Saturday, 15 June 2013

The gong show that is children's time

Many churches have a special designated time during worship for children. In some churches the kids leave the sanctuary and go to children's church, in others they stay for the whole service, but have a "story time" just for them. I'm a strong proponent for children remaining for the entire worship service because I believe that we learn what it means to worship and to be the diverse kingdom of God by being together. That being said, I'm not always a strong supporter of children's time in worship. I understand and appreciate the intention -- to cherish our children and to make space for them in the worship life of the congregation, but honestly good intentions don't always lead to good outcomes. Sometimes children's time just ends up being a gong show. 

 As I mentioned in a previous post, I appreciate the words of Thomas Long on this issue. Long states, 
Children represent perhaps the hardest group to incorporate into the full span of worship, and the best way to consider a children's sermon is as a frank admission of our failure to create genuinely multigenerational worship. So yes, children's sermons are, for many congregations, a good idea, so long as they do not serve as a substitute for the continuing search for more embracing forms of worship (The Witness of Preaching, 2005).
 The children's time, or childrens' sermon is not our ultimate ideal. Ideal is to work creatively at what it means to be the multigenerational and diverse body of Christ. That doesn't mean that each person will always be equally engaged throughout the service, but that we consider everyone in the worship planning and attempt to find ways of worshiping that embrace all of us at various points. This does happen to a degree when we include a children's time. But from what I've noticed, many congregations consider inclusion of children's time to be best practice. As long as there's a 5 min. children's time we've done our job. And all I can say to that is simply, no. No, it is not sufficient that a huge segment of our congregation is only able to worship for 5 min of an hour long service. Children are a significant portion of the body of Christ, as are youth and adults of all ages, and should be considered in the entirety of our worship planning. My previous posts on story, ritual, practice, and elemental symbols address some of these issues.

That having been said, I think that as we continue to grow in our ability to create genuine multigenerational worship, we can simultaneously grow in our ability to offer quality children's times that are rich, that respect the faith of the child, and are done with clear intention. 

Over the next few weeks I will be offering some of my thoughts (based on my experience, this is not authoritative!) on how we consider children's time and how we can work at lowering the gong show quotient as we simultaneously increase the integrity with which we worship.

2 comments:

  1. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this!

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    1. Great! I'm no expert, but if there's anything in specific you'd like me to discuss, feel free to let me know. :)

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