Is Yours a Kid-Friendly Church?

Is your church kid-friendly? I’m not wondering if you sanitize the nursery toys, put stools in front of the water fountains, and have enough Sunday school teachers. I’m wondering if your church — the people, the leadership, the services — are really friendly toward children. Here are four things that might be affected if we had more kid-friendly churches.

  1. People would stare less when kids make sounds. Kids sometimes make noise, just like adults sneeze, yawn, or cough. You just get used to it. You don’t stare down the elderly gentleman who has a loud sneeze (okay, well you shouldn’t). Neither should it be necessary to turn your eyes into flamethrowers over at the family whose son whispered that he needed to use the restroom. Babies hiccup (sometimes quite loudly) and whimper, children drop books, whispers can turn into hoarse shouts, and it’s all simply part of worshipping with children present. And it’s okay. One of the first objections to children being present is that it creates a “distraction.” This is understandably a challenge. But let’s not allow our low tolerance for “distraction” to lead to the exclusion of an entire group of people. There is no one perfect setting in which to worship God, and perhaps the best solution to the “distraction” is just to endure it.
  2. The speaker may try to better engage the attention of the children. It is difficult to communicate effectively to a wide range of ages. Nonetheless, a kid-friendly church would endeavor to communicate big truths to young hearts and minds. For example object lessons can help to engage everyone’s attention. Inviting the active participation of the children is also a helpful idea. In one church I visited, the pastor invited all the children to the front of the church while he told them a short Bible lesson. It was their special time, and they were totally focussed on what he was saying. Children who were too young or shy to go up by themselves were accompanied by their parents. If we are a church that consists of young and old — and most churches are — we can employ creative ideas to engage the young.
  3. The services would be of a bearable length. The length of the average church service is 1.5 hours, start to finish. As you consider and plan your service, keep in mind the attention span, patience, and endurance of the younger generation. There is no perfect solution to the time span, and it is not necessary to pander to the shortest attention span present. Nonetheless, there is a happy medium regarding service length — a duration which expresses sensitivity to the children, while at the same time delivering value and truth to all who are present.
  4. There would be more opportunity for parents and children to worship together. Think about your services for just a second. Is there ever an opportunity for the entire family to worship together? Why or why not? There are, of course, compelling reasons to allow very young children to remain in the nursery. At the same time, it may be a good idea to introduce the idea of keeping the family together through at least a portion of the service. Some churches allow children be part of the singing time with their family. After that, they’re free to go to their respective classes. In a culture of fragmenting families, the church can stand for the unity of families, even through the simple act of keeping them together during services.

This is not an issue of “family-integrated” churches vs. traditional churches. This is not an attack against children’s programs or children’s church. This is a suggestion for churches to proactively minister to children, rather than tolerate their presence until they are “old enough” to be involved.

In our culture, it’s revolutionary to think of kid-friendly services. It changes everything. We are a culture of being kid-friendly in all the wrong ways. Our kid-friendliness unnecessarily sanitizes kids into segmented classes, and corners, making them less intrusive, less of an inconvenience, less of a distraction, and less of a bother. But it’s not just our culture. The disciples had the same hangups when Jesus was thronged by the kids. They tried to shoo the kids away, claiming that Jesus was too busy to be bothered by them (Mark 10:13-15).

Jesus thought differently about it. In his mind, the Kingdom of God consisted of children. He welcomed them. Shouldn’t our churches do the same?

Maybe we need to reintroduce the messy, authenticity of family life. The church is a family. Kids are part of the family. Let’s invite them back with all the honesty, challenge, and blessing that they bring. Like Jesus did.

 

6 Responses to “Is Yours a Kid-Friendly Church?”

  1. Nona Colbert June 26, 2012 at 5:33 am #

    This is a timely article and one which we have discussed at our church. In fact, we are planning to have a “Children’s Moment” incorporated into the regular worship service. I particularly liked the tell-it-like-it-is approach to distractions in service. What about the people who get filled with the spirit and begin to exhalt God! To some adults, that is a distraction, yet we accept that. Personally the sounds of children in church means that we have young families present and there is hope for the future of the church. So I say — let our children also worship with us and see us praising God so they will grow up to praise Him for His good and His mercy. Thank you!

  2. Rose Jeffrey June 26, 2012 at 5:44 am #

    How wonderfully refreshing. I felt illumination while reading this article. Kid’s Ministry is a most essential part of the church and, yes, we do tend to isolate them to their own little corner without seeing the bigger picture, which you painted so well: the church is a family and we should worship together, in the same “room” for at least part of the service. It is so beautiful to see children in church with their parents and siblings. A garden without flowers is not really a garden. At my church the children are a part of the praise and worship service and leave for children’s church just before the sermon. They love to clap, sing and dance; and it is awesome to see them enjoying themselves in that way. Thank you for a most inspiring article.

  3. Kay Fombell June 26, 2012 at 6:13 am #

    This is my heart’s cry! I am always thrilled when people understand little people are an important part of God’s kingdom! How precious to think parents could actually step up to being the spiritual trainers of their children (Biblically mandated)and not relegate it to “the church”. It would also be exciting to see adults catch on to what real worship is… and model that for these little ones. Do we really think a child will consider Worship with other believers relevant as adults when they never attend “Big Church” as a child? Children hear and learn more than we often give them credit. May God richly bless those parents and church leaders who work so hard at passing the torch to the next generation.

  4. JCB June 26, 2012 at 8:58 am #

    I really appreciate this article. Great points, and a good reminder to make the kids feel every bit a part of the whole as the adults.

  5. Rena McGee-Helms June 26, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

    Amen! Good points indeed. We, too, have a “Children’s Time” – a time that our Children’s Ministry Director gathers the children up front and tells a story based on that day’s scripture. I believe that as many adults as children enjoy this “simplified” version of the lesson for the day. Sometimes when the preacher stands up, someone will tease him to “top that!” after the children’s director does such a good job with a particular scripture and putting it into understandable terms.
    The best indicator though at our church for including all groups: We have a “Sonshine Sunday School Class” – a group of adults with developmental disabilities – some that have family as members, some that live in a local group home and are brought by van – they come to our contemporary service and praise God more sincerely and sometimes louder than anyone in the place. It is a true testimony to God to hear a loud “Amen” from the back corner and the preacher say “that’s right, John!” John even requested to join the church recently, he recites the Lord’s Prayer louder than anyone and truly loves to worship HIS LORD AND SAVIOR!

  6. Pauline June 26, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

    I have always worked with children in whatever church we have served in. Now that I am older I still consider teaching to be my spiritual gift. However I also believe that in todays culture families are so often fragmented. Due to so many commitments on parents and children they spend very little time together. I agree that church family worship should be just that. I would delight to be part of a church which encouraged families to sit together and to be part of the worship service. I believe wholeheartedly that some part of the service could be dedicated to children while also holding the attention of adults. What a vision. I am so glad to see God at work in others’ lives with the same aim. Thank you so much/

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