Cheryl Markland, the children’s consultant for the Baptist State Convention of NC writes about options for corporate worship for children in this three-part series.

As the consultant for childhood ministry, I frequently find that churches offer “children’s church” as an alternative to children attending corporate worship with their parents and other adults of the church. Children’s church is designed in principle to offer worship “on a child’s level of understanding.” Many curriculum providers offer a “worship curriculum” add-on that can be purchased in addition to their regular Bible study curriculum to make it easier for churches to plan children’s church during the time set aside for corporate worship. It is important that a church not automatically add a separate children’s church without considering the need for it.

A church’s decision to offer children’s church should be based on answers to the following questions:

  • Why am I offering children’s church?
    1. Our parent’s expect children’s church.
    2. It is a draw to attract guests.
    3. Children need to learn material presented on their own level and our pastor cannot fulfill this role.
    4. The children are bored in “adult” worship.
    5. The children disrupt worship for the adults in the congregation.
    6. Parents want a break from their children.
  • What will happen during children’s church?
    1. Childcare
    2. Bible teaching
    3. Snack
    4. Games
    5. Crafts
    6. Music
    7. Continuation of the Sunday School hour
    8. Teaching from a different unrelated church curriculum
    9. Unrelated messages from rotating leaders
    10. Intentional worship focus
    11. Worship education
  • Will children’s church be held during the entire worship hour or will the children be dismissed after music based worship and before the sermon?
  • What ages will be included in children’s church?
  • What ages will join together in a large group setting during children’s church?
  • Can we effectively teach a large age range of children during one large group setting?
  • Will I use curriculum, an organized teaching plan, or have each leader create their own “message”?
  • Are there enough willing adults to securely staff and lead children’s church on a consistent basis?
  • Do I feel the need to provide children’s church to compete with other churches in my area?
  • Do we have a large number of children who attend our church without parents or grandparents?
  • Will children experience life in the body of the church at any other time of the week or month?
  • What resources/equipment do we currently have for children’s church?
  • Is there sufficient budget to purchase equipment we may need?
  • What space is available during the time children’s church will be offered?

The decision to offer children’s church should not be made without thoughtful prayer and consideration of all that is involved. Serious consideration must be made to decide if children’s church is truly the best place for children to worship. With intentionality in worship planning and presentation, children are often more effectively led to worship in the corporate church setting. Parents play a large role in modeling, teaching and setting the tone for worship.

Scripture reminds us that God planned and designed opportunities for multigenerational corporate worship. Exodus 12:24-28 (CSB) tells one of the primary reasons for yearly celebrations of the Passover:

“When your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ you are to reply, ‘it is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, for He passed over the house of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes.’”

Deuteronomy 31:12-13 (CSB) says,

“Gather the people–men, women, children and the resident aliens within your city gates—so that they may listen and learn to fear the Lord your God and be careful to follow all the words of the law.”

As we gather together corporately for worship, parents model, teach and reflect their love and honor of God. When parents do, the church has been obedient to

“tell the next generation the praise worthy acts of the Lord, His might, and the wondrous works he has performed.” Psalm 78:4 (CSB)

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Take a look at part two of this 3-part series.