Whether you are part of a charismatic, evangelical or reformed church, it is the heart of every children’s leader to engage children both with the bible and in worship.
So often, however there is a disparity between adult expectation in worship and that of the child’s experience, which perhaps all too often leads to adults approaching children in worship with adult understanding and expectation. One thing is sure there are many good songs available to help engage kids in worship, although I wonder if sometimes these songs in some contexts are either too complicated or end up encouraging performance worship?
Let’s start by comparing the adult expectation and that of the child’s experience and see if there is any dispartiy with expectation (simplistic not exhaustive).
Adult expectation in their worship experience
- to experience the presence of God
- enter into God’s presence
- emotional involvement
- abstract thoughts and ideas
Child expectation in their worship experience
- element of fun & play
- concrete ideas (abstract is lost)
- God’s presence through being & doing (often alien to adults)
- worship is not just about singing, but being in His presense
I am sure, we can add to these comparisons, and for sure there is an element of overlap in both the adult and child expression of worship. How much though does our adult expectation and expression of worship cause us to raise inappropriate expectation on our children and worship in church. Yes, we want our kids to experience God, to be praying for one another and getting words from God and so on, but how much do we throw our adult understanding of how this should happen on to approach in Children’s ministry?
What does the bible have to say? Here are some verses:
Ps 8:2 – “From the lips of babes and infants God has ordained praise, to silence the enemy…” When Children express and enjoy God – look what happens!!! the enemy flees!!
Matthew 18:2 – “Let the little children come to me…” Children are important in the kingdom. Jesus welcomed children – I wonder what he did when they came? Ponder that for awhile… did he do a massive sermon, sit them down and make them listen? I don’t think so, I have a picture in my mind of Jesus, yes telling them captivating stories, playing a game or two – whatever Jesus did, he enjoyed being with kids and they enjoyed being with him!
Joel 1: 3 – “tell your children about it, have your children tell their children… and their children to the following generations” in our worship expression how much does imparting our experiences of God to others, but not only that to encourage the kids to pass it on too! First responsibility starts in the home not in the church, though the church is there to support ‘passing it on’ to the generations!
Isaiah 54:13 – “All your children will be followers of the Lord… and will enjoy great peace” Clearly it is God’s desire that children are discipled and follow Jesus today, not when they’re adults!
This is not an exhaustive study on Children in worship but just a selection of bible passages that demonstrate the importance of how we minister to children.
Children in Adult worship service
Over some 20 years of so being in church one thing has frustrated me the most: Seeing adults engage in worship while the kids play havoc doing their own thing at the back and not engaging at all. Though to be honest many adult services are so abstract to where kids are at its totally understandable. However, I wonder on reflection, am I approaching children’s worship wrong?
Re addressing the balance
Talking to a good friend, Rev. Andy Gray he mentioned how so often church have a balance leaning to adults. Even though we try to do church for children, the balance will still be weighted towards adult church! For example when we say, “Lets do adult church and involve the kids” the weight is still on adult perspective and much of the service tends to be for adults! Instead, if we change the wording slightly to, “lets do church for kids and then ask how do we make it relevant for adults” re-addresses the balance and emphasis on the kids.
How then do we Do church for children whilst making it relavent for adults?
Here are four dilemmas:
1. as soon as you say kids songs, the adults switch off
2. as soon as you say action songs, adults get embarrassed and clam up
3. as soon as you do a kids song in front of adults it becomes a performance
4. not all kids want to sing
Considering those dilemmas, here are some alternatives:
Do not say you’re doing a kids song, make it the same as an adult song but encourage both all age involvement by way of doing sign language rather than actions.
Don’t use performance orientated songs in worship.
Worship doesn’t have to be about singing. We said earlier it’s a way of life, also about playing and adults also like to play. Did you know that Top Gear (I read this week) is produced with a mental target age of 5, because they recognise that every adult has this in the back of their brain needing release!!!
Involve fun and games in worship. There are some great game and activities to involve children in games which give reflection on who God is and what he has done for us!
Please feel free to add you comments to this post. This is an expression of thoughts on the subject and is no way exhaustive – so your thoughts welcome. Thank you to my good friend Rev. Andy Gray for sharing his thoughts with me on this subject.
For some reason, much of the problem with worship, in whatever form, is adults assume that kids ‘need to be taught, by modelling, how to do it’. heres a challenge….what can adults learn about worship from children? the kingdom of heaven already belongs ‘to such as these’. Why? because they take it as it is!
That is another whole discussion. Adults modelling worship to kids, yes up until recently I would have agreed, but the more I meditate and consider the implications I am starting to conclude this approach is not biblical and are we not creating a generation of kids that learn to behave in church worship rather than experiencing God for themselves?!?