Children in Worship
Preaching to children is nothing new. It's been | happening—in one form or another—as long as children have been part of the church. Even some of the older sermons in print include occasional invitations to the "boys and girls" to listen carefully because this is "especially for you." And as early as the 1800s publishers found a market for collections of children's sermons.
The elderly gentleman was adamant. Including a children's message in the worship service, he said, distracted other worshipers from focusing on God.
An equally elderly gentleman leaned forward to emphasize his disagreement. He said he was thrilled to see that finally the lambs as well as the sheep were being fed at the worship service.
A mother added her viewpoint. She said that she sometimes got more out of the children's message than the sermon.
Standing on the Lord's Side: A drama about Joshua, Caleb, and the other spies (Numbers 13,14; Joshua 7,24)
Child, sitting with storyteller
Moses: a very old man
Ten other spies (one spokesperson)
Crowd 1, with three spokespersons (for scene 1 the crowd could be the entire church school or the entire congregation)
The Voice of God
RESURRECTION CHURCH, FLINT, MICHIGAN
"Resurrection RCA doesn't have a lot of baggage in the way of traditional expectations for worship services," admits Pastor Paul "Bud" Pratt. "So we have been free to develop our ministry based on the needs we see. And our ministry to the family has been very intentional."
Q I attended a Lutheran church, and there they call the sermon a "homily." How does a homily differ from a sermon?
Children who take part in the Children and Worship program know what worship is all about. They say worship is "telling God you love him," "showing God how much you love him," "praying to God," "singing songs," "learning about God," "believing in God and talking about it," and "giving things to someone special."
Can you imagine adults defining worship more aptly?
Michael Burkhardt. St. Louis, Missouri: Concordia Publishing House, 1994. Publication no. 99-1433, $39.95
Have you noticed the new "kid on the block," or, more accurately, the new hymnal reference in all the service resources in this issue of RW? Those of you who check out the fine print for the sources of songs used in the various services and drama, will notice a new set of letters. SFL stands for Songs for LiFE, a new children's hymnal just published by CRC Publications. A leader's edition is scheduled for release this summer.
Text by Sandra Soderlund, drawings by Catherine Fischer. New York: American Guild of Organists, 1994. 24 pp., $12.00. Available from AGO Headquarters, 475 Riverside Drive, Suite 1260, New York, NY 10115; (212) 870-2310; fax (212) 870-2163.
Though it has faded in importance over the last few decades, the godparent relationship has had a long and distinguished history in the church. Traditionally chosen by the parents of a child and present at baptism, godparents played a number of roles in the life of a baptized child. Sometimes they even assumed the parental role when the parents were unable to for some reason. Perhaps most important, godparents were responsible with the parents to insure that a child received the proper spiritual training.
Phyllis Vos Wezeman and Anna L. Liechty. Grand Rapids: Kregel Resources, 1994. 72 pp., $7.99.
The authors have taken a very simple approach to teaching children the backgrounds to thirty hymns. The hymns themselves are not included; rather, two pages are devoted to each hymn story, including a craft idea to prepare ahead or to involve children in a class or home activity.
Reformed covenantal theology and the sacrament of baptism both say that children are an integral part of the church. But our words and actions often communicate quite the opposite. In a variety of ways the church tells its younger members, "Grow up and then you'll count!"
Carolyn C. Brown. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993. $19.95. Based on the Revised Common Lectionary. Three volumes, for Years A, B, and C.
Whether or not your congregation follows the lec-tionary, your worship planning team—and congregation—will benefit greatly from these excellent ideas for involving children in congregational worship. Each Sunday of the Christian Year is given three pages of creative and helpful suggestions.
THANKSGIVING FROM THE SCRIPTURE
[Response (in bold) sung by the congregation, using the tune KREMSER PsH 237, PH 559, RL 62, TH 97]
Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion; and to you shall vows be performed.
We praise you, O God, our Redeemer, Creator; in grateful devotion our tribute we bring,
There is still time to register for COLAM 95, the Conference on Liturgy and Music scheduled for the week of July 17, 1995, at Calvin College. A brochure was inserted in Reformed Worship 35. If you need more copies or more information, see the phone and address information in the list of conferences. Remember that this is a family conference, with activities planned for children and adults.
CRC PUBLICATIONS SELLS CHORAL CATALOG
Helene G. Zwyghuizen. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994. 221 pages. $13.99.
