Why Family Worship?
Sadie Stratton Wohlfahrt, Children’s Minister
Earlier this month, Children First held its one-year anniversary service. We are so excited to be leading the way for our church, our community, and the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church- with a model of worship that is accessible to children and meaningful for adults.
As I was practicing with the children’s choir in the weeks before our anniversary service, one of our newer choir members asked the question.
“Why do we do Children First?”
I could write a dissertation on why family worship. I could talk for hours about it! (Some of you have, in fact, been subjected to this particular form of torture.)
But kids don’t care about all that stuff. They don’t want theology, or child development theory, or church politics. They want it straight and simple. You know- how another child would explain it to them, perhaps?
Which is why, against ALL of my instincts (and better judgment), I decided not to answer her myself- but instead, to put it back on the group.
Because if I truly expect kids to lead- and I tell them they can, and that they should, and they are capable- then I have to walk that talk. If this is really the kids’ worship service, then they should have ownership over it. And that includes knowing why we do it.
(Talk about an impromptu performance evaluation for your children’s minister…)
So without prompting or guiding or encouraging- or otherwise impressing my opinions upon them in any way- here were there exact words:
“Well, there are families that just don’t even get up and get out of the house on Sunday. They don’t go to church at all! This will get them out of their house!”
True. There are certainly a lot of “unchurched” families in our town.
And I am so glad you have such a high regard for our worship, my friend! I am not entirely certain that we have reached any of our unchurched friends in the community just yet, but the fact that this kid wants to- and feels he is capable- is pure gold.
“There are moms and dads at our church that put their little kids and their babies in the nursery every week, and those kids don’t get to go to worship. But now they get to come to worship every time we have Children First!
I swear, I did not set this kid up.
But, she nailed one of my biggest concerns, right on the head.
As the children’s minister at a church where we not only have such an amazing nursery available all morning, but also Sunday School classes held during one of our services, I am so glad that parents have the opportunity to worship without their children, when they so choose. But I did start to worry about whether their children have the opportunity to experience the joy of worship. With Children First, I can feel confident and comforted, that every child in our church family, has the opportunity to worship God at least once a month.
“When people go to big church, they don’t always understand everything that’s going on, and all the words that they say. Children First is like presenting it to them in a different way, so that they can understand it better.”
Admittedly, this was one of my sixth graders. He’s pretty sharp!
This is that whole “accessibility” thing. And, just to seal his piece de resistance, he immediately followed this up with “And that’s not just the kids- it’s the adults too.”
For the win!
Yes, I forge on with family worship, not just for the children. I’ve met plenty of kids who understand worship forward and backward, inside out and upside down- and I’ve met dozens of adults who don’t have a clue why we do communion, or what doxology means, or the New Testament from the Old. It’s okay! You weren’t born knowing. And getting older, doesn’t always mean getting wiser when it comes to worship.
Children First is a great avenue for anyone who just isn’t really sure about this whole church thing; whether they are unchurched, have been hurt by the church, have drifted away from God, or worry that they don’t belong. Everyone belongs in family worship!
Because we are all children of God first. We are all Children First.
Grace. Grace. Grace,