A few weeks ago, in my post “Q&A Session,” Randi asked several very good questions. One of the questions involved children, specifically about “incorporating children into the gatherings of the church.” In this post, I’m going to describe some of the ways that we incorporate or include children when the church gathers together.
To begin with, we must understand that (as with adults) there are two types of children: those who are believers and those who are not. We must recognize the difference and know how to encourage each group.
Second, children cannot be treated as second class citizens. No, they are not adults, but they are also not less important than adults. If God has placed children among the church, then he has done so because the church needs them there. They are not distractions.
This leads me to a third point. While children are as important as adults, they are not adults and should not be expected to act like adults. Why would we expect children to sit quietly while the adults interact with one another? (Of course, sometimes, adults can’t sit still either. So, we often stand up, walk around, move from here to there. There’s nothing sacred or reverent about sitting still in one place for an hour or two.)
Finally, while children are as important as adults, they do not have the same experience or ability to process information as adults. We must teach and interact with them on their level as well. (You’ll also find that many adults appreciate and learn from speaking at a “child’s level.”)
Whenever questions are raised about children, it’s usually about how the children can be a distraction to meeting together. The parents or other adults can’t concentrate on what is happening because of the children – noisiness, moving around, etc. This demonstrates that the adults (not the children) do not understand why they are meeting together. They are not there (simply) to concentrate on what is happening or what other people are saying. This is a selfish and self-centered attitude. Instead, we should be focused on others, which includes the children.
Instead of being “distracted” by the children, we should understand that God is giving us opportunities to serve him by caring for and interacting with those children, and perhaps giving the parents a break. Of course, you may not hear what someone else is saying, but that’s not why you’re there, right? You’re there to build up the body of Christ, which includes the children and their parents.
So, what do we do with the children? Well, we include them. They sit with us, talk with us, pray with us, ask questions with us, even offer comments to us. We consider the church a family, so the children are part of that family.
For myself, as I am teaching, I try to ask questions specifically to the younger children. As I begin teaching Colossians, I plan to talk to the children about sending letters, how they like to receive letters, and if they’ve sent letters.
The older children and teenagers taken an even more active part in the our church gatherings. They will usually read Scripture and even take part in the teaching. (Of course, the younger children are also encouraged to take part, and often do.) We specifically try to encourage the teenagers to begin preparing to meet with others believers.
Children (old and young) have prayed for us and asked for prayer; they have taught us, and they have learned. Children have suggested service projects, and they have taken part while we serve others. Some of our children have even started projects to serve other on their own. The younger children often sit in the floor and color or play when we meet. I love it when an adult (who is not the child’s parent) joins the child in the floor.
Recently, while we were gathered together, a young couple with their toddler daughter was meeting with us. The daughter was sitting in a walker. Suddenly, while we were discussing a certain passage of Scripture, she sped across the floor in her walker. We all laughed and rejoiced seeing her having fun and growing and learning to walk. This is just as much as part of church life (and just as important) as anything else.
Let’s include the children as part of the church, encourage them to allow God to work through them, and ask God how he wants us to serve the children while we are meeting.