by Ellen Wehn. Ellen currently serves as Director of Children's Ministries at First United Methodist Church Owasso, Oklahoma.
You are invited to Join the conversation about children in worship in one of our Communities of Practice.
People have strong feelings about having children in worship. In my 20 years in Children's Ministry, I have seen many children, including my own, grow up in church. I am passionate about children being a part of worship, not just sitting in worship.
Two of the most common arguments against including children in worship are: "children don't understand what is going on" and "worship is too long for children to sit through". Those arguments can be true, if children are just sitting in church not a part of worship.
To be a part of worship, children need help from adults. As children's ministry leaders, we need to encourage parents to bring their children to worship and equip them to help their child be a part of worship. The first, most important thing parents can do is to allow their children to see them not only worshiping, but enjoy worshiping. Suggest that families with children sit close to the front so the child can see and hear. Encourage parents to quietly explain the different parts of the service to their children.
Here are a few first steps for having children be a part of worship:
- Create a liturgical dance group for children. The dance does not always have to be to music; they can also present scripture through dance.
- Invite children who take piano lessons or sing to do the special music in the service. They do not have to wait until they are adults bring special music.
- Encourage children to use their gifts now. In addition to being an acolyte, ask your pastor if some of the older children can read scriptures or help serve communion. Perhaps children could walk along with adults helping collect the offering.
Constantly sending kids out of worship could tells them "church is boring. Here is something fun to do.” I have known children that have been in church their entire lives but never attended a worship service until they became youth. Attending worship and being expected to know and understand something they never learned how to participate in as a young child can be quite a culture shock. Many youth who have this experience stop coming to church altogether. It is no longer fun or entertaining.
Don't get me wrong. I believe children need age appropriate activities. I believe our Sunday School and small groups should be as age appropriate as possible. But in our attempts keep it age appropriate and fun, we should not forget how seeing your parents worship God can influence a child.
The message we send children about worship is very important. We want the message to be “It is a wonderful experience to worship the Lord!”