Jun 20, 2011

Should Kids Worship in "Big" Church? 7 Questions to Ask Yourself For An Answer

There's been a lot of debate over the years about whether kids should worship with their parents or have their own separate worship environment. Both viewpoints have valid reasons for their position.

So what is best for kids in this matter? Some like to become dogmatic about their position, but I believe this is something that each church must decide for themselves based on what God is leading them to do.

I believe it all starts by asking the right questions. Here's 7 questions to ask yourself if you haven't decided or if you want to revisit your current viewpoint.

1. What is my Senior Pastor's and church's ministry philosophy about this?

How I answered this question: It's vital that the Children's Ministry is aligned with the vision and ministry philosophy of the Pastor and overall church. Unity is a non-negotiable. The Pastor's I have served with have always been a proponent of having a children's worship environment.

2. What will help the kids retain and apply the most Biblical truth?

How I answered this question: I considered several factors as I pondered over this question.

First, was content. The content in "big church" normally wasn't age appropriate for kids. It was like asking a 2nd grader to sit and participate in a college chemistry class at school. When things are flying over your head, you tend to shut it out. I concluded that children needed to grasp the "must know," foundational truths of the Bible versus a series about Revelation. They were also not receiving consistent life application that was relevant to their stage of life.

Secondly, was the limited amount of time available. I realized I only had a limited number of weekends to teach the kids Biblical truth. You don't get them back and I had to make it count.

Thirdly, was age-appropriate learning. I observed kids in the adult service that were being asked to learn solely through a dialogue format, when they were wired to learn through hands-on, participatory learning.

Fourthly, was attention span. Kids were being asked to sit still way beyond their attention spans. It's normally one minute for every year of age.  I found a 7 year old walking out of a 45 minute sermon wasn't in the best of moods.

3. What about parental influence?

How I answered this question: This was the biggest question I had to ask myself. There is so much value in families worshiping together. Sons observing their dads worshiping. Daughters observing their mothers giving an offering as the basket is passed.

But I also came to the conclusion that what happens with parents and their children at home during the week is even more important than the time they spend together in church. Giving parents tools and resources to have spiritual conversations with their children at home is vital. We send a take home paper each week so parents can discuss key questions from their child's lesson. We also send home a challenge that the child can do with their parents to live out what they learned. We have a parent/child Bible study on Wednesday nights where they can learn together and then talk about what they learned at home. (The lessons are geared for children with parental participation even though the parents say they learn just as much). We have a Family Experience (an age-appropriate worship service that is geared for kids and their parents together) several times a year. We close the older children's environments and encourage families to worship together at special worship services such as Christmas. We provide a parent Facebook page so they can keep up with what is going on at church.

4. What effect does it have on other people in "big church?"

How I answered this question: I noticed that the majority of the time, parents with children in the service became distracted from the teaching due to trying to keep their child "entertained." Not only did it distract the parent, but it also distracted those around them. It even could be a distraction to the Pastor who was teaching. Now if you're in a church that is content with a holy huddle, this may not be a problem for you. But if you are reaching the community and each week have people sitting in the service who are far from God, you become acutely aware of the importance of them hearing the Gospel unhindered.

5. What gives kids the most opportunities to establish relationships?

How I answered this question: I realized that it is vital that kids have the opportunity to build relationships at church. From an early age, they need to know that the Christian journey is done in community. They need to be able to hang with other kids. This can be done when kids are part of a regular Small Group or Bible study class where they have friends and a caring leader. Yes, parents are to be the primary spiritual influence, but kids also need to be influenced by other caring leaders who can speak into their life. Many of the kids I saw going into "big church" slipped in and out with their parents and didn't get to make connections with other kids and leaders.

6. What gives kids the most opportunities to serve and be the church?

How I answered this question: I found that kids are ready to make a difference...now. And they can be used by God to make a difference...now. As we trained and released kids to be the church, we found they responded wholeheartedly. We found they had many more opportunities to serve in their environments by being greeters, singing, cleaning up, running tech, participating in the lesson preparation, taking the offering, and much more.

7. How can I reach the most kids and families?

How I answered this question: I kept hearing unchurched people say, "I'm not going to church...my parents made me go as a child." I realized that you don't have to "make" kids go where they enjoy being! I've never heard anyone say, "I'm not going to Disneyworld because I was "made" to go as a child!" I saw kids being dragged to church and realized it should be the other way around. Kids should be dragging their parents to church. As we began to create fun, relevant, age-appropriate environments for kids, we began to see whole families come to Christ because of their kids having a great time at church. I began to be able to point to dozens and dozens of families who had been reached. I met just yesterday with an airplane pilot who has just started attending our church. He pointed to his 5 year old and said, "She is the reason I am here. I heard this church cares about kids. And she didn't want to leave the first time we came."

Conclusion
This is how I answered these questions. But you have to answer them for yourself. There are positives and negatives on both sides. It's simply a matter of weighing it out and seeing which works best in your context.

Where will your answers lead you? Only you can decide that. The bottom line is kids and families are lost without Christ. If having kids worship in "big church" is the most effective way to reach them in your context...then go for it. Or if creating worship environments for kids is the most effective way to reach them in your context...then go for that. Both methods are simply a means to an end. Whatever you choose...just make sure the means is taking you to the end result you want.

Would enjoy hearing your insight, ideas, and other questions to ask about this important topic.

Posted by Dale Hudson

8 comments:

Couldn't there be a middle ground? For example, wouldn't time in "big" church for just a couple of songs and then dismissal to children's church offer the best of both for the little ones? My church has been doing this for the past few weeks and it works really well. Everyone is getting challenged at their own level, while the kids are still given a chance to see their parents connecting with the Lord in worship.

If it's working for your church, that's great. Can't go wrong when you follow God's leading in the context of your congregation.

Thank you for some great insights. At our church, we have children's programming the same time as the service. It's been a struggle to have our families go to church one hour, and Sunday school the next. For us, it's imperative we have worship time for the kids or they may not get it any other time.

I am co-leading a seminar on leading children's worship this Saturday. With your permission, I'd like to share your article with the audience. I'll direct them to your blog. Will that be all right with you?

Blessings

Hey Kevin,
Feel free to share anything you'd like. May God continue to bless you and your ministry.

While many at our church do send their kids down to Children's Church, we've decided to keep ours (ages 7 & 3) upstairs with us. They both get a lot out of the service & we enjoy talking about it afterwards. My oldest draws/writes notes about the sermon even. My 3 year old is not disruptive (though it took several weeks to get that way!) & quietly listens or draws. A lot of it has to do with a parent's desire to have their children with them. We noticed that when we went to church our kids went to Sunday School & then we didn't see them for 2 1/2 hours! Not acceptable in our book! This way, we have a hand in guiding our children spiritually rather than depending on others to do it. While I don't mind other people sending their children to Children's Church, I think that parents need to realize that it's their responsibility to teach their children how to behave & how to apply what they hear to their own lives. They have other opportunities to get "age-appropriate" worship in (i.e. Sunday School, during Kid's Klass on Sunday evening, Wednesday night Awana, & at home!).

i usually tell people this, when asked...

How many minutes this week do you think the senior pastor and creative team for your adult worship have been thinking about how best to communicate the truth of Christ to your 8 year old?

Because, I can promise you that is all I have been thinking, planning for and praying about all week.

I appreciate this article and it's thought provoking converstation. However, there is one HUGE question that is missing: What does the Bible say about this issue?

We'd love to hear your thoughts about what the Bible says about this. Can you share with us?

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