Big Church, Little Church: Which to Choose for Kids?

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Big Church, Little Church: Which to Choose for Kids?
There’s been quite a bit of bruhaha lately about whether to send your kids to children’s church or keep them with their parents in the larger congregation. As a long time children’s minister, (twenty years now) I’ve seen the “big church, little church” debate arise numerous times.  It’s healthy to talk about these things but for those of you who choose to keep your children involved children’s ministry on Sundays, you may experience some “shaming” from parents who do not. I wish it wasn’t the case but it is so often. I sincerely pray that love will abound as the church and families discuss these subjects.
Each time this “issue” rises I make the same points. Here are a few why and why nots that may help influence your decision.
Why You Should Keep Your Children in Children’s Church

  • Children enjoy and participate in age-appropriate worship.
  • Children’s ministry teaches children how the bible applies to their lives specifically.
  • Avoid creating an uncomfortable teaching experience if pastor touches on an adult topic.
  • Children’s church gives children a chance to serve God in ministry. (Volunteer helpers, service programs.)

Why You Should Not Keep Your Children in Children’s Church

  • Your child has expressed an interest in seeing what happens in the adult church.
  • Your child has some behavior problems and needs one-on-one attention.

Now let’s go beyond the whys and why nots. In my experience I see children’s church purists keeping their children in the adult service for a different reasons. They are usually one of the following:

  1. Parent had a disagreement with the children’s pastor.
  2. Parent thinks they could do a better job.
  3. Parent doesn’t think church should be fun.
  4. Parent believes that other children are bad influences.

Ultimately, where you send your kids is your decision and your responsibility. Nobody that I know, nobody that serves children would dare to suggest otherwise. However, if you’re preventing children from attending children’s church because of any of the above four reasons, please reconsider. Settle disagreements quickly (as the Bible tells us), offer to help if you want to participate. Try to think about church the way your child does. If you think another child is a bad influence you step in and be a good one.
On behalf of all children’s ministry workers, please know that we are here to help you, partner with you, assist you. Children’s ministry isn’t just for kids, it’s for families.
You can do it!
Read more from Mimi by following her blog at Tools for Kids Church.

3 thoughts on “Big Church, Little Church: Which to Choose for Kids?”

  1. Our church does not offer a children’s church. The children attend worship with their parents. There is short portion of the service at which time the children come forward while the school principal or the pastor does a children’s sermon, asking children questions they can relate to, or doing an object lesson to explain the Gospel or the Bible lesson just read, in ways they can understand. Then they re-join their parents and listen to the sermon and participate with the hymns, prayers and offering as important members of the congregation. This way they learn how to act in God’s house, learn the litergy, hymns, prayers, and creeds, as do the adults. We learn together. No one is turned away from worshiping in God’s house because they are too young. Jesus wants the little children to come to Him, even among adults. (If the parent feels the child is too unruly or loud, the parent decides to take him out to get a drink of water or walk at the back of the sanctuary until he is ready to join us again.) We tried a nursery during the worship service a few years ago, but there was little interest in manning the nursery. We also provide children’s bulletins that are written for that Sunday’s lesson. It contains a coloring page, a word find or maze or suggests something the child is to listen for or find during the service. Some parents bring little quiet books and such for the younger children. We did offer children’s activity bags for use each Sunday, They contained coloring books, 4-6 crayons, a story book, maybe a finger puppet or a tiny stuffed animal..all Bible-related. However, some of the older women thought the toys and crayons spread too many germs so they bags were discontinued. My children all grew up worshiping with us. The children in our church seem to enjoy worshiping with their parents. Very few parents end up taking their children out except maybe to use the bathroom. Even the 3 and 4 year olds sing along, say the prayers and love going up for the children’s sermon. After the service is the education hour. Adults go to a Bible Study lead by the Pastor or another leader, and the children attend Sunday School with their own age groups and age appropriate Bible lessons and activities. This way the teachers get to worship with adults and then teach the children, most of whom have heard the lesson already and can remember and relate as the Bible lessons in Sunday School often coincide with the church lesson.

  2. That sounds like a great balance C Metzger.
    I think the reasons for why you should not keep your children in children’s church is missing some of the biggest reasons. For example, staying together as a family and seeing their parents worshiping as well as the rest of the church (ie. true intergenerational community). The studies of why children grow up and leave the church and why they don’t, suggest that true intergenerational community is one of the strongest ‘glues’ that helps faith to genuinely ‘stick’.
    I’m not against age specific teaching either, in fact i’m for it, but I think it would be nice to be able to do both. Ie. intergenerational worship with all the family together, then age specific teaching afterwards. I think this article overlooks/dismisses a lot of the genuine benefits of true intergenerational worship.
    Also the four reasons the author listed as being a ‘wrong’ reason not to enrol your child in children’s church instead don’t seem valid to me.
    * Parents think they could do a better job. The parents are the ones instructed by God to have primary responsibility for teaching their children. They are the one’s God gave these children to, they know them better. I believe a parent who takes this responsibility seriously and prayerfully can in most cases do a better job. I think God also gives parents an annointing. Particularly if they want to teach their children.
    *Parents think other children are a bad influence. Discipline in children’s ministry is one of the number one concerns of many children’s ministers. Some children are going to be a bad influence on children sometimes. If the children’s ministry isn’t adequately equipped to deal with this, and the parent is happy that they can adequately teach the child at home, as well as socialise the child and also happens to believe in inter generational worship and the other benefits of staying in for the service. Why shouldn’t they decide to keep their child in the service?

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