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Children In Church

Children In Church

Children In Church

The above image is doing the rounds on social media (is this the original source?) I want to add this site’s weight to the including of children in liturgy; to the inclusion of all God’s children in liturgy; to the inclusion of all in the child-like actions of liturgy…

Relax! God put the wiggle in children; don’t feel you have to suppress it in God’s house. All are welcome!
Sit toward the front where it is easier for your little ones to see and hear what’s going on at the altar.
They tire of seeing the backs of others’ heads.
Quietly explain the parts of the Mass and actions of the priest, servers, choir, etc.
Sing the hymns, pray, and voice the responses.
Children learn liturgical behavior by copying you.
If you have to leave the service with your child, feel free to do so, but please come back. As Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.”
Remember that the way we welcome children in church directly affects the way they respond to the Church, to God, and to one another. Let them know that they are at home in this house of worship.
Please let you child use the reverse side of this
card to draw and doodle.
The presence of children is a gift to the Church and they remind us that our church is growing.
Please welcome our children and give a smile of encouragement to their parents.
Children, feel free to do your artwork or words on the back of this page!

I write about children at the Eucharist in my book Celebrating Eucharist.

Many Christian communities are without children, especially in their worship. Getting children is one of their goals. But it can feel as if they do not want real children. I have often said I was going to start a company which would produce cardboard-cutout “life-size” children that a community could place in its pews. These would sit quietly. Just like shrunk adults. So the community would have their wishes fulfilled: children in church without the messiness and inconvenience to the adults of real children.

Communities need to think through why they want children? And think through the outdated paradigm: children learn; adults worship.

So often the real motivation is to have the children there for the sake of the adults, for the sake of the church, the church’s future, for the sake of the future of the pretty building… Children, and young people, sense this. Are we there for them, or are they really there for us?

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10 thoughts on “Children In Church”

  1. Amen. Amen. Amen.

    We are all the here and now and present of the church.
    I would never say to or of an older person “Oh you are the past of the church.” So why do people like to say that children are the future of the church.

  2. Perfect!

    And priests should get used to altar servers. It’s even children that should be asked to be readers and Communion helpers. This is what would bring a continuation of faith and practice.

    As for the so-called “Sunday school”, it should be done (if ever) only previous to the service.

  3. What a fantastic pew card! Thanks for sharing it with us, Bosco. (I have a set of wigglers myself, so I’m much in sympathy.)

    I once heard a youth ministry director say, “Most churches say they want more ‘young people’. I wonder what they’d think if the young people actually turned up!”

    By contrast, I was told yesterday by a theologian colleague that he has heard clergy in the largest Protestant denomination in Canada saying, with conviction, that they have come to see themselves positively as a “Church of Seniors”. They openly state that trying to bring young families into their churches is a futile distraction from their central ministry.

    Last one out, turn off the lights…

  4. Actually, I’ve heard similar to “You’re part of the past” said to conservative elderlies in the new liberal TEC. However I would say that having kids is a requirement in church here(Montana, USA) for anyone who isn’t a senior. And not just in TEC. All the singles I know who still want to be in the church, from many different denominations,say the same thing. If you aren’t married or have kids, you’re invisible or held in contempt in church. Better to have kids but never married. Which means most of the singles I know are now part of the “Spiritual but not Religious” brigade. Sometimes it’s hard to believe the two most important men in the creation of Christianity, Christ and Paul,were single.

    1. That is terrible, Chris H. It is so sad what we do to each other. I have noted that in some churches there is such an emphasis on ‘family’ that yes, singles are ignored or at the very least, not celebrated and not valued. Or assumed to be fair game to be ‘matched up’. From personal experience I also know it is difficult to be married and without children, and even more painful to be married, and a mum of a deceased child, especially when the child was not much of a reality to others.
      (Forgive my clumsy words.)

  5. To be honest I think just in expending so much time effort and money on young people the message to older people is ‘you are the past’…here in the US at least.

    People can spend their whole lives serving and giving only to be told, this is the new day…
    I worked at one church and we had a clean up day, I found a plaque where the people had been asked to and had raise significant funds to repair the church organ- under a bookshelf. It was less than ten years old. Why should people serve and give long-term when they are subsequently disregarded and disrespected for doing so.

    And young people should be able to sit still and be quiet for a few minutes a week…it’s good for them! Good for us all…

    1. Thanks for both those points, Tracy, which I heartily agree with.
      Our culture idolises youth – church is in danger of doing the same.
      And children and young people, in my experience, generally intuit the appropriate culture of the context. On (Maori) marae, in a contemplative monastery, children sit still and are quiet. They intuit the seriousness with which people are taking things. Perhaps (mis)behaviour is sometimes an indication that they do not perceive what is happening is being taken seriously… Another good thought is how much children and young people learn from going to church – skills, values, knowledge,…

  6. Thanks for this article Bosco. I have just retired as Vicar of St Margaret’s, Hillsborough. During my 27 years as Vicar we have kept our children with us throughout our Worship Services. Many of our children have remained and our now leaders in the church. The largest group at St Margarets are young adults in their 20s. I see this as the result of including children in worship.
    Even sending children out for a brief time during the service has a powerful effect on their sense of belonging. Both worship and education are for all regardless of age.

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