Oct 18, 2011
neil

Bringing your children along to ‘big church’ – why and how to worship as families in church

We have a 5 year old son who attends our church twice on a Sunday. In the mornings we spend the first 15 minutes together in the service before he heads next door for Kidz Sunday School but he also attends each evening service where he sits through the full 80-90 minutes. He’s not the only child there and as a church we are slowly developing a culture in which our children feel welcome and included in the evening service so that families can worship together.

Here are a couple of quite excellent posts by Jen Wilkin on why worship together as families and then how to make it work.

She writes of the excellent children’s work at her church;

We see it as a rich and relevant worship environment for a child, as a vibrant supplement for “big church”. But not as a substitute for it.

She also recognises that things are far from simple when you bring your kids to big church;

Together hasn’t always been easy. I recall long worship services with four elementary-aged children scribbling with crayons, begging for gum, and contorting themselves like miniature yogis in the pew. Just remembering it makes my eye twitch. But over time, with clear participation expectations, creative activities and the right cocktail of punishments and rewards our kids have grown to see “big church” not as a place they tolerate but as a place they belong.

But she is full of practical wisdom too on how to help your child sit through the service and participate in the service. Her tips on debriefing after the service are terrific too;

Debrief and reinforce.

After attending Big Church together, remember to talk to your child about how it went and what could go differently next week.

·     Ask your child for feedback: “What did you learn in church today?” “What was your favorite part of worship?” “Tell me about what you drew.” Talk about what you liked from the sermon in terms they can understand.
·     Affirm success: “I liked how you sat quietly and colored, even though the sermon went long today.”
·    Correct failure: “Next week I want you to try to wait to ask me questions until after the service.”
·    Reset/re-emphasize the expectation of Behave-Follow-Listen for next week.
·    Reinforce the sermon message: plan a family devotion or service activity to correspond with what the pastor talked about.

Why not read the two posts Worship together and Big church for small kids for the bigger picture.

In our service on Sunday evening  I preached on Exodus chapter 4-5 and we wrestled with the issue of who was responsible for the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart. I asked the congregation mid-way through the service  ’so who was it; Pharaoh or God?’ A five year old shouted out ‘God’ loud enough for the whole church to hear as she continued to colour her picture next to her father. That was quite possibly the highlight of our evening.

4 Comments

  • Thanks for this! I think it’s really important not just to acommodate kids but help them to know and feel that they are a part of the church community. If we continually keep them in rheir own group, is it any wonder that so many don’t feel that “big” church is for them as they grow up?

  • Thanks for this! I think it’s really important not just to acommodate kids but help them to know and feel that they are a part of the church community. If we continually keep them in rheir own group, is it any wonder that so many don’t feel that “big” church is for them as they grow up?

    • Thanks Andrew. Having become a Christian as an adult I have no experience of growing up in a Christian home so my wife and I have been making it up as we’ve gone along. I’m grateful for others in our church who have modelled this for us and of course for helpful blog posts such as Jen’s.

      What I’m enjoying at the moment is a growing trend in our church to bring the kids in the evening. So that families are encouraging one another in this regard.

  • Neil. It is indeed a fine art to encourage kids to take part in the ‘main service’. There are the cultural norms to take into account. The main service over here in the US has a very high proportion of kids in it – which at first seemed odd. But it seems like it is just part of the growing up process.
    Certainly growing up going to church, going to the ‘youth group’ during church service was a real encouragement to me as a Christian and sustained me. But we followed a similar model and being in the church service for part of it before leaving.

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