Should Children Be Dancing in Church?

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A recent post on the Ministry-To-Chilren’s website had quite a few people talking. We’re always glad to hear your feedback and we welcome discussions about the various topics we write about. This particular post asked the question, “Should children be dancing in church?”
I’ve been in ministry for over 20 years and I’ve seen questions like these pop up now and then and I’m always surprised at the variety of responses they receive. In my opinion granted, this is my opinion and not the opinion of everyone who contributes on MTC, to say, “Children dancing in church is just wrong,” seems a bit shortsighted. Besides all the biblical examples of this type of worship, allowing some types of dancing is a practical move for children’s ministry leaders faced with classes full of fidgety children.
I know, what you’re thinking. That’s a bold statement, Mimi. But I can back that it up.
First, let’s look at the biblical examples. I want to start with one verse that you are most likely very familiar with, especially if you work with children. In Matthew 19:14, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Can you picture what was happening in this moment? There were crowds gathering around the Lord and parents were putting children in his pathway, asking him to bless them. He did, without reservation and without putting conditions on their approach. He loved them as children.
Later, in Matthew 21, “The blind and the lame came to Him at the temple, and He healed them. But the chief priests and scribes were indignant when they saw the wonders He did and the children shouting in the temple courts, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’
“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked.
“Yes,” Jesus answered, “have you never read: ‘From the mouths of children and infants You have ordained praise?”
Children were waving palm branches , shouting and undoubtedly behaving quite unruly in their praise. To the people that day it mus have seen quite unruly, lacking decorum, dangerously worldly but Jesus had another response. He accepted their love and admiration in whatever way they chose to offer it! Children are always children. They are boisterous, joyful, jubilant no matter what century we’re talking about.
David danced as the Ark of the Covenant returned to Israel. Miriam and her ladies danced and shook tambourines in celebration of the mighty deliverance of the Lord.
And there are examples of unholy dancing too. What Salome did, dance seductively for her uncle/stepfather that was nothing short of a blashphemous display. When the prophets of Baal danced before their god to convince him to challenge the God of Elijah, this obviously was not pleasing to the Lord. These are certainly negative examples, things we shouldn’t do. Seductively gyrating, and undulating in a fleshly way is wrong, dancing to please an idol is wrong. But what David did, what Miriam did were none of those things. They made themselves foolish before God, to please him and these were such precious to Him that he memorialized these deeds by adding them to His Word.
Obviously here at Ministry-to-Children,  were not suggesting that any of you allow unholy dancing in your ministries. However, one a word of advice, to create a thriving ministry, you can’t rely on a list of don’ts. We don’t do this, we don’t do that.  “Don’ts” do not inspire people to worship. What does fire children up are statements like, “Let’s clap our hands for the Lord!”  Or “Let’s spin in circles and say hallelujah!”
Moving your arms and limbs to worship the Lord, using your body to honor God is dancing. Whether were sitting in chairs or doing the hokey-pokey, we should have the confidence that God loves us no matter what we’re doing. TEACH children how to sing to the Lord, how to dance before the Lord. YOU, teach them, so they won’t get it wrong. But if you don’t want dancing in your children’s ministry that’s totally up to you.
For the rest of us, those of us with classes full of kids with fidget spinners and ADHD, we’ll be dancing.

13 thoughts on “Should Children Be Dancing in Church?”

  1. I agree totally; because emotions put into what you are trying to teach the children is very distracting to the children; because they learn to go by emotions rather than principal.

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  2. Amen on your stand! Those who would question this response have not worked with children who are coming from homes where discipline is non-existent. And to tell you the truth, in all my years of teaching church and preschool, I have only seen one family of children whose parents were so religiously strict that the children walked around like any minute they were going to be punished for some offense.
    Children are children. They move, they sing, they dance. It is a natural response to a joyful encounter.

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  3. Perhaps those who are uncomfortable allowing children to dance in church could teach the children some simple American Sign Language. This would allow them to use their bodies in a very expressive way while not creating a confusing situation in which you would say, “this dancing is good, but that dancing is bad.”

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  4. I could not agree more whole-heartedly! Thank you for addressing this controversial topic. I allow my physically active children to break dance to Toby Mac after the lesson in our mid-week program. It serves as a reward and a way to praise!

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  5. There will always be some children ministry leaders/workers who may let things get out of hand, but in essence, I agree “dancing” within the boundaries of Christ like behavior is great for kids. In our AWANA ministry the kids LOVE the video songs not just for the words of the song, but for the chance to jump and twirl,etc. with the kids in the video.

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  6. Very well written. May those opposed to children dancing in the Father’s house, come to know the truth that sets them free. Amen.
    I encountered a situation where an 11-year-old child, after having been tuning into secular “music” wanted to dance in the flesh to VBS songs. I know personally what the Lord has to say about dancing “in the flesh”. After having been very worldly before Jesus came into my life, when I danced “in the flesh” before the Lord, He very clearly told me if I were going to dance as an expression of my worship, it had to be HOLY!!!!!
    So, I knew this dancing in the flesh had to be addressed and explained because a little leaven leavens the whole lump. I wish I would have known how to address this as well as you. Nevertheless, my approach created a conversation about this very thing, and the children were finally able to grasp that we had to be different than the world when it comes to our God.

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  7. Praise Him with the timbrel and dance…Psalm 150:4 Let everything that breathes praise The LORD…Everyone, clap your hands, shout with joy to God! Psalm 47:1…need I say more? Children aren’t the “Church of Tomorrow” as some like to say, they are part of the Body of Christ today. They are exposed to everything adults see and hear, they have access to the same information both good and bad, holy and unholy, beautiful, and horrific. They are more technologically advanced than some of their parents. Why shouldn’t they be free to learn how to use the medium of dance in worship? We have streamers and clavés in our ministry and teach them how to use them to praise The Lord. We allow them to be free to move around during praise and worship in Chikdren’s Church and yes, some get out of hand! But that’s the opportunity to teach the fruit of the Spirit, self-control (Galatians 5:23). It’s important to teach kids to apply God’s word in every situation including worship? We can have fun rejoicing, singing, dancing and giving thanks and praise to God in His House! And yes, sometimes they show what they learned on special occasions in the sanctuary (Big Church 🙂 ) and the people are blessed by their pure joy in praise. Let the children be free!

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  8. Oh my! I encourage all my kids to dance before the Lord! My little ones love it. The older kids.. well..some are ok with it…others feel self-conscious about it. But it is a form of worship! What would VBS be without dancing? ????Boring!
    The key is to teach children what this form of worship means, what it looks like (not that everyone does the exact same thing), how God looks at it, and how we pour our hearts out to Him in dance…. in singing…. in clapping… in prayer… in reading His Word…. in talking to and listening to Him.

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  9. On Palm Sunday a little girl on the second pew with her dad was waving her Sunday School palm leaf and swaying to the music being sung. My only thought was, “Well she was listening to the lesson today!” Even though we are pretty much an older, conservative congregation, I did not hear any criticism and saw several smiles.

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