I was recently talking with a friend who served on the setup team at his church who had to report at 6:30 am. Wow, that’s a lot of setup, I thought. As he continued to explain his tasks, he mentioned the bouncy house he had to prepare for the kids. Here’s the gist of our conversation:
Me: “Really? A bouncy house?”
My friend: “Yeah, we want the kids to love coming to church, so we have a bouncy house for them.”
Me: “So are they a part of the service?”
My friend: “No, the adults go to the service, and the kids enjoy the bouncy house and some teaching.”
This happens to be an evangelical congregation, and their strategy for keeping kids interested in church is to entertain them so their church experience is fun and appealing.
Clearly this is an extreme example, but it seems that the philosophy behind this has seeped into mainstream evangelicalism, and here it is—Worship is primarily for adults. When the kids are older, and able to understand and participate, we’ll welcome them into the worship service. But while they’re young, let’s make church as fun as possible so they’ll want to come now, and then keep coming when they hit the teen years. Most likely the great majority of these churches hold Sunday School or a Children’s Church program concurrently with their services, and are seeking to teach the children during that time, but they don’t believe children have a place in the worship service.
As you can imagine, I have a different perspective. The church I belong to has long held that children are as much a part of the Body of believers as adults, and the Church is to be about ‘growing’ worshippers—whether they’re our little ones, or adults new to the faith, or longtime believers. Certainly there’s a place for nursery, and even Children’s Church for our youngest ones, but worship is for the whole community, and it’s vital that everyone participates at some level, and from the earliest age.
There are ways to do this and I hope in upcoming blog posts to propose ideas on how best to incorporate our children into our services, with practical tips for parents. Granted, this topic is somewhat peripheral to the VBS ministry that is Reachout’s focus. But the ultimate goal even of VBS is to grow worshippers, just as it is the Church’s goal. VBS can be children’s first introduction to the Church, and our prayer is that those children and their families will become believers and active worshippers. So we design our VBS program to not only introduce children to Jesus and the Gospel, but to instill in them a love for reading, knowing, and memorizing the Word of God, and worshipping Him in every aspect of their lives.
Be watching for my next blog post in the upcoming weeks with tips for churches and parents. I hope to hear your thoughts, so please leave your comments!