Making Corporate Worship Kid-Friendly: Insights for Pastors and Parents

June 04, 2024

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Join us as we discuss how to make your church's corporate worship services more engaging for children. This episode offers practical advice for pastors and parents, highlighting successful strategies that ultimately help create a culture of family worship and discipleship.


Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Hello friends, and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview podcast where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the children that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm thrilled that you've joined me for another episode today.

Now, today's episode is going to be a little bit different in that I am not responding to one specific question that someone wrote in. I am actually just doing a podcast about something that we are passionate about at Foundation Worldview and something that I actually get a lot of personal Facebook questions about. And this is going to be about how to make the corporate worship service more friendly for children. Those of you who have been faithful listeners or watchers of the Foundation Worldview Podcast know that I use what my church does for corporate worship as an example many, many times throughout many different podcasts and webinars. And so I frequently get Facebook messages for people asking me, how does your church do this? How does your church do that? And my church is definitely not a perfect church, mainly because we are made up of sinners just like every other church on the planet. And so our church is not perfect, and there are times that are messy. However, I do think my church does some really excellent things and I wish, wish, wish, wish that more churches would run the corporate worship gathering like my church does, because I think that family discipleship would be much easier for parents to do if more churches ran their corporate worship gathering like my church does.

So what we're going to cover today in this podcast is just looking at how can we make the corporate worship service more kid friendly? So I'm going to talk to two different audiences. First, pastors and elders, okay? Things that you can do as the elders to make a corporate worship, gathering more friendly to having children in it. And then the second audience that I'm going to talk to as parents, if you attend a church, if you're a member at a local church that has a kid's ministry that pulls kids out of the corporate worship service, we're going to recommend that you keep your kids in the corporate worship service. But what things can you do to prepare them for this worship service even if your elders are not seeking to make corporate worship a place that is more friendly for children?

Before we dive down deep into looking at this very important topic today, just want to remind you, please take the two seconds that it takes to rate this content. It just helps more people discover it. Also, please make sure that you subscribe so that you don't miss any future episodes. And if you have a question that you would like for me to answer on a future Foundation Worldview podcast, because normally I'm answering questions that people have submitted through our website, you can submit those questions by going to

Okay? So first, thinking about pastors and elders, what are things that you can do to make your corporate worship service more child-friendly? The first question I would ask you is to think through is the question I typically have us think through on the Foundation Worldview podcast, and that is what is the goal of having children, even young ones in the corporate worship gathering? So I would say that the goal of having children in the corporate worship gathering is to have children learn through example what it is to corporately worship as the body of Christ and to have their hearts and their minds conformed to the liturgy of Christ.

My pastor right now, he frequently reminds us on Sunday morning what we're doing there, and he says that the world is seeking to conform us to its liturgy six days a week. And the Lord's Day is an opportunity for us to seek to be conformed to the liturgy of Christ, to have our hearts and our minds fixed on him, fixed on the truth. And so this is the goal. We want the children in our church to learn through example what it is to corporately worship as the body of Christ and to have their hearts and minds conformed to the liturgy of Christ.

Now, for many of you watching and listening who are pastors or elders at your church, I know that this might be a huge paradigm shift for you that in your seminary training and in your just experience as a pastor or an elder, that children have always been either just in corporate worship during the song time and then dismissed, or they have just been straight brought to a children's ministry class where what most of us don't realize is that throughout the history of the church, this has never before happened. It's really only been since the 1950s or sixties in some areas that this has consistently been implemented where children are not in the corporate worship service. Now, I'm not talking about having children's Sunday school classes before or after the corporate worship gathering, but actually having children removed from the corporate worship gathering. And I just think that this is something that has been so detrimental to the body of Christ, and if you're interested in more information on this in this short 20 minute podcast is not the time when I can go into all the history behind this, but highly recommend you check out a webinar that we ran last year at Foundation Worldview called Three Reasons to Stop Sending Your Children To Kids' Ministry. Highly recommend you check out that webinar. So that's the goal. We want to have the children in our church body that they learn through example, what it means to corporately worship as the body of Christ and at their hearts and minds conformed to the liturgy of Christ.

So here are some very practical things that you as a pastor or an elder can do that I have seen done. Now, I just want to be clear as I'm speaking to those of you who are pastors and elders, I am not in a position of authority over you. So just want to be really clear that I am offering this as what I think is wisdom. However, you are the ones who God has given authority in your church. So I am not the authority figure here. I am putting these forwards as suggestions. Just want to really clear on that.

So practical things that I have seen the pastors and elders at my church do that I think is just incredibly wise to be done. One of the things that they do is they send out the full liturgy. So everything that's going to be happening in the corporate worship service, they send it out to the church members on either Thursday or Friday before that Sunday.

And so this is incredibly helpful because then parents are given a list of all of the worship songs and the lyrics to the worship songs. They're given a list of all of the different creeds or confessions that we're going to recite, and then also the text of Scripture that are going to be read throughout the service as well as the text that is going to be focused on in the sermon. So this gives parents an opportunity to walk through those things with their kids. Now, does every family at my church walk through those things with their kids ahead of time? No, but some of them do, and it's really, really helpful. So what you could do is when you send this out, you can encourage parents to read through the sermon text with their children ahead of time to prepare them so that when they're there for the sermon, it's going to be something they're already familiar with.

