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children & church

5 Reasons Children Need to be in Church

children & church

I have long been passionate about having children in church. One of the chapters in my book Celebrating Eucharist is Chapter 18 – Children at the Eucharist. At a recent synod I attended, our church’s national youth adviser stood up and declared that our years of segregating youth from the worshipping community have failed.

Many parish services I visit/attend bear out this reality. Anglicanism is no longer the Tory Party at Prayer. It is not even the Green Party at Prayer. When you look around, many congregations are steadily heading towards being the retirement village at prayer.

If we believe that the church’s life and mission is of value, then rejuvenating the life of the Christian community is important. If we believe that the message of Jesus is worthwhile, then that the generations following the Baby Boomers are mostly not participating in it should at least cause us to sit up.*

We don’t need more programmes. We don’t need more bait-and-switch ways to try and trick people into church. We need to believe in what we do and put it into practice appropriately.

I recently read these five reasons why children should be in the main service and I repeat them here:

  • Children should not be removed from the main body for convenience sake.
  • Children are a part of the Body of Christ.
  • Children need godly examples of how to worship.
  • Children need to feel like they are a part of the church community.
  • Children who don’t feel like a part of the church community will leave church when they’re older

 What do you think?

If interested, do read the chapter: Children at the Eucharist

*The idea behind this sentence is difficult to express – younger generations may be participating more in the message of Jesus without attending church services and without even using the name “Jesus” or the word “God.” Furthermore, with the way many church people behave, many church communities act, and the issues that many church people put major energy into, the death of church as we know it may be God’s will.

Let’s also at least be honest about the looming end of the church.

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19 thoughts on “5 Reasons Children Need to be in Church”

  1. raymond lambie

    No such thing as the looming end of the Church, The Body of Christ is the Church, and the Church is the Body of Christ, change in the way in which ee worship , yes, but not the end.

  2. you are absolutely right being in a church where there are more mobility buggies than pushchairs more 103 birthdays than 3 years John is retired now but helps out in a church in Eastbourne and we are in an interregnum so worship is led by three old goggers but they are actually doing rather well congregation numbers are rising even more children traditional catholic children are encourage to join in one problem for churches here is encouraging to come into the church in johns last parish a council estate with a reputation coming to church when in trouble to many seances or needing food but would also come into church during Mass just to light candle even the children we held table top sales in body of church and during epiphany some children came into church walked straight past stall selling toys to look at nativity with the three wise men fascinated unfortunately parents not interested other churches tend to push children to the back i try to encourage the to go forward so the children can see what is happening even persuaded a group to allow me to take their children to the front and were amazed that their previously naughty children behaved perfectly and enjoyed themselves I must stop

    1. Amen, Brenda-Ruth, to children at the front. And children know perfectly well how to behave – they pick up the importance of the occasion from the adults… Easter Season Blessings.

  3. Bosco
    This has been my push for a very long time as well. My own children were ‘in services’ even if they coloured in or talked with others at the back of the church.
    In fact we often were surprised to get home and one of them ask what the vicar meant about some point in the sermon.
    Children hear more than we give them credit for and it’s about time we acknowledge them in the whole body of Christ – after all we welcome them in baptism to the body, let’s help them celebrate as well.

    1. Thanks, Jason! Nothing wrong with colouring in during parts of the service. A good tradition is “children’s bags” which includes teaching, colouring in, something to read, etc. Let me tell you about little children quoting the Eucharistic Prayer that I didn’t think they were paying much attention to… Easter Season Blessings.

  4. Good article Bosco. It is interesting to me that when I ask people “what makes you feel close to God’ the two things that are most frequently mentioned are nature and children, yet our churches tend to exclude both. Not only does having children in church benefit them, it benefits us too.

    1. Thanks, Christine. Next you’ll be telling me about Jesus and children… 😉 Easter Season Blessings!

  5. Jesse Billett

    As we’ve discussed in the past, Bosco, this is a convicting matter for me. In theory I fully support the presence of children through the whole liturgy. But in practice I have been grateful to shunt my own kids off to nursery and Sunday School and enjoy 45 minutes of contemplation (or at least the leisure to indulge my indignation at the bad liturgy or preaching).

    For example, when we first moved to my new job, we were kindly invited to attend one of the city’s celebrated Anglo-Catholic parishes. But chasing a crawling child who was trying to grab the lit votive candles on the floor at the Marian shrine was pretty counterproductive. And trying to shush a noisy toddler who was interrupting the sublime choral anthems was exhausting.

    That all suggests that our physical spaces and musical and ritual choices often do not realistically envisage the presence of children. That’s tolerable in some communities, like college chapels, where children (and, indeed, the very aged) will seldom be present. It’s less tolerable in those communities that profess to welcome and serve young families.

    I had an interesting conversation about this with a learned priest friend just the other day. He was very critical of my parish’s practice of “disappearing” children until they are brought up to receive communion. (They enter to a jaunty Taize chorus, inserted between the Eucharistic Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer.) He said that for him as a child, if it hadn’t been for a monthly service where he was allowed to be present to hear the words of institution in the Eucharistic Prayer, he probably wouldn’t even have continued a Christian.

