We got into an interesting discussion in our church’s worship committee meeting. What can we do to help children be engaged in worship? At one level, this is a very old discussion. Questions such as, “At what age should children stay in church past the children time?” “Is it appropriate for the older kids to go out and help the adults with the smaller children?” “How could we get the children doing part of the worship service?” have been discussed time and time again.
Now, keep in mind that our church does not lack for a quality children’s time in the worship service. We honestly have the best children’s time I have seen in church in my 20 years of ministry, with one of our members leading it each Sunday. And we also let children who are second grade and younger exit the service for child care. Nevertheless, beyond the children’s time, I think most persons in our sanctuary between the ages of 7 and 18 are frequently bored. I am sure they like the music. They seem to light up during the sharing of prayer concerns. But, beyond that, they almost all seem to be biding their time till church is over. And I do not think our church is at all unusual in this.
For those of us who are older adults, we might want to say en masse, “Well, I had to do it at that age” or “you have to learn sometimes.” But that process is not working. And it hasn’t been working for a long time. In the PC(USA), once they graduate from high school, most youth cease attending worship all together.
Should we take them out of worship and teach them more about the Bible? Should we have a more interactive activity for them? Should we find a way to get young adult leaders? These are all good questions.
But I don’t think most churches need a second Sunday school hour. I think we need to find a way to teach 21st century children, tweens, and teens how to worship in a way that engages them. By the time they get to college, if they don’t go to worship, if we’ve done the right thing, they will feel they are missing out on something that is a key part of who they are.
I know some big churches answer this with high energy praise bands and lots of graphics in worship. And that is all nice and good for churches that have deep pockets or are large enough to have in-house talent to do that. But I think it is incumbent upon 21st century Christians today to find a way to worship God that is not limited to those who have great resources to do so. I honestly think Jesus himself would find it ironic that we have developed a form of worship (the typical praise hour) that you can only implement if you have enough money.
What is the magic answer? I do not know. But as a pastor, I am searching for it. If we do not find a way to engage the children, tweens, and teens in the church, and do it soon, we are going to find that the only places where we can go to worship are very large churches. That might be fine for Christians who live in metropolitan areas, but it will leave much of the country out in the cold.
What do you think? How do you engage children in worship so that they aren’t just listening, but actually worshiping? What steps could we take to get there?
Until next time,