Valuing Children in Worship

When Harvard psychologist Robert Coles was preparing a book about the faith of children, he interviewed hundreds of children around the world about their spiritual life. Coles once asked a nine year old Swedish girl which biblical story meant the most to her. Instead of answering, she picked up crayons and spent several minutes drawing a picture; her drawing was titled “Jesus Helping the Leper.” Coles was confused and asked the girl why she had chosen this subject. She was quiet for a long time; first she stared at her drawing, then looked out the window. Coles asked again if there was anything about the picture that was important. Finally, the girl simply said, “If you are really remembering Jesus, you remember the people he wanted to help.”*

This story shows both the challenges and the joys of including children in the life of the church. On the one hand, there is a danger of misunderstanding children and their faith. If children don’t respond as we expect—perhaps by drawing pictures instead of using words, for example—we may be tempted to ignore children and assume that they do not have a meaningful faith. But when we take the time to truly listen to children and honor their experiences, we frequently see that children have a vibrant faith with significant understanding of God.

One way to take childhood faith seriously is to offer a special message for children during the congregation’s worship service. Offering a children’s message has several benefits:

  1. Children feel included and valued. A time for children to be particularly involved in worship makes real Jesus’ statement that children are always welcome, because the Kingdom of God belongs to people just like them (Luke 18:16).
  2. Children are able to learn and worship in a developmentally appropriate way. Though children can have faith, it is a faith that is different from an adult’s faith. Children experience the world differently than adults, and a message tailored to their needs helps children to participate in worship in a meaningful way.
  3. It reminds adults about the importance of children. Sometimes adults can grow accustomed to thinking only about other adults, with children and youth as afterthoughts. When adults pause what they are doing for the sake of children, it sends a strong reminder that everyone—no matter how small or insignificant they seem at first glance—is an equal part of the body of Christ.

If you’re willing to lead a 3-5 minute children’s message during the contemporary worship service, please contact Andrew (andrew@foresthills.org). Your commitment would be about once per month, or once every two months.

—Andrew Garnett

* Robert Coles, The Spiritual Life of Children
(Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990), 173.