“We need to continue the Kids Worship service!” I flashed back to that moment ten years ago where I shouted similar words. Only this time these words were directed at me. The table had turned and now I was arguing against – not starting, but continuing – the Kids Worship. I was not arguing for its complete demise, only a scale back. Once again, I was not – and I am not – against Kids Worship; I am just more for kids being present in the corporate worship gathering.
The arguments were very similar to those I outlined in Part 1: (1) kids will be lost, (2) kids distract parents from worship, (3) kids find “big church” boring, (4) kids distract others in worship, and (5) kids worship helps train kids for worship. (If you have not already read Part 1, I encourage you to pause and read that article before continuing.)
As I sat across the table from those parents, I did not counter their arguments. Instead, I began to share the benefits of kids in worship and share a vision for a better way. In what follows, I want to share some of those benefits and a few additional benefits I have come to discover since. I am greatly indebted to Jason Helopoulos and his book, Let the Children Worship, for many of the ideas in this article. I would highly recommend this book for anyone interested in diving more deeply into this topic.
The Blessing of Being Present in the Life of the Church
The church is not a building, an organization, or a series of programs. The church is the people. Moreover, the church is the gathered people. The New Testament word translated church is ekklesia which refers to an assembly or a gathering of people. While the New Testament often speaks of the universal church (all believers everywhere), it most often refers to a local gathering of believers. This means that in a strictly literal sense, the church is not the church until it is gathered. There is therefore great blessing to both children and adults as kids are present when the local body of Christ gathers as the church.
The Blessing of Seeing and Participating in the Church Ordinances
The teaching ministry of the church is first and foremost the preaching the of the Word of God (2 Timothy 4:2). However, the preaching ministry of the church is not the only teaching ministry, nor is it always the most powerful. It has often been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. If this is true, then it is no wonder God not only gave us the preaching ministry, but also the ministry of pictures and symbols. In the Baptist faith we recognize two biblical pictures God has given to demonstrate His gospel of grace: (1) baptism and (2) the Lord’s Supper (these are often called sacraments in other traditions).
Baptism is a beautiful picture of uniting in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Lord’s Supper is a powerful reminder of the death of Christ and the blood of the New Covenant. Just as the adult members of the church are blessed by seeing and participating in the ordinances so are children, especially those children who are able to participate in the ordinances (those who have publicly repented of their sins and placed their faith in Jesus Christ alone).
But there is an additional blessing for kids and their parents. These pictures provide a powerful opportunity to speak of the gospel. Much as the Passover meal would prompt Israelite children to ask, “What do you mean by this service?”, baptism and the Lord’s Supper provide opportunities for our children to ask, “Why is that person getting dunked underwater?” or “What is the meaning of eating crackers and drinking juice at church?” These questions allow parents to speak of the work of God in saving His people through the glorious grace of Jesus Christ. Sometimes, especially with children, pictures are a more powerful message than words.
The Blessing of Seeing Their Parents Worship
As I mentioned in Part 1, there is great influence in kids seeing the example of their parents in worship. Most children (and adults for that matter) learn through observation. Kids are blessed by seeing their parents and other adults worshiping in the corporate worship gathering.
The Blessing of Participating in Worship
Kids cannot participate in the corporate worship gathering unless they are present in the corporate worship gathering. While that may sound simple, it is actually an important point. Research studies of all shapes and sizes have found that teens who participate in the larger body of the local church tend to continue participating in the local church after high school. On the other hand, teens who are confined to a student ministry tend to cease participating even before graduation. (Check out Already Gone by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer and Why They Stray by Steve Parr and Tom Crites for two such examples.) Furthermore, the age at which kids are disengaging from church is getting earlier and earlier. If the research is correct (and I believe it largely is) then we need to engage our kids in the corporate worship gathering at an early age.
By participating in the corporate worship gathering I do not mean simply attending. I mean church leaders need to find ways of engaging kids in the worship gathering. At our weekly worship gathering, you will frequently see kids passing the offering plate. Less frequent will be kids singing with adults in the choir or kids praying publicly. You may find kids serving as greeters in our foyer before service. On the second Sunday of each month, we have a Kids Sermon on the front steps of the stage. While we certainly have a great distance to go as a church, I am encouraged by the consistent effort to involve kids in the corporate worship gathering.
The Blessing of the Seeing the Kid’s Example
Throughout the gospels, Jesus continually emphasizes children. In Mark 10:14 Jesus tells the disciples (the big people), “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Having children present as we worship reminds us big people of the heart of those who enter into the kingdom. Kids worship with an honesty and joy that can sometimes be lacking in adults. The consistent presence of younger people can provide a spark to the congregation to worship with greater joy and authenticity. We big people can learn much about worship from the example of kids as they gather with us in the corporate worship gathering.
Recently, we concluded a Member’s Meeting at our church with a time of praise for positive things happening in our church. One of our seasoned saints shared her joy in seeing the many children in the worship gathering. While many tend to think adults are annoyed by the presence of kids in the corporate worship gathering, this lady spoke for many in pointing out that the presence of the kids sparked joy rather than distraction. While there are some who find restless children annoying (and some children who generate annoyance), I have found this is to be the exception rather than the rule.
A Better Way
I received some criticism and questions following Part 1 of this article series. First, let me say I appreciate the feedback (both positive and negative). Second, let me reiterate that I am not against Kids Worship, rather I am FOR kids being present and engaged in the worship gathering. Some people might find this a distinction without a difference, but the difference is I am not advocating an immediate cessation of all Kids Worship everywhere. Rather I am trying to make the case for regularly including kids in the corporate worship gathering. I did this in Part 1 by addressing the arguments for a separate kids worship. I am doing this in Part 2 by addressing the benefits of including kids in the corporate worship gathering.
Instead of arguing against all forms of kids worship everywhere, I want to argue a better way: regularly engaging kids in the corporate worship gathering. I will take up the task of exploring this better way in a third installment of this article series to be posted in mid-June.