In a blogpost entitled A Child Speaks About Church, pastor Steve Lindsley and director of children and family ministries Lynn Turnage share six things children need from a church. They write as if a child is speaking. Here is the list. Click on the post to read the details for each point.
- Just tell me the Bible story.
- Remember: I can’t sit still for long.
- Give me, at the bare minimum, an hour a month with the pastor.
- My best adult teachers/leaders/volunteers are the ones that I KNOW care about me.
- Give me some responsibility in the church.
- I like to be with my family and all ages together in worship.
On that last point, here is some of what they add: “You think I don’t want to be in worship during the sermon because it’s ‘boring.’ I actually listen to what they say and it sticks with me–as you are well aware in other contexts, I’m great at remembering everything you adults say. All things being equal, I’d rather stay in worship with my church family–we call ourselves a family, right? I might get a little antsy (worship bags will help). But I promise you I won’t fall asleep like that dude in front of me every week. Surely you’ve seen him.”
Thanks for some good food for thought, Steve and Lynn!
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This past Sunday our youngest disciple, age three, was able to stay with us in the sanctuary all the way to the last hymn before needing a break. During that time, she colored the picture you see here. We talked about Noah and the rainbow, and she put the rainbow all over the ark, all over everything. Surely God’s rainbow promise is all over everyone, and all over everything. Deep insights come out of the mouths of babes, but also out of their artwork.
In this blogpost, pastoral musician Jonathan Aigner makes the case that traditional worship in which all generations worship together is a blessing to children, and truly good for their faith formation. He thinks that we sell young people short when we believe that “modern entertainment is the only way to engage the fleeting attention span of our youngest worshipers.” Aigner has some things to think about here, and some thoughtful comments follow his post.
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I firmly believe that children best learn to worship by worshiping alongside caring, mentoring adults. Recently I heard Kara Root, pastor of Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis, describe the creative ministry her small congregation is doing with children and families. Here is a link to a post that includes excerpts from the church’s pew inserts about this ministry. “Why We Welcome Little Children to Worship.” Included are helpful suggestions to make worship a good experience for everyone. Thanks so much to Kara and the Lake Nokomis congregation!
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Here is a challenging post from Rodger Nishioka, who teaches Christian Education at Columbia Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, and who specializes in ministry with young people. It’s entitled Children’s Church is the Church. He shows how the generations began to separate from one another during worship after World War II, and he describes the unfortunate fruit that has resulted. I believe that this practice is one of the major reasons why younger generations are largely missing from our congregations.
Here’s a sample: Nishioka writes, “We have sown three generations of children leaving or never worshipping with us, and it is no wonder that so many find worship boring and incomprehensible when they come of age and are expected to join us. Further, when I suggest that children remain with us during the whole of worship, some of the loudest objections come from some young parents who want worship to be a time for them when they do not have to worry about their child’s behavior. My own sense is that this reflects the current belief among developmental theorists that adolescence is extending well into young adulthood and what else is a true sign of adolescence but the primary focus on one’s own needs over others.”
In other words, we now have a sixty-year history of people not having to make the effort and not having to struggle to worship as generations together, and we do not want to make the effort and engage in that struggle. We have forgotten that older, younger, and middle generations need to know one another well, love one another, challenge one another, learn from one another, and serve one another. We are called to practice this as we worship together. No, worship is not just about me and what I enjoy, and what I can get out of it. It is the gathering of the whole people of God before God. It is liturgia, the work of the people of God. Why do we think it is supposed to be easy? It is something we do for God and for one another.
Do go read Nishioka’s entire post.
For more thoughts, click on the Children in the Church category in the sidebar to the right.
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Christian educator Carolyn Brown put up this excellent post about using drawing to draw children into worship. It’s entitled “Worshiping with Pencils and Crayons.”
Here is an excerpt:
Before a scripture that you can easily visualize, ask the children to listen then draw what they hear. In some cases you can leave it general, e.g. draw a picture of the slaves walking to freedom through the sea. In other cases hone the task, e.g. ask the children to draw the faces of Mary and Martha during their spat about who did all the work.
At the beginning of the sermon pose a question asking the children to draw a picture of their answer to the question. Suggest they might listen to the sermon for ideas. “We are going to be thinking together about using money to help others. While you listen, draw pictures of ways you can use money to help another person.”
Early in the service give children a sheet of paper with the words of a prayer or one verse in a hymn that you will sing later in the service to decorate or illustrate and then use when singing or praying. Creation hymns are especially easy candidates for illustration.
Encourage children to draw their prayers. On a sheet of paper they can simply draw and write words of everything they want to talk with God about today talking to God as they do. Their drawings might be in the sections of a scribbled pattern or simply splashed all over the page.
To convince the children that their work is an important part of worship….
Invite them forward to show you their art and talk briefly about it.
Invite them to tape their art to a rail at the front of the chancel or tack it on a special bulletin board in the back. One preacher I know has a bulletin board on his office door especially for the children to leave him drawings and notes.
Invite children to drop their drawings into the offering plates as they are passed as a gift to God.
Take time to talk briefly with children about their drawings as they leave the sanctuary. Shake hands with the adults, talk art with the children.
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