Since multigenerational worship services involve all generations, why focus on children? First, children need advocates because they are seldom allowed to share their thoughts, primarily because no one asks them. Second, the inclusion of children seems to be the biggest stumbling block when congregations begin to discuss gathering the generations together. Finally, adult generational issues most often focus on style and preferences. There is really no theological debate as to their inclusion.
Remember family gatherings for the holidays, the festival of food planned for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners? Everyone is invited to bring something to the table. Even ordinary dishes like green beans get dressed up with sliced almonds or onion rings. Leaves to the dining room table are hauled up from the basement; in quite a few households a card table might be tacked on to the end of the dining table to make enough room for everyone—from the very youngest babies and toddlers to the oldest grandmothers.
How many North American families, in our harried, push-God-to-the-margins culture, still pause before eating in order to pray? One recent poll suggests a dismal 29 percent, another, an encouraging 64 percent. But a more important question might be, What sort of prayers are they? If daily prayers underscore and help children make sense of what happens in corporate worship on Sunday, what do children learn from the awkward moment of silence, or a perfunctory “Good food, good meat, good God, let’s eat” before dinner? We can do better.
As a second grader, my young son stared with bewilderment as an older member of our congregation sang from memory, with his eyes closed and a smile on his face, holding the pew ahead of him for balance, “. . . amazing love, how can it be, that you my God should die for me.” As my son settled into his place after the hymn, he whispered to me, “Do you think I will ever love God as much as that man?”
My 88-year-old mother has lived in a nursing home for almost four years. That’s more than two hundred Sundays! Frequently I ask, “Mom, did you go to church today?” Always she answers, “Oh, there’s no church here.” On several occasions I’ve attended the afternoon worship, and almost always I’d have to agree.