Jesus blessed children who came to him to worship, and the Lord has blessed this congregation with many new families and children in the past several years. About a third of the way through our worship services, we offer families with young children an opportunity to dismiss those kids to children’s church. This usually takes place with a quick dismissal during the service, and then a flurry of movement happens. A bunch of moms and dads take their kids over to the children’s wing.
If you’re new to the church, if you recently started having children, or just wondered what goes on over there, we want to explain the meaning and purpose of children’s church.
So what happens during children’s church, and who is it for?
First, children’s church is designed to teach young children up through kindergarten what should take place in worship: praying, singing, and preaching. As you’re well aware, when we gather for worship, there isn’t a lot of explanation going on. We just do what we came to do—worship the Father, the Son, and the Spirit through praying, singing, and preaching, as well as baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
In children’s church, we have a smaller, intentional time set aside to explain to kids what happens in worship. They learn how to pray, how to sing, and they have the Bible taught to them in an age- and stage-of-life appropriate way. We talk about why we sing some songs and not others, where our prayers come from and where they go, and why we give sermons. We also explain the meaning and purpose of baptism and communion.
But the primary goal of children’s church is teaching them what takes place when a person becomes a Christian and joins the church for worship. The goal is not to give them their own worship service.
Second, when kids begin to stay in worship with their family, we offer activity pages and sermon note-taking sheets to help kids (or anyone!) focus during worship. This helps promote active listening for people of any age. Even during the singing and praying, these activity sheets help prepare the children for participating in the life of the church by teaching them what we should look out for and what all the moving parts in worship mean.
Third, children who have made a profession of faith and have been baptized should participate in the life the church, most especially worship. This is basic ecclesiology, or the doctrine of the church. When God’s people gather, God’s people gather together. After baptism, in addition to singing, praying, and preaching, all of God’s people participate in the Lord’s Supper, reminding everyone present of Christ’s once-for-all substitutionary sacrifice.
In Ephesians 5 & 6, Paul addresses men and women and husbands and wives. He then immediately addresses children. That means when this letter was read aloud, he expected Christian dads, Christian moms, and Christian children to hear it together and to hold each other accountable to these expectations for Christian living.
Fourth, once a child graduates into elementary school, he or she is more than capable of watching and learning by mimicking their family, and their church family, in worship. The exact age and grade that your child should join you in worship is a matter of your discretion. But in general, elementary school-age children are ready to watch and learn from the gathered church and to see what they’ve learned in children’s church put into action.
Like a lot of things in life, we learn by watching. We learn by copying someone else at first. Then, once the words we have learned sync up with the motions we have been shown, things begin to click.
We hope this is helpful in explaining the method to the madness. Jesus said that the kingdom of God belongs to those who have the faith and trust in God of a child. When it came to children, he warned the disciples against hindering children from worshiping him.
The gospel of Mark tells us that Jesus was indignant, or angered about someone being treated unfairly, that children were being viewed as a distraction to worship instead of a necessary participant. They are an integral part of the body of Christ and should therefore be with the body of Christ.
So whether in children’s church or the sanctuary, bring the little children to Jesus.