Christmas is of course about children, and one child in particular. It is something of a marvel that God came to us in the form of a child, vulnerable, needy, innocent, and yes beautiful. We all have our visions of what that incarnation moment must have been like. Here is a beautiful song by my home boy— James Taylor, which reflects on that moment…. where we are called to worship the infant king.
And this brings me to the subject of this post— how does one make congregational worship (not kid’s church) welcoming to children? How do we honor the command of Christ “Suffer the little children to come to me and do not hinder them?” Worship is all too often a purely adult experience, or if its some form of praise worship, a mostly young folks experience (but directed at teens, and 20-40 somethings). Either way, children get short shrift. Part of the problem of course is that parents haven’t been taught how to worship so they hardly know how to teach their children to do it right. Let’s be clear, worship needs to be taught—- in worship. Each element of worship needs to be explained, and yes children should be included…. but how?
I have several suggestions. First of all, more drama in worship that involves children. Maybe a short bit several weeks out of the month. Make sure you have a decent children’s choir and orchestra program. If you get the kids, the adults will come. Thirdly, incorporate visual elements (video segments etc.) which attract the attention of all ages. Fourthly, sacred dance is something that can be taught to all ages. Fifthly let children read the Scripture lesson or lessons from time to time. Sixthly let the youth minister who works with them participate more in worship. Recognition of someone they know is crucial to their paying attention.