Robbie Castleman. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1993. 125 pp., $7.99.
I know about the difference between worship B.C. and worship a.d. As Robbie Castleman explains it, that's worship "before children" and worship "after diapers." For parents and their children the church experience can be a seemingly endless hour of whispered commands and coloring books. Or it can be the most intimate moments of sharing an awareness of God's presence.
Summer vacations are over. Ministries are finding their feet again after an extended break. The hands of God's people are readied to take up the callings and tasks that he has prepared for them.
Sara Covin Juengst. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1994. 116 pp., $11.99.
In her book Sharing Faith with Children, Sara Juengst addresses a dilemma many pastors face—whether or not to include a children's sermon in the worship service. After outlining the problem in chapter one, she moves into a description of the context of the children's sermon—the worship setting—in chapter two.
Ven will I zing?"
It wasn't a request. The voice over the phone—disembodied, since neither Ray nor his wife, Claire, had ever met the manóasked the question baldly. Whether he was capable of singing had apparently never entered his mind.
Every spring the children in Bethany's Youth Choir have something to look forward to. They know that this year, like last year and the years before, they will have the opportunity to lead an evening worship service. Through singing, acting, costumes, and lights, they will bring a part of Scripture to life for the congregation.
Why do I have to go to church? I hate sitting there—it's so boring!" I remember the first time my daughter said those words. I shuddered, wondering where my husband and I had gone wrong. But after I had thought about her honest remarks for a while, I had a few questions of my own: Why do our church services so often exclude and ignore children? And what does attending "adult" services do to our children's attitude toward God and his church?
A number of years ago I became a friend of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein through the Chicago area evangelical and Jewish dialogue. As our friendship developed, Rabbi Yechiel invited my colleague Morris Inch, myself, and our wives to celebrate Shabbat with them. Yechiel's lovely wife, Bonnie, greeted us with an embrace at the door, making us feel immediately at home. After a brief time of friendly conversation, the Ecksteins invited us to sit down at the table.
Worship is the heartbeat of the Christian community. Yet increasingly, children below the age of seven spend part, if not all, of the Sunday worship hour having experiences that range from baby-sitting to mini-worship. If you believe, as I do, that young children encounter, experience, and worship God, then perhaps you are also concerned with the kind of opportunities available for their worship experience. I have addressed this issue since 1985 when I developed "Children and Worship," a multisensory approach to worship with young children.
Sometimes our praise can't be contained in words
Liturgical dance is quite new to many Christians in the Reformed/ Presbyterian tradition. We are often unsure of its place in our worship. And we have many practical questions about who dances, what form the dance takes, and what clothing the dancers wear.
Teaching small children proper behavior for a church service is no small task. Being quiet and sitting still seems nearly impossible for most wiggly little ones—especially little ones who have spent every Sunday in memory playing dolls, trucks, and building blocks in the church nursery and who suddenly decide to try church cold turkey.
by Sonja M. Stewart and Jerome W. Berryman. Westminster Press, 1989.
See "Letting the Story Stand" (p. 25) for further information about the program described in this book.
Our Heritage of Hymns. Choristers Guild, 1986
Exploring the Hymnal. Choristers Guild, 1986.
These two educational books, reviewed in RW 5, are excellent resources for teaching children about the hymns of the church.
by Margie Morris.Discipleship Resources, 1988. 66 pp.
What can you do at home to make church more meaningful for your children? A Methodist author presents sensible, workable discussions, exercises, and games to help children understand worship and become a part of it. She demonstrates how we can explain various aspects of the worship service and how children can be participants who joyfully share in praising God. In some ways this is a simplified version of the Ng and Thomas book—a good place to start.
My work with children in worship begins from my own narrative — from what I remember of my worship experiences as a child. Like many other Black Baptist churches, the Canaan Baptist Church of Chicago gave children plenty of opportunities to participate actively in worship. We marched down the aisles of our church, singing and swaying to the hymns. We served as junior ushers, escorting parishioners to their pews. We collected money and prayed offertory prayers.
Discipleship Resources, 1988.
This brand-new package by the United Methodist Church is an ambitious undertaking. It features a thirteen-session instruction program, aimed at systematically teaching children and parents about worship.