Another thing that the elders at my church do throughout the week is they send out a midweek playlist of all the songs that we're going to be singing, and actually the elders are the ones that commissioned this. The elders aren't the ones that do this. Our deacon of worship is the one who does this, but at the beginning of every week or sometimes in the middle of the week, a Spotify playlist and an Apple music playlist are sent out that just contains the songs that we're going to be singing. And then families can listen to the songs throughout the weeks and kids and parents when they come to the corporate worship gathering are already familiar with the tunes. They're already familiar with the lyrics, and so that way they're actually corporately singing and it's not like a performance on stage because a lot of times what churches do is nobody knows the songs ahead of time. They sing songs that are way out of range of most people in the congregation, and it's much more like a performance where one thing that I love about my church is you can actually hear the congregation singing louder than the worship team and my church is on the smaller end of things. On an average Sunday we'll have maybe a hundred people there. So it's not like we have this massive gathering, but you can almost always hear the congregation's voices praising Jesus louder than you can hear the worship team, and this is what we want. The purpose of a worship team is not to perform and put on a concert. The purpose is to lead the people in worshiping God. And because the playlist is sent out ahead of time, the families in my church and the single individuals and the couples are prepared to worship God through knowing the melodies and the lyrics ahead of time.

Another thing that my church does that I highly recommend is from the pulpit. The elders are very vocal about the fact that our worship gathering is not going to be silent because we have children in the service, so there are going to be babies crying sometimes there are going to be complaints from little kids. There are going to be water bottle spills. My church currently meets in a school auditorium and it's built on a slant, and so as a water bottle gets dropped, dropped, you hear the thud and then you hear the rolling down the platform. Actually, I was just laughing this week, something rolled down to the front row and I saw people pass it back and it was just this little child's toy and it got passed back about 12 rows to the family where the child originally dropped it. So just be vocal about the fact that the body of Christ also includes children that Jesus said, let the little children come to me and do not forbid them. And so we want children there. Now, there might be a situation sometimes where a child is too loud consistently, and maybe an elder will have to talk to a parent and just say, if that happens, can you take them to this area to let them walk around? Because we don't want no one to be able to concentrate, but just be vocal that it's not going to be perfectly quiet.

Another thing that the others at my church are really intentional at doing that I just know it helps me, but it really helps the kids, is involve the body through in the service, through repeated standing and sitting, that God has created children to be very wiggly. They need to expel some energy, they need to move around, and the corporate worship service is a natural time to be able to do this because as you're singing and then as you're listening to Scripture being read, and then as you're reciting something and then as you're praying, and then as you're singing another song, those are natural times to be standing and sitting and standing and sitting.

I would just recently visited another church when I was on the road and I found myself actually having trouble focusing during the service because I am now so used to having my body involved in this church service. We entered and sat down and then one of the elders prayed, and then we stood up and we sang four worship songs, and then we sat down and we receded for the entire rest of the service for the Lord's Supper, for the sermon, and then for the final song. And I thought, man, I just miss my body being involved. And so this is a great opportunity for us to have lots of standing and sitting so that kids are really, their bodies are involved because this is what they need.

Another thing that my church does that I think is really helpful for everyone but also for kids is that we celebrate the Lord's supper or communion every Sunday, and we actually walk to the front of the auditorium to receive communion. This is another thing to get our bodies involved. Now, many of the children in my church have not yet made a profession of faith, and so their parents do not allow them to participate in the Lord's Supper, but those children still walk to the front with their parents when their parents or their parents and their older siblings are receiving communion and they hear spoken over their parents and over their older siblings, the body of Christ broken for you, the blood of Christ shed for you. So these are just ways that we can really get kids involved.

Another thing is if you have multiple passages of Scripture read throughout the service, you can actually have members of your congregation read those passages including children. This is something that I love that some of the families at my church have started to do that at my church. Two passages of Scripture are read by someone from the front. We frequently have more passages of Scripture through congregational readings and responses, but there are two passages that are read by someone from the front. And now frequently when parents are assigned to read a passage of Scripture, if they have a child who's in first grade on up, they'll bring the child to the front with them and the child will actually do the reading. And so this is exciting for the child that gets them involved, but it's also so encouraging for us as adults. I don't know what is really more encouraging than hearing the words of truth from Scripture proclaimed by a child. And so just highly encourage you to start doing this in your service.

Now, this is something that is not done in my current church, however, when I lived just outside of Chicago, my pastor up there, Tom Schmidt, he did this so wonderfully is in that church also, children are kept in during the service and he would actually directly address the children at some point during the sermon. Typically when you're giving a sermon, you give some examples from real life, and he would always make sure that he included examples from children. He would say, children, this is how this applies to you. And he would give some examples from a child's life, and this was just a wonderful way to really get children involved. So just regularly explain.

