article written by Steve Blumer, Pastor of Family and Adults
I’ve grown up in church my entire life. I remember as a kid going to kids’ church and also going to “big” church with my parents and grandparents. I don’t remember everything about either one, but they both played an important role in who I am today. In kids’ church, I remember listening to Bible stories from a guy who sat on the desk and passed out candy. I remember painting crafts for mother’s day and father’s day. I remember winning a bike one summer because I read the most books during the summer break reading challenge. And while in “big” church, I remember doodling, eating mints, and taking a rest on grandma’s arm. I also remember learning when to stand during worship, began singing along to those songs that became familiar, and I watched my mom profess her acceptance of Christ’s gift of salvation (which sparked a deeper questioning process in me). As I grew older, I sang more of the songs and even took notes of the sermon. Of course, I also laughed with friends when I wasn’t supposed to, I conveyed my being “spaced out” by slouching in the pew and not paying attention, and I once saw my friend smack his head on the pew after falling asleep. It was funny. We also received some “correction” from my parents and other adults around us when we weren’t participating in worship or listening attentively to the sermon.
There were great memories of growing up in church and hopefully great memories can be made as well for your kids as we will be having “Family Summer Services” here at Hope Chapel for July and August. In July and August, our Kids Connect ministries will provide nursery and toddler classes, but ages 5 and up will be joining “adult” worship. Teen Bible classes also pause during the summer, so teens will be joining as well. I’m pretty excited!
Why Family Services?
I believe worshiping together as a “family” is a key in connecting kids and teens to Christ and His church. (By family, I mean worshiping with multiple generations together, whether kids and teens come with their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or their friend’s family.) It’s one of the principles behind a successful Family Ministry is to arrange multiple generations to worship, serve, and learn together. We learn from each other. God called the church a body with its many parts working together. Church and spiritual learning was not meant to be so separated as we have created it today. We have separate environments for kids, teens, young adults, singles, seniors, etc. It’s no wonder kids and teens grow up in church but then have a tough time transitioning to being the church as an adult. We don’t need to look far to know that 75%-80% of teens leave the church altogether after graduation. We must change that.
Having services together with multiple generations not only teaches kids and teens the value of worshiping as adults, but adults can learn how to worship in a fresh way too. It’s exciting to see kids and teens sing and raise their hands. It gives adults excitement that another generation will strongly worship God. It gives adults a new fire in their own relationship with God because they are engaging directly with the next generation that needs the older generation to show them that God truly is good year after year in whatever happens in life. It gives adults a renewed sense of the greater purpose beyond sitting and being a consumer of Christian talk. I think if we never get kids and teens in adult worship, we may lose the older generation too.
I understand that having “Family Services” can bring hesitation to parents and caregivers, so I want to talk a little bit about those.
Hesitations and Helps:
How can we make sure “Family Services” will work? First of all, the biggest help in making the “Family Summer Services” a success is having a parent (grandparent, uncle, whoever brings them to church) and a congregation who values worshiping God.
“The greatest stumbling block for children in worship is that their parents do not cherish the hour. Children can feel the difference between duty and delight. Therefore, the first and most important job of a parent is to fall in love with the worship of God. You can’t impart what you don’t possess.” – John Piper
The job of a parent or care-giver is to be the spiritual leader, not some teacher in a kids’ class or teen bible study. Parents partner with other adults and leaders to also teach, but the parent is meant to be a primary role model of spiritual matters. A parent should teach their children what God means to them personally through their own acts of worship. Your own attitude and belief as to why you worship and why you listen to Bible preaching is conveyed when you bring your children (or don’t bring your children) to worship with you. Be excited about worship. Be excited about God’s Word. Be excited about connecting with people around you. Don’t view family summer services as a time we just want to give our teachers a break. View it as a season to grow in what we were called to do in the first place…raising up another generation that will know and follow God.
“My kids won’t sit still.”
Having your kids sit in a 65-70 minute service is not an excessive expectation. In fact, messages are typically around 35 minutes and that would be the longest expectation of sitting time during the service. Kids and teens in school are expected to sit in such time intervals. Kids and teens can sit and watch TV or be with a screen for way longer than that. It’s a great time to model how to listen and how to take notes. Talk to them during the week about sitting in service on Sunday. Sit towards the front where your kids can see what’s going on. We often sit towards the back in case we need to take them out, but then they can’t see what’s going on and disconnect from what’s happening. Another reason why children seem restless in church is because they aren’t accustomed to this type of church setting yet. They may be comfortable to their kids’ church or teen group environment, but that took time as well. Don’t get discouraged if they didn’t sit still the first time. Try it again next week. Don’t worry that they may be distracting other people around them. We are in this together. It won’t bother me if it won’t bother you.
“My kids will be bored. The messages will be over their heads. Will there be coloring pages?”
Shame on us all as pastors, worship leaders, parents, and Christians in general for ever making church, the Bible, and Jesus boring! If kids need coloring pages to survive a service, I’ll want some too. We provided coloring pages a few years ago and it really bothered me. Not only did I think we (as parents) weren’t teaching our kids how to mature spiritually, but we (as the church) probably weren’t doing a good job at reaching and teaching in general. If kids can’t get it, will unbelievers or those just beginning their walk with Christ get it? Something to think about.
That’s why we are intentionally working hard this summer to incorporate illustrations, songs, and personal involvement into our services and sermons for kids, teens, and families. But even without customizing the services you’ll be surprised what kids and teens pick up on. It may seem like a new language, but they absorb more than we think. Have them draw pictures of what the message is about if they aren’t old enough to take notes. Talk to them after the service about what they heard. Let them know that you’ll be asking them what they heard, so they will listen better in order to answer the question later. Share what you learned. Show them that you too are learning.
“We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the LORD, about his power and his mighty wonders…So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands.” (Psa 78:4, 7)
What are other hesitations or helps you have when you think about “Family Summer Services”?
*another great article around family worship in church: “The Family: Together in God’s Presence” by John Piper