MentorNet 02 What to Do with Kids During Worship?
We hear this question more than any other from people who start new churches or small groups, but never from a non-Westerner. The solution is fourfold. We apply a more biblical approach to four Western traditions, for children's participation, Bible exposition, varying methods and harmonizing people of different ages.
1. Let children participate, more than simply hearing a ‘children’s sermon.’
Anne Thiessen (T&M Training, tribal,
"The group gets used to allowing things that are enjoyable. Drama and music are introduced in a non-threatening way. If adults watch the rehearsal, so much the better. It means more prompters and better understanding. It's kind of fun. I let the older kids take more and more responsibility for this. I help them to pick out from the Bible passages the dialogue for the younger children to speak or act out, and to summarize the story in kid-sized words. Adults, young people and children who've never helped lead in a church before now jump in and put their whole heart into it, learning as they grow. It's amazingly freeing."
2. Teach the Word the way Paul did.
Good Bible exposition seeks lays the legal and
historical foundation for abstract doctrinal teaching. Anne's practice raised
the question, "What do we do if the Bible text does not lend itself to
dramatization, such as the book of Romans." The answer lies in Romans
itself. Good Bible exposition builds on historical passages that illustrate
or give the legal basis for an abstract doctrinal passage, as Paul did in
Romans. He assumed that his readers knew the OT stories of Adam, Abraham,
Moses and the law, and referred to them constantly. Christianity (and OT
Judaism) is unique among religions in that its doctrines grow out of the
great redemptive events of history. All other religions started with some
dreamer's philosophical musings on metaphysics and ethics. But Christian
doctrines resulted from inspired consideration of historical, concrete,
redemptive events--creation, the fall, the flood, the pact with Abraham,
slavery and deliverance from
An example is the 'trial by fire' before Jesus' judgment seat (1 Cor. -15) to make sure we don't sneak evil contraband into heaven. We find the legal and historical basis in Num. 31; Moses confronted the victorious soldiers who were bringing illegal booty into the holy camp. They had to build a fire and pass the objects through it. What was purified by fire could enter; silver idols were melted down. A purely doctrinal New Testament text will have a historical basis. We can link it to an Old Testament passage or earlier New Testament event that gives its prophetic or legal basis, which kids and adults can act out. We rob people of a great treasure, not to mention lots of fun, if we fail to reenact these foundations when we teach the Word.
I thought this all applied well to house
churches and shared it on the network email@example.com.
Responses varied from mild skepticism to "Them's
good groceries!" When teachers fail to plan such
participation, it may be laziness or ignorance of the need to build
relationships while teaching. A later response from Anne Thiessen adds,
"If the passages for the day (Psalm, OT, NT)
lack drama, I simply find something related. Today we studied prayer and how
God provides for us, so we did Elijah and the ravens. A small girl was a
raven with a piece of tortilla in her ‘beak.’ A boy was the prophet sitting
next to the brook (a bowl of water--being in a house makes it easy to find
props). An adult spoke the Lord’s words telling him to go find a widow. Last
week we read Psalm 23, so we did the parable of the lost sheep. The poor lamb
bleated loudly and pitifully in the next room during the first part of the
service. Then the kids went with the ‘shepherd’ to find it. It was the
3. Vary the way you present a passage.
Jesus avoided using only one method. He used conversation, lecture, parables, object lessons, questions and a whip. You can illustrate slaying a lamb in Old Testament worship with no spoken lines. Someone enters pretending to be pulling on a rope; at the other end comes a ‘lamb’ on hands and knees, bleating. You ask the ‘worshipper’ to lay hands on its head (to confess sins) then ‘priests’ place it on the altar and slit its throat. An adult describes the blood spattering all over them, the noise, smell, flies and fire. For worship this is shocking and repugnant--because our sins are shocking and repugnant to God. Sometimes people simply act out a truth silently, other times they read lines.
For example, you might teach from Romans 5 the
grace that abounds for many through the obedience of the final Adam. Paul
compares the two
4. Mix people of different ages.
Dramatized sermons make a greater impact if adults also participate. It edifies more people when the older kids prepare and the younger and disciple them in the process. Children of all ages and cultures have a natural desire to receive attention from older children. It’s a crime to always segregate them by age. Sometimes, yes, it’s normal for them to gather with peers, but not exclusively. That impairs their ability to relate normally. A young people’s advisor wanted two boys to leave the group because they always made noise and distracted the rest. I felt that they were simply bursting with energy and creativity, so I asked them to start a new group and disciple younger children. I helped them plan and gave them the tools for discipling. They all grew as a result.
Galen Currah observes from
If you would like a list of suggestions for getting people of all ages to participate in Bible readings or short dramatizations, we will work one up if enough request it. Let us know if you would like help for simple Bible Dramas. Contact George Patterson, DennyGeorge@attbi.com.
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