GenOn Ministries is a proponent of all ages in worship, and not just as passive observers but engaged and leading. However, there are good reasons why many faith communities choose to offer “parallel learning” for the youngest children during some of worship, particularly the sermon. Here are two ideas to help parents with re-engaging children who have been out of worship for a time.
First, Carolyn Brown writes in her Worshiping with Children blog about children being clearly welcomed to the worshiping congregation and that their parents be supported at each step. She offers, as an example, a letter to parents about the transition of their children to fully attending worship. Read it here.
And here’s an excerpt from “100 Things Every Child Should Know Before Confirmation” by Rebecca Kirkpatrick about the importance of worship attendance "between seasons." I recommend purchasing her book for every parent of a third grade child presented with a Bible (or whatever age works for your church).
Ordinary Time: Ordinary Time fills the weeks between seasons…One of the most regular conversations that we all have with our children is about why every single week, when every part of our brain and body wants to sleep in, we get up, shower, get dressed and go to church. It isn’t a holiday; there is nothing that our family has agreed to “do” at church that day; grandparents are not in town; there is no special speaker or preacher and no meeting to attend. Yet we still go to church.
The ordinary days are the days when we need the community. The ordinary days are when it’s easiest to forget that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. These are the days when nothing else might remind us and our families of who and whose we are if we don’t take the time and effort to remind each other. But the ordinary days are also the ones when we have time to build relationships, sit in worship in the quiet that is present when there is nothing extraordinary going on besides the people of God all deciding to be together that day to worship God.
One of the things that we love to do with children and young people is to introduce them to the heroes of faith. This is often how we describe characters from the Bible and other leaders throughout the history of the Church. From Abraham to Martin Luther King, Jr. we use these heroes to teach children how a faithful person responds to the call of God. But chances are we are not—and they are not—all Abrahams and Kings, so what children really need is a relationship with and a connection to the ordinary Christians in their lives who can show them what an ordinary life of faith is all about.
Read more from Rebecca by buying her book here.
At the start of this new “program” year, let’s all pledge to be more intentional about inviting, welcoming, and engaging young people in worship of God with all of us.