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Tina Houser explores the benefits of allowing children to lead adults in worship.

Every once in a while, a child hits us with a profound thought that comes out of their innocent point of view. It causes us to rethink our preconceived notions, brings us back to reality, or merely simplifies our outlook. Then, we lovingly and a bit sarcastically quote, “And a little child shall lead them.” It’s true that kids can point out the obvious and teach us a thing or two, but what if we intentionally taught them to lead? What if we encouraged them to lead? And, are you ready for this? What if we encouraged them to lead adults?

Small and medium-size churches, sit up and take notice of what I’m going to say here, because you’ve got an advantage over megachurches. Because of the intimacy and the small community atmosphere of your congregation, you have an incredible opportunity to make something wonderful happen, not just with the children in your care, but also with the entire church. You’re at the advantage because of your size! As part of your program, children can learn about leading worship, and I’m not talking about leading other children. Children, when given direction and supervision, can be a remarkable addition to the leadership of the corporate worship service. In megachurches, there are so many talented and capable adults who can lead, but it’s not always the case at the more common size local congregation with its three-digit attendance. It’s a perfect environment to introduce children to what it means to lead in worship and to have instilled in them that they truly are important to this particular body of believers.

The benefits to the congregation are numerous! When children are included in worship leadership, they bring with them a certain enthusiasm and lightheartedness, and that’s something everybody needs to be reminded of. After all, the scriptures tell us, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” Children bring a smile, either to our faces or to our hearts, but really what they bring is strength. One of the most difficult things for anyone to do when they come into worship is to check their worries of everyday life at the door and give God their undivided attention. Children have a blessed way of breaking down barriers, refocusing our attention, and moving us physically into a more relaxed state. With that accomplished, everyone is definitely more ready to worship. I heard a lady say one day, “When I walk in the door on Sunday and see that the children will be singing, I know it’s going to be a good morning. They always set the tone for praising.” They change an atmosphere of quiet and tradition and stoic faces to one of celebration and praise!

Tina Houser After 33 incredible years in children’s ministry within the local church, Tina is now part of the KidzMatter team as Executive Editor of KidzMatter Magazine and Senior Publications Director, writing the This iKnow kids’ church curriculum. With great enthusiasm, she gallivants all over the country to train those who share her passion for reaching kids for the Kingdom. Tina has authored 12 books, one of which is used as a textbook in some universities (but it’s not boring, really).

More from Tina Houser or visit Tina at http://www.tinahouser.net

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  • IanFJ

    Tina, a great article! And very relevant for me as I have, for some time, been thinking about and praying over what a multi-generational, family service would look like, one where everyone was involved and impacted.

    I wonder though about the potential consequences for the children of “leading” those whom they should be led by. Do they lose a sense of perspective, lose a respect for authority? What influence on their self-esteem? Any thoughts?

    • Tricia

      As someone who has a background in both Christian Education and elementary education, my perspective is that children can both lead and be respectful. That is the key. Leading *shouldn’t* at it’s heart be about power. We learn in community.
      I don’t give up my role as parent, teacher, or educator. I don’t discount my years of life and experiences. However, I *do* give up the idea that I can’t learn anything truly meaningful from a child or a youth.
      What I’ve also found is that adults are very reluctant to give up control sometimes. We *say* that we want to have children participate in church. But when there is a Youth Service, I have seen some of the same people who say that they want youth to grow spiritually also deliberately not attend Youth Service. What does that say?
      In my opinion we give leadership and responsibilities in the same way that we do in a loving household. All children can participate in contributing to the family, having ideas, helping with chores, etc. They just do it in a way that is age-appropriate, and as they age they take on more leadership and accountability.
      We wonder why our youth are disconnected with church. I contend that the youth of today are not just selfish brats that don’t care about people, and/or aren’t passionate. I have seen and heard powerful testimonies of children who have stood up against injustice, and who have (on their own accord) wanted to raise funds and awareness for issues that matter. When we don’t let our youth (especially our high schoolers and college age *if* we have them) have a voice and take them seriously, and let them fully use their gifts and abilities, why would they feel that they have a place in the church?
      I have been part of intergenerational services and programs (and I’m looking to try to bring this to my current position). The experiences that I have had have been wonderful and rich when leaders have shown respect to all and openness to hear and learn. So many people felt enriched by the experiences.

      • IanFJ

        You are so right! Thank you for taking the time to respond. I look forward to the day when I will be able to put these ideas into practise.

        • Tri

          I’m glad that you found my thoughts helpful! :)
          Currently I’m struggling a little with getting the adults and the kids to really believe that I actually *want* to hear their voices and opinions even if they say things like, “Church is boring for me.” or “It seems like only old people go to church”.
          I want to really open up a dialogue and explore why they feel these things and what we can do to help them connect. It is NOT all about them, and they have to realize that some things might not connect with them but are helpful to others. But, that they can have a real voice and find things that they are passionate about that they can share with their church family in meaningful ways.
          All the very best on your journey!

          • IanFJ

            A friend of mine has led an interesting experiment here in Sydney.

            He and his wife were/are a part of a suburban-like church community. They experimented with having families meeting before the service to plan the service. So, one family would be responsible for the Gathering section, another the Response section, and another the Dismissal section. With the kids, they would brainstorm the elements to be included then lead that section of the service. It is a very intriguing concept but I’ve yet to hear how the experiment has been progressing. This might be a solution for your struggle.

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