This is the title of an engaging piece from Church Times in the UK. I encourage everyone to read the full article here, but to summarize – there is sound reasoning for why children should be included in every aspect of church life — from worship to ministry; from governance to decision-making. It comes down to inclusiveness — finding ways that everyone, especially young people, can meaningfully participate is vital to the life of a congregation.
There are two good reasons this is true.
- Theologically, we come closer to God by becoming more childlike. Young people, especially children, are trusting, free from the pride of knowledge, teachable, receptive, joyful, and most of all, loving.
- Theoretically, involvement in every aspect of church life is not only part of our “development as people, but also as Christians.” Children who are valued for their gifts and are invited to participate in and contribute to the life of the whole community are more likely to continue to engage with a community of faith as they mature.
The latter is especially seen through corporate worship –
- Having a job to do helps us to “understand that all of us are involved in worship, not just those in robes at the front”.
- Playing a part in worship “gives children a sense of being invested in the church”.
- Benefits extend to the entire family and throughout the congregation.
- Intergenerational support and mentoring is an additional benefit, creating an “informal guild of training, support, and fellowship in faith”.
Additionally, as young people become part of wider ministries within a congregation, outside of worship, this models a Christian life that goes beyond a Sunday morning. “Their involvement in charity and social-justice projects, in planning and leading social events, and in community engagement, creates opportunities for intergenerational relationships, which then also has a knock-on effect on worship.”
We are called to be in ministry with and for children, not to children
Incorporating this new mindset requires new teachings and guidance; a willingness to pivot, change, and adapt – as a community. As the article so wisely predicts, it will be a challenge, but an important, even vital one, for the ongoing strength of a congregation. Within the article, churches adopt a new mindset and practices to help make this happen, such as –
- During worship, be open to the “pick a job when you show up” system, with each job printed out on a card by the entrance. We are called to be in ministry with and for children, not to children.
- Be self-aware. Are we lacking the contribution of young people? How can we make space for that to happen?
- Let the voice of young people actually be welcomed, encouraged, and heard. Adults need to be willing to “let them change what happens in the room.”
- Involve young people in traditionally adult roles, such as vestry, education or stewardship committees. The article suggests changing the format of meetings to a mixture of discussion and activities might serve adults as well as children.
By providing opportunities for meaningful participation, children (of all ages) can be empowered to fulfill the promise made at their baptisms: to “take their place among the life and worship of Christ’s church
Children are full members of the church by virtue of their Baptism. They have profound experiences of the mystery and presence of God long before they can put these experiences into words. “By providing opportunities for meaningful participation, children (of all ages) can be empowered to fulfill the promise made at their baptisms: to “take their place among the life and worship of Christ’s church”; to be not just the future of the church, but the church’s present, with gifts and insights to offer now, making the whole church richer and more complete with their presence.” What’s the worst thing that can happen? We enjoy church that much more!
And one last thought. Although these words are geared towards young people, perhaps this mindset can be applied to encourage adults who are less involved through the same practices.