Children are God’s gift to the church. They enliven us with their presence, lift us up with the conviction of their faith, energise us with their enthusiasm and spontaneity, fill us with hope for the future, and teach us what it means to receive the “least of these”. The great irony is that, in many congregations, children are excluded from part or all of the core activity of their faith communities – its gathered worship. Both adults and children miss out when children are not included in corporate worship.
Some argue that some of what takes place in worship is not suitable for children and they are better off in alternative activities such as “kids worship time” or Sunday School. For me, this sideskips the principle that worship should be an activity for those of all ages. We are equally part of the body of Christ and the body is incomplete without all of its members. The higher challenge for pastors and other worship leaders is to make worship more child and family-friendly. Excluding children sends the message that worship is “really for big people” and that we are not willing to do what it takes to cater for the littlest amongst us in our life together.
There is much more that can be said … one day I might get around to it! But for now, here are a few resources that explore the issue of children in worship a bit more:
Children in Worship – An Integrative View is a paper I wrote some time ago for a Seminary course.
Suffer the Children? Why Kids Belong in Church is an article by D. Brent Layham – an excellent discussion of some of the issues.
Joyce Ann Mercer’s book Welcoming Children: A Practical Theology of Childhood is a recommended read – especially chapters five and six.