or suddenly “fly” their favorite die-cast airplane up the main aisle. This is part of childhood, the way God made them.
- Children need to know that they are in a safe place. Help the parents in your congregation coach children in proper behavior. Also, be cautious to not overwhelm the child’s senses with loud music, flashing lights, and dark rooms. Overwhelmed children will struggle with their behavior. Children, especially littles, need purposeful and sensible environments.
- Communicate a vision for children’s ministry the includes attention to the spiritual formation of children in both the short-term plans and in the future when Bible classes and familiar activities are re-established.
Intergenerational worship is vitally important, not just as a stop-gap measure as churches return from social-distancing. Children are an important part of your church family, they have spiritual gifts to offer, and a purpose in the kingdom. Want to know more? Check out the webinar and this Confident KidMin post.