    (My priest friend was, on the other hand, very sceptical about the pastoral wisdom of admitting young children to communion. I don’t want to get sidetracked on that issue — about which your own views, Bosco, are clear and cogently argued. But his position was, I must confess, much more coherent than my *practice* of allowing my children to be communicated without having been present at the liturgy itself, in which they would be taught and formed in the meaning of the rite.)

    1. Thanks, Jesse.

      In all spheres of life, theory and practice are often difficult to match. This part of church life is no exception. In my chapter, I mention a couple of models, including having children separate for a part of the service.

      What I think the national youth adviser was talking about were the practices of youth groups and separate young people events that were constructed de novo and have no connection to the inherited Christian worship tradition. What you are describing, I think, fits within a spectrum.

      Where one practices along that spectrum varies from person to person, community to community, Sunday to Sunday, child to child. I think pausing (as you and I clearly do) from time to time to critique our practice based on the sort of values and principles of this post, my chapter, your comment, is very important.

      Easter Season Greetings.

  6. Thanks. My “aha” about children in church and receiving the Eucharist was when my 3 year old asked “when can I have Christ?” Not cookie or wafer or bread. Christ. Happily when I spoke to the priest he said, “now”.

    1. Thanks, Kathy. Yes! I’m of the school that a Christian child not have a memory when they were not receiving Christ. Easter Season Blessings.

  7. Hi Bosco,
    Firstly I apologise for the length of this post but this subject is most important to me. Feel free to edit as you see fit.
    I agree completely with your comments regarding children in church and would offer the following in support.
    In our Parish we have a woman who not only has an extensive family of her own but also has for forty years offered foster care for children in emergency need. She is so highly regarded by all the relevant agencies including C.Y.F. and the Police that she recently was honoured by the Governor General.
    To say she understands children and their needs and capabilities would be like describing Yehudi Menuhin as a passable fiddler. She is truly expert in child welfare.
    When children in her care are staying on Sundays she brings them to church. Many may never have been inside a church before.
    She does not seek a crèche or some other kind of child-distraction facility. No playing with toys or colouring-in. She sits with her charges and leads them gently through what is going on. Other members of the community are encouraged to help and do so with relish. If the children have been before and are growing in confidence they are invited to actively join in such things as processions, lighting candles etc. The children always respond well to this attention and inclusion.
    These children are a gift to our aging community. We do not wish to have them sent away to some other place while we get on with our service, we want them with us: for our good and for their’s.
    As well as being a parish priest I am also Chaplain to a school. Too often I hear parents of the professional class telling me they have too little time with their children. Yet, when (if) they come to church, they expect these same children to be entertained elsewhere; a bit like the kid’s club on a package holiday. I wonder if they see the contradiction?
    Too many people when advocating special programmes for children fail to see that they are promoting separation and exclusion which, to a child, gives two messages; ” I am not wanted”, and, “this is not for me”.
    No wonder our churches lack children!

      1. The friend who shared this with me commented further (quoted with permission)

        “I know I’m an old curmudgeon, but the synagogue, as opposed to the building it is housed in, is a place for people to be able to have concentration in their devotions, and focus on their conversation with God – I hear people saying all the time that the children have to be brought in at a young age to make them “comfortable” but at the end of the day, all it teaches them is that it’s an extension of their playroom and they grow up to be adults who talk during services, instead of people who appreciate the sacredness of the whole thing… – I’m a big believer in children’s services, and bringing them in for the end part which is mainly sung by everyone together… but I’m also a big believer in motherhood being an act of what is called in Hebrew – Mesiras Nefesh – which is self-sacrifice – the me-generation can’t bear to miss out on a second of the fun, no matter how inappropriate it is to bring a child to… (movies, restaurants etc)…. And if you set your home up, your children enjoy doing their little prayers at home, getting a candy, and playing games/reading, helping set the table etc until everyone comes home… but that’s not the easy route – the easy route is taking them before they are ready to destroy everyone else’s experience… Of course, we’re also talking about a service that lasts about 3 hours with a mixture of out loud, silent individual and reading the Torah… that’s a long time for a kid…”

        1. There’s so much to reflect on in this, Claudia.

          Starting backwards – the most recent service I presided at had well over 400 people present, about 250 came communion, there were three hymns, a chanted psalm, readings, choir pieces, sermon, prayers, silence – and all in a 50 minute period.

          I also wonder if Christianity is very bad, generally, at making our faith a home reality. Judaism has a strong faith-at-home tradition. We Christians barely struggle to maintain grace at a main meal.

          It is noticeable that in this comment there isn’t some sort of mock-synagogue experience constructed for young people. There’s either synagogue as it is. Or no synagogue.

          As I said – much more to chew over. Thank you.


  8. My sister-in-law and her husband have two young kids, and they want to make sure that they grow up to be really good people. They want to start going to church because they think that will help them develop good morals and be successful in life. You make a great point that if we believe that the church’s mission is of value, the rejuvenating the life of the Christian community is important. I think it would really help if they could find a church that they like and then take their kids there every week.

    1. Thanks, Monica. Yes – discover a church they like, and also one that has a healthy theology/spirituality. Blessings.

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