Where Should Children Worship?

Of all the issues that’ll get children’s ministers debating, this one has to be the hottest. Where should kids worship­-with adults in “big” church or in their own children’s church setting?

We asked that question in our poll at www.childrensministry.com and got a whopping response. Of the 2,032 people who responded, 48% said definitely in the corporate worship setting; and the other 52% said in a separate children’s church setting.

To dig deeper into this issue, Children’s Ministry Magazine asked two children’s ministers to tell why they believe strongly in one side or the other. In this article, you’ll see their views, poll respondents’ views, and basic models for how churches handle this important issue.

Pro Family Worship

What children’s ministers at cmmag.com say…

  • “My children need to see their parents worshiping. They learn so many things by parents’ example-including worship.”
  • “Families are separated enough in our society. Worship should involve everyone…Keep my family together on Sunday morning!”
  • “If kids learn at an early age that it’s acceptable in the house of God to separate themselves from the adults, later on they learn that it’s okay to segregate themselves.”
  • “We try very hard to incorporate plenty of kid-friendly elements into the service…I’ve seen kids’ eyes light up when we’ve used video clips from Finding Nemo to explain the parable of the prodigal son.”
  • “If children are set apart and not allowed to learn what’s expected, what’s going to happen to our churches? When the older members die out, what are we going to do?”
  • “There’s nothing more beautiful than to take part in services of worship with children present. Just to see their little eyes widen and faces light up fills me with joy.”

Build Families Together

by Jessica Nelson

We in children’s ministry know that one of our goals is to bring families closer in their relationship to God, yet when families enter the church, we seem to be in a rush to separate them. Many churches take children out of worship to provide a separate children’s church, but the traditional model of families worshiping together and then dividing into age-appropriate classes has much more to offer modern families.

Worship is a place for families. Parents need to understand the importance of the religious training children need to help guide them throughout their lives. For these and many other reasons, we have to build the kind of worship environment that facilitates families growing together.

Build comfort in sanctuary.

We need to prepare our children for the inevitable difficulties they’ll face in life. Every child will have a loved one die or face a major trauma at some point. Imagine a child who has never been in a sanctuary facing that massive space for the first time at a grandmother’s funeral. If a child or young adult visits a chapel in a hospital during a time of grief, no one is going to come out in costume to hear their prayers. The child will be alone in a quiet space for prayer and reflection. This can be disconcerting if the first time that place of refuge is introduced is when needed most. We need our children to be comfortable in the house of the Lord and to help them find peace and comfort in quiet prayers. This takes practice, time, and effort on all our parts.

Build family unity.

There’s an amazing amount of chaos going on in the lives of families. School, work, soccer, and ballet practices are only part of it when we look at the rates of divorce, adultery, suicide, and drug use in families. Look up those statistics for your community and look into your congregation. What could be going on inside their homes that you don’t know about? Families today need a haven, and that could be your church.

Our families need time together in peace. Children need calm and security, and they don’t always get that at home. Sitting in worship, holding hands, and speaking community prayers together can give our families a respite. Once families are comfortable with these practices, they’ll be able to use them away from the church when a crisis or difficult situation emerges and they need family spirituality.