Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Real Children's Church. . .

Some churches have a children's church that parallels the time of adult worship.  Sort of like a glorified Sunday school hour, the children are treated to something a bit more fun and a bit more tuned to what adults presume is their intellectual capacity.  At best it is innocuous but at worst it is a dumbed down version of Christianity that demeans both the children and those who are entertaining them.  If you are a Lutheran and your congregation segregates the kids into a children's church, you might want to think it over again before continuing to give them their own service.

Children's church IS adult church.  The children learn by memorization and memorization is best helped by the repetition and rhythms of the liturgy and the church year.  Far from being too young to get it or appreciate it, children absorb the Divine Service and internalize not only its words and music but the faith communicated in them.  They learn from watching adults who bow their heads, speak with their voices, sing His praise, kneel in humility, stand in confession, and give their attention to the Word and gifts of God given to them in the Divine Service.  Far from dumbing down the service for their benefit, we deprive them of the very witness and tools to help them grow in faith, trust, adoration, praise, and service to the God of their baptism.

The role of children is as participants in the Divine Service and as its servants.  When you see the numbers of children who serve at the altar in some liturgies, it points you in the right direction.  These children are not ornaments for the eye or encouragement for the adults or entertainment.  They serve.  Acolytes, crucifers, torchbearers, bookbearers, altar servers, and the like are not made up jobs to provide token places for children to be seen but real roles and responsibilities.  Children learn best by doing and to put them in service to the liturgy aids and abets their own memorization, devotion, and piety.  But we do not do this as on the job training.  No, they serve where they are needed and their service is nothing but important.  I cannot tell you how often I have heard kids encouraging those who serve at the altar, assisting them with advice and counsel, and even correcting them with there are the occasional accidents.  I am encouraged by their youthful voices added to mine as sing and speak the responses, chant the Introit and Psalm, sing the hymns, and add our bids to the prayers.  I hope you see them in the same way.

So, my friends, do not isolate the kids from the adults and presume that you are helping them or the adults.  You are doing neither.  Adults need to have children in their midst and children need to be there with the adults.  Such is the nature of liturgical worship.  God bless them!  From the littlest children to the teens, from those serving at the altar to those held in parent's arms, from the experienced to the novice, God bless them.  Children belong in the worship service with their families and the rest of God's people.

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