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Kids in church

by on March 8, 2013


Ok so here’s my issue: we want to have the kids in church. Why? Because they’re human. Usually. And so they belong together with the rest of the new humanity Jesus is gathering. We want them to feel like they belong to that, like part of the team. We’re done with the ‘divide and conquer’ approach to church, where each demographic has its own private personally tailored service to provide perfect customer satisfaction. We want to be all one in Jesus. We want to live ‘all one in Jesus’.

There are other reasons too. We only have one gathering for worship/preaching the gospel each week. If the kids go out, then adults have to go out to mind them. Then someone misses out. Probably the same someone every week. That’s bad. In the end the people teaching our kids will be the worst taught people in our church.

Also, how can I put this, we like kids. We feel better when they’re around. They bring a smile to our faces. It makes us feel more like a family when they’re there doing their crazy stuff and interrupting and needing to be channelled into suitable activities. And family is what we want to feel like.

Another reason is, we know that if we take them out now, we won’t be likely to get them back until they’re 35. They’ll be trained to need a ‘special’ youth service until then. And what are the chances of them coming back at 35???

So there it is – we want to have kids in church.

But the question is, how to do it? There’s a bunch of challenges. Essentially it’s about making sure they feel that they’re part of things while they’re there. It’s not enough to have them in the building. It’s also about making sure their parents feel comfortable about the kids. Here are some of the challenges.

‘Churchy’ parents seem to be programmed to expect the kids will go somewhere else during church. They come looking for this. “Oh, you’ve got a Sunday school, we might try your church”. If the kids are in the service, it feels to these parents as though they’ve gone to a lecture at uni and had to take their kids along. Embarrassing. A nuisance. Why was there no child-minding?

Another thing, it takes a heap of effort to have a kids’ activity slot in the service that a) is good and b) relates to the rest of the service, to the sermon etc. It’s probably too much for your average preacher to manage this each week. So then he has to co-ordinate with someone else so they know the topic, and then they have to come up with something creative.

Next issue, which bits of the service do you expect the kids to take part in actively? The singing? – often the words are hard. Listening to the bible readings? Also can be hard, and boring when badly read. The prayers? ditto. The sermon??

Let’s talk about the sermon. Who do you aim it at? Not just content, I’m thinking tone also.  In my tradition we aim at the more educated people in the room, we give a very erudite sounding talk like at university, and everyone else has to scramble to keep up. That way no one feels talked down to!

You could aim it at the middle of the group, a few of the WASPy nerdy males will feel a bit patronised. Others will be happy – but it will still be largely over the heads of the kids.

Or you could try to speak in a way that the kids will get more of – and lots of your adults will feel a bit patronised.

During the sermon where are the kids, anyway? Are they all together somewhere off to the side or back? They’ll probably like that, but it’s a challenge to keep them from being noisy. And maybe a challenge to get the congregation to accept that there will be background noise. Or do they stay with parents? In these days of one-two child families, that probably means they’ll feel bored and isolated.

And what are they doing during that time? Colouring is often popular for primary age. That’s easy enough. But is more needed? And what about teenagers? Not easy to come up with good activities that relate to the sermon topic. Thirteen year old boys probably want something to do. If they’re not happy, their family won’t come. Gone are the days when Dad just dragged everyone along to church regardless.

So those are some of the challenges. Sounds hard doesn’t it. We’re having a go at it, and want to develop things further.

What I’m looking for is your thoughts and suggestions. Has anyone tried this? What have you done that worked, or helped? Please share!

From → General

  1. Keith permalink

    Hey brother, good article.. love the fact that you want the kids in church. Don’t have any great answers to most of the issues you raise but I pray for wisdom for you.

  2. I am so…… encouraged that you are not dividing services and sticking as a multi-generational church. I loved it when I was young and church was not divided into different age groups because I enjoyed interacting with the older people- it felt like they were like grandparents, aunts & uncles to me, and then hanging out with the other kids was like having younger & older sibilings. Now at 23, I crave that again and have been for the past 2 years. I crave relationships with older women sharing their wisdom as described in Titus 2. I want church to resemble the body or rather, family of Christ… and we all know families are not made up of the same age group- it’s not all just teenagers! Sorry for the long rant- it’s just something very prevelant in my life at the moment. As for ideas for kids in church, I have a few but I’m at uni so gotta head to class now. Will reply with ideas soon 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment staysea1. We’ll look forward to your ideas!

  3. andrew permalink

    Some good questions. I guess you could have a kids talk to aim at 4 to 11yr olds in the service, this also gives someone some experience at a ‘mini’ sermon. I like your idea Of keeping everyone together i guess the concern would be if the main sermon is aimed at the kids how do you grow your adults from that talk, i mean lets say you want to daniel or rev or romans, i am not sure you can really have a sermon that is going to grow the young and old unless you have two sermons and the young kids do activites during the sermon. I think one of the central issues is that our church culture expects the church meetings to be the main form of teaching for their kids rather than the family being the main source of teaching for them. I think much more can be accomplished at home with regular bible reading at bed or dinner time. Maybe having some good quality of resources like books and music that the families can use during the week. Give people some simple resourses and ideas how to mix it up a bit for the kids at home. Many parents feel inadequate or feel to busy to teach their kids at home. If things are broken down for them in small bite size chunks with good quality resources this could also help(eg tonight we were reading through the goldern calf, in a not so great kids bible and then i remembered Ben Pakula did a great song on about idols in the ‘we will follow him’ amoungst the dancing i did need to restart the song 3 times because they missed one of the key parts at the beginning but hay the kids liked it and we were able to talk about the passage). Maybe even run short monthly seminar for 10min after church for giving parents idears and fielding questions, this is practical and allows for people to see that it is hard sometimes esp. when the kids are young. Just managing the kids around the dinner table when with a short bible input can be a challanging in the the younger yrs. Maybe people give up and then never start up again once they start school. Anyway there is some rambling for you to wade through.
    Andrew b
    Ps keep going, praying for you guys.

  4. deb permalink

    Love your “We are a FAMILY” orientation!

    As a family, we gather to share our love. Our love of GOD, His love for us, our love of each other, and to CELEBRATE seeing and experiencing that love in its outworking omoungst the Family of God.

    Involving members (Yes– including children) in prayer, singing, teaching and loving service of others may be a key. And in this, being prepared to mix things up, and have multiple, smaller, varied teaching sessions.

    A teacher friend of mine, once marveled to me, that the traditional sermon still existed, given what we now know of effective teaching methods. Is the sermon the most appropriate way to teach people how to know and grow in God? Is the weekly gathering the only, or best place to engage in rigorous biblical study? One church I went to had monthly lecture based “teaching sessions” of an evening. The Web and smart phone apps abound in teaching resources. We have SO many ways to learn and be fed.

    I’m excited by your passion and determination to help Gods family grow where you are.

    May He bless you all richly.

    • Thanks Deb for your encouragement and your suggestions. You’ve obviously done some thinking about these issues.
      God bless.

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