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Thinking the Faith, Praying the Faith, Living the Faith is written by the PC(USA) Office of Theology and Worship.

Thinking, praying, and living the faith is at the core of ministry in the Office of Theology and Worship. In the following videos, learn more about what thinking, praying, and living the faith means to the leadership of the Office of Theology and Worship. Discover why it matters and what difference it makes in our lives, work, and worship.  

Charles Wiley  
Barry Ensign-George
David Gambrell
Christine Hong 
Karen Russell

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February 1, 2011

Welcoming Children in Worship

I'm preparing to lead a workshop on "Welcoming Children in Worship" — that is, providing for "children’s full participation with the whole congregation in worship, in Word and Sacrament, on the Lord’s Day," as the Presbyterian Directory for Worship instructs (W-3.1004). I realize that many congregations struggle with this principle. It's not uncommon to dismiss young children to "children's church," or to send kids to Sunday school while their parents are in worship.

But I'm convinced that — at least from kindergarten on — children need to be in public worship. I'm convinced that this is not only best for the Christian formation of children as life long worshipers and believers, but that it truly enhances the spiritual well being and vitality of the whole people of God.

That is not to say that this is an easy transition for most congregations to make. Making worship a place where children are really welcome will likely involve some significant challenges, choices, and changes. Among them: being open to a different kind of energy, and more accepting of a little noise and motion (as one would expect at a festival, rather than a lecture); building in more dependability, structure, and repetition, using consistent words and actions that children can learn and pray by heart; considering different arrangements of liturgical space, and new possibilities for music and art in worship; incorporating more liturgical catechesis into Christian education; encouraging preachers to communicate in ways that bridge generations; training parents, elders, and deacons to be mentors and guides for children in the service of worship (and beyond); and promoting practices in the home that reinforce and deepen children's faith and participation in worship.

Below is a preview of the introduction to the workshop. I would welcome comments, and would be particularly grateful for suggestions of resources to share.

Children have deep and rich spiritual lives. They have real and profound relationships with God, in Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit. Children have significant and vital gifts to bring to the worship of the whole people of God. These gifts include (but are not limited to):

  • the offering of authentic prayer and exhuberant praise;
  • a sense of wonder and gratitude;
  • lively engagement through music, movement, and visual arts;
  • the reading and interpretation of Scripture;
  • enthusiasm and joy, but also questions and fears;
  • genuine concern for neighbors, and willingness to help; and
  • a vivid awareness of the presence and action of God in worship and in the world.

Ultimately it comes down to the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism that I learned as a child. What is the chief purpose of human life? To glorify and enjoy God forever. Who better than children to lead and teach us all in glorifying and enjoying God?

Lord's Supper Picture

Categories: Spirituality , Worship