Posted by: pastordarren | March 6, 2011

Children in Worship

 As a pastor, I have always loved having children in worship.  I enjoy hearing their voices singing and even talking during the worship time.  Sometimes they fidget, sometimes they squirm but their life, energy, and curiosity are wonderful additions to the worship experience, at least in my opinion and usually age appropriate.  I am reminded of the gospel text where Jesus welcomes the children and blesses them.  I can also picture the early church, with families of all generations gathered together for worship.

There are some who look at the children and youth in worship as a distraction to them and think they should be in the nursery or children’s church / worship.  I can understand this to a point, but I think this falls short of what the worship experience can be and what we, as adults, can learn from them.  When we have children in worship, I know that I have seen different reactions to scripture stories and even different questions asked that caused me to think about them in a new way.  I have realized that somethings that I take for granted, do not make sense to them and it follows, may not make sense to others, children and adults.  I think, at least for the mainline churches like I’m a part of, worship services are set up for adults who have been in the faith a while and our learning, worshiping and comfort.  I came across a two part article that addresses this issue and is a good place to begin to ask questions of our own churches.  Check out the links below.

Anastasia McAteer states that there are five areas where churches need to look at and discern direction when it comes to children in worship – movement, music, preaching, space and community.  In each of these areas, churches can begin to explore how children are included or excluded within the worship experience.

Although I have not had the experience of preaching with a baby in my arms, I have had my toddler children join me on the platform, and even the lectern, and they have joined my wife in the choir.  We have carried them when infants in the middle of worship, in their carriers and they have sung impromptu songs as well.  These experiences have shown their comfort in the worship time as well as the church’s comfort in having them there. 

My current church has a ‘children’s time’ where the children come forward and have a brief story before going off to Children’s Worship and Wonder.  Visitors seem to like this as it addresses the children specifically, but I have wondered what our service would be like if we took the needs of children and youth into consideration in all areas.  I think that the more we take into account children, youth and others into how we do worship (that is the way in which we worship, not Who we Worship), we will do two main things, learn to worship better ourselves and teach children and others what worship is about.

There are times where behavior is inappropriate for children, youth and even adults.  This can include throwing a fit, texting, sleeping, excessive bathroom usage, etc.  When these things happen, then they will need to be addressed but in a way that is appropriate and helpful, not one that is demeaning.

I hope this week to give some ideas on McAteer’s five areas and what I think can help churches include children in these areas.  What do you think?  I would love to hear your comments and Anastasia McAteer would probably love to hear yours too.

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