This article by Chad Bird says basically that the children shouldn’t be on the outside of the main service. That they should be included, and that the people in the church should make adjustments. But I think the church does need children’s church.

I agree with all of that. The only thing is, and this isn’t going to be popular, is there is a massive problem. It doesn’t work out like that.

So what’s good about children being part of the main act of worship?

  • Children should be at the heart of worship
  • Children learn from seeing others in worship
  • Children are just as much, if not more, spiritual than adults.
  • Its pretty obvious from the bible that Jesus had the kids at the centre of worship.

Only that’s not how it works out…

(I say being part of the main act of worship…please understand that if I had my way then the children would be main act of worship and the adults would have to leave; and why does the leader, aka vicar/minister/band and so on, stay with the adults while the kids get a cold room and a busted up tape deck?  Yeah, I know tapes don’t exist anymore, that’s my point.)

Children should be part of the main church when….

Don’t get me wrong, I still think that children should be in worship with us. In our fresh expression of church that is exactly where they are. They even lead communion (oh sorry…I am supposed to be Anglican, so it can’t be called communion the not priested aren’t allowed to do that. We shall call it an agape meal…).

The problem comes down to how we have children as part of worship.

What church often looks like

Firstly, so often adults DON’T want them there. Adults like their long sermons…and deep meaningful songs. And interestingly worded liturgy. You can tell it doesn’t work when kids complain about going to church.

Secondly, when they do include them they want the children to act as little adults. Yes a child may imitate an adult, and sometimes there is a spiritual experience behind it. Sometimes not. But surely, you might say, a child learns by imitation. Yes, sometimes. But in school you don’t get the children pretending to be the teacher? They play, they experiment, they listen and learn at their appropriate age. And everything is mixed up together.

Thirdly, there’s the problem of the quality of faith that is being passed on in such environments. I was talking to someone the other day who is a national leader in terms of youth and children’s work, and he was telling me about the situation that we haven’t failed at all to pass on our faith to our children. The problem is that we have passed on an apathetic faith.

Children in church…yes…if….

So this is my unpopular and radical proposal. The kids are separate UNLESS the adults are willing to actually teach them to be Christians in their own right. That the adults are passionate about their faith and don’t dress it up in all sorts of window dressing to make it seem ok.

Listen, I don’t MIND liturgies and all the rest of it. I don’t mind hand waving and that side of things. I don’t mind the dress up. What I mind is a form of religion without the power. A way of doing things that doesn’t embrace what I see in the bible and needs the structure to make faith function.

Why we need a sperate children’s church model…sometimes

So why? Well, there are some of us who passionately teach the children. We will use every trick known to engage them. We will look to inspire them. We will pray with them, sing with them, play games with them We want them to be children and for them to express faith as they see it and allow them to teach us. By doing that we can see the church inspired and grown and new life come to them, rather than be taught the same old apathetic faith that seems to have been passed on. We want to see Spirit-filled faith. And going forward a spirit filled church. They are the church of NOW, and the church of the FUTURE.

And if you can do that in your main services, awesome. Get the kids in! Let them lead as children! But if you can’t, then you are doing more harm than good at trying to include them in inappropriate ways.

What we have to do instead is not think that by having the children seperately their church is any inferior. Have you ever wondered why it is that you Baptists don’t want to worship as Anglicans? Or vice versa? Or charismatics necessarily as high church? Is it because you aren’t Christians? No of course not! It’s the way you express worship best and have faith inspired. For children imagine instead that what you are looking at is almost like a different denomination of church. It is simply another expression of faith appropriate to their culture.

A fresh expression of church

(yes…please leave a comment!)