Help, There Are Kids in My Service!
Practical tips for engaging your church’s youngest members
When the pandemic shut down in-person gatherings across the U.S., families viewed online services together at home. Even as churches reopened, kids’ services often remained on hold, which meant parents brought their children into the sanctuary. Now, as the holidays approach, some churches are planning family services as part of their seasonal programming.
There may be a number of reasons why many of your listeners are smaller and squirmier than usual. With more kids in the mix, how can you keep services running smoothly — and make the most of your time together?
First, let’s consider the opportunity before us. When I was growing up, kids had no choice but to sit with their parents in adult services. While I’m a big proponent of age-specific learning, there are some advantages of families attending services together.
One important benefit is children getting to see their parents worship in a public setting. I once watched a father and his 8-year-old son praising God together during a worship service. The little boy’s posture, standing with his arms outstretched, was a mirror image of his father’s. It was a beautiful reminder of the power of generational discipleship.
What parents model, children imitate — including church participation. From taking Communion to responding to an altar call, kids are more likely to join in when they see moms, dads, and grandparents doing it.
Giving children a chance to hear from the lead pastor and worship with people of all ages is another advantage of families attending together. Such experiences help them understand church is more than just kids’ ministry.
As a family pastor, one of my most important goals is to see children become lifelong disciples of Jesus. I want them to know they are always welcome in church and that they will never outgrow God’s family.
Admittedly, as I reflect on those times when I had to sit with my mom in the sanctuary, I don’t remember much other than being bored. But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bring kids into our services. Rather, it means we shouldn’t miss the opportunity to be intentional when we have the whole family together.
Relatable stories and simple jokes are easy ways to draw kids into a message.
Be Kid Friendly
One of the first rules of communication is to know your listeners. Here are three things to keep in mind when including kids:
1. Acknowledge them. Publicly recognizing children during the service, whether by name or in general, lets everyone know, especially the kids, they are welcome.
2. Watch the time. Whether planning the length of your sermon or the number of worship sets, keep the tolerance level of children in mind. Kids generally have shorter attention spans and may check out sooner than adults.
3. Catch their interest. You don’t have to completely revamp your services, but do include elements that capture the attention of little ones. Relatable stories and simple jokes are easy ways to draw kids into a message.
Mix It Up
Standard sermons are among the least effective ways of connecting with children. Be willing to do things a little differently on occasion. After all, variety and creativity can go a long way toward engaging people of all ages.
Plan moments that will connect with your little ones. The gospel is serious stuff, but don’t be afraid to bring in elements that make children laugh, such as a cartoon clip, or sit up and take notice, such as a living nativity. Your parents will thank you for it.
Offer hands-on activities. Coloring pages can keep kids occupied in a variety of settings, but if they illustrate the sermon theme, these and other interactive activities powerfully reinforce the day’s message as well. These can also become resources for parents to use as they revisit the sermon with kids at home.
Involve the parents. Consider ways to engage children through their parents. Intentional family prayer times during the service and take-home discussion questions are just a couple of ideas.
Bring In Experts
You don’t have to do this alone. You probably already have people in your church who are pros at connecting with kids, from elementary school teachers to your own children’s pastor. Recruit them to help you plan and create family services that will reach young attendees.
This could be a time for your kids’ ministry team to shine. Be sure to let them know how much you value their input and creativity.
Whatever the reason for bringing together people of all ages for services, we should never view it as a burden. Instead, let’s see it as an amazing opportunity to stretch ourselves and make our families stronger.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2020 edition of Influence magazine.