Children's sermons should bring good news rather than grand expectations
The pressure is on. The council has votedyes on the parents'proposal that each morning service include a children's sermon. It's up to the worship committee and the pastor to come up with some topics.
The quickest solution is also one of the worst. It's something we've all witnessed far too often:
by Mary Catherine Berglund. The Pastoral Press, 1987. 137 pp.
Gather the Children, a Roman Catholic resource, places more emphasis on Scripture than do most Protestant books on children and worship. The book is intended for "children's church," the period when children leave the sanctuary, but Berglund clearly expects them to return for the eucharist.
Using the church year to teach the mighty acts of God
Dirk is five. He wiggles a lot in church. Sings some. Talks too much. And doesn't get much out of the sermon. Sometimes a musical instrument, a choir, or a change of banners and colors catches his attention—but not often enough. Usually worship is words and ideas rather than the concrete objects, people, and events that have meaning for children. So Dirk returns to his crayons.
by A. Roger Gobbel and Phillip C. Huber. John Knox Press, 1981. 106 pp.
Creative Designs is several cuts above most other books about children's sermons. The (Lutheran) authors begin (pp. 3-40) with a carefully reasoned explanation of the role of children in worship ("Not what we can do for children, but what we can do along with children"). The rest of the book is devoted to forty-three conversations (containing many questions) an adult can have with children as part of the worship service.
A challenge to include children in all our worship activities
by Patricia Nederveld
Dear Lord God,
I pray to
You every day
For what I need
And you give it to me.
I will keep on praising
Jesus, I love You.
"A Psalm of Jasmine"
by Arline J. Ban. Judson Press, 1981. 128 pp.
Children's Time was written in the context of rather traditional Baptist churches who want to make the worship service more meaningful to children. Ban considers the dilemma of children remaining in the service versus being separated to a another worship place. She opts (mildly) for the first and makes a number of suggestions for incorporating. children into the regular service.
Why the RCA said yes to baptized children at the Lords Supper
Should children be permitted at the Lord's table?
Thirty years ago that question would not have come up in most evangelical churches. But today many churches have studied that question seriously (see box). And many members of these churches believe baptized children should be allowed and encouraged to participate in the Lord's Supper./p>
Why this shift in thinking? What has prompted the discussion? What issues are at stake?
Today we celebrate the greatness of our God—the one who created us with minds to learn, gave us the abilities to master skills, and opens our hearts to understand that all learning is for his glory. We ask each person worshiping here today, whether four or eighty-four, to stand as we now celebrate schooling in this "Litany of Learning."
by David Ng and Virginia Thomas. John Knox Press, 1981. 156 pp.
This book has become somewhat of a standard text and remains one of the best guides on children and (or rather in) worship. Sensitive to biblical models, Reformed theology, and child development, the authors present a compelling case for children as full participants in worship. Ng and Thomas recognize that such inclusiveness requires deliberate effort on the part of the home and the church. They suggest routes for moving congregations in that direction.
by Sheri Triezenberg and Susan K. Verwys. Grand Rapids, 1988. Available from the authors, 2551 Birchcrest SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506. $28.50.
Baptism: a Celebration of God's Presence is a twenty-sheet resource packet intended to highlight a child's baptism. It contains statements on the meaning and importance of baptism and guides for specific practices that will make the sacrament more celebrative. The guides include suggestions for banner making and for conducting the baptismal service.
I wonder if you realize how much your quarterly publication is admired. At classis I asked how many use it and was happy to see so many hands go up. Comments are so favorable, and you are making a nation-(continent?) wide impact. Thank you.
Celebrating the worldwide church of Christ
OUR WORSHIP BEGINS
Introit: "In the Presence of Your People"1
Text from Psalm 22 and 145
Tune with characteristics of the hora, a Jewish circle dance
Psalm 96 [responsively]
Hymn: "All Creatures of Our God and King "2
Worship Resource File
Several helpful RW subscribers have submitted resources they developed in using the Psalter Hymnal (PsH). In addition, the CRC Worship Committee has worked on two combined liturgies. To receive any of these resources, just write us and ask.
Hymn suggestions involving children
The "Hymn of the Month" for Reformed Worship 11 included selections for April, May, and June; with this issue we begin with September, skipping July and August. We are adjusting our schedule to give worship leaders more lead time for planning and to bring hymns of the month in line seasonally with other resources in this and future issues.