Also another thing, sorry, I lost my train of thought there for a second. Another thing that you can do that my pastor does really well is regularly explain why you are including children in the service that my pastor probably about once a month from the pulpit. We'll explain why it is that we keep children in the service, that they are a part of our local body, they're a part of our church, and it's important that they are being conformed to the liturgy of Christ. And so he just reminds us on a monthly basis.

One final recommendation is just to cast a vision for family discipleship. My pastor also regularly reminds parents that they are the primary disciple makers of their children. That yes, the church will come alongside them and support them in that role, but they are the primary disciple makers. Now, if you're a pastor or an elder listening and you're thinking, my church, just the husbands and wives, the moms and dads in my church just don't have this vision. I am a female. So obviously I have never been in the role of pastor or elder that is biblically outside the bounds of what God has called me to because I am female. But I think that this is hard in a way that I don't understand, but it's not that you can't do anything about it. So would highly recommend and just encourage for you to seek out other pastors in your area who you see this well, and learning from them what they have done to really encourage family discipleship among the families in their church.

Also, highly recommend that you check out our parenting series at Foundation Worldview that we have five teaching sessions that are designed to be done in a church setting to help cast the vision for family discipleship among parents. Another thing we have at Foundation Worldview is we also have an option for churches to buy bulk family licenses, that these are family licenses for our curriculums that are sold to you at a reduced cost that you can then sell to the families at your church at a reduced cost and lead a family discipleship initiative, go through one of our curriculums and then say, okay, we're not doing this together within the four walls of the church, but different families are going to be doing this in their homes, and then we're going to come together and talk about it. So those are just two things that can really help you as you're thinking through casting of vision for family discipleship.

Okay, so that was my recommendation for pastors and elders. Now, my recommendation for parents, so things that you can do to prepare your child for corporate worship, especially if you're in a church where children are not necessarily encouraged to stay in the service. So one thing that you can do is you can request the sermon text ahead of time, especially a lot of times pastors and elders, they have the whole year mapped out of what they're going to be preaching on for the entire year. And so you can week by week request what the sermon text is going to be. Or you can even say, Hey, for this next quarter, do you have a list of just sermon texts that you're going to be preaching on? And then each week you can read through the text that is going to be preached on several times throughout the week during family devotions. So this way, when your children are in the corporate worship gathering and when they're listening to the sermon, it's going to be a passage that they are already familiar with. And this is so exciting for kids when they're familiar with something ahead of time. The first few times you do this, your children will probably look at you with this big shocked look on their face like, oh my goodness, we know this.

It's even exciting for me as an adult that several months ago with one of the teenage girls that I'm discipling at my church, she and I memorized Romans eight together. And now in our liturgy at church, frequently our pastor and elders will pull from Romans eight for one of the corporate just recitations things that we recite together. And every time a passage from Romans eight is recited, this girl, Brittany and I, she, we'll look at one another from across the room and just smile because we're like, yes, we're already familiar with this. So just recommend request the sermon text ahead of time, and then read through that text several times in your family devotion so that your kids are already familiar with it.

Also, recommend that you just request a song list ahead of time. Whoever is going to be leading worship requests, Hey, can you just let me know what songs are going to be played? And then you can create your own playlist on whatever music platform you use and listen to the songs throughout the week so that your children are familiar with them and they can just naturally sing along when they are in the service.

Also, recommend just for the time during the sermon, highly recommend that you download our sermon guides that we have available. It's just a free download that we have at Foundation Worldview for two different ages for children under seven, and then children over seven. And then we also have a third download available for those who have taken kids through or Studying the Bible Curriculum, and it's just a developmentally friendly and very focused guide for kids to either be drawing pictures or writing summary sentences about what they're hearing during the sermon. So this can just help really focus them.

Another thing that you can do, which is really just recommended in any and every situation, not just for corporate worship gatherings, is just explicitly state your expectations ahead of time. Explain to your children what it looks like to participate in corporate worship at your church. Explain to them when there will be standing and sitting. Explain to them when there's times that absolute silence is expected. Explain to them what it looks like to be listening to a sermon.

When I was teaching every fall, the third graders in my school would go to an orchestra concert, and most eight year olds had never been to see an orchestra before. And my first year at the concert, actually, I think probably my first two years, I made the mistake of just assuming that my students would observe how I was behaving at the concert and would follow me. Well, that was a completely incorrect assumption, and what it resulted in was a lot of frustration on my part, a lot of correction on my part, a lot of discipline and just a lot of bad situations. And so by the time I reached my third year of teaching third grade, I said, you know what? I need to explicitly state my expectations. And so what I would do is I'd say, okay, when you are listening to an orchestra play, you do not talk at all throughout the times that they are playing their music. That is just very rude. Then we talked about, okay, what are your feet going to look like? Your feet are going to be flat on the ground. They're not going to be wiggling around. They're definitely not going to be kicking the chair in front of you because that would bother the person in front of you. Then we even talked about how do you clap at an orchestra concert? And so I would model for them, you hold one of your hands still, and then your other one, you move up and down to clap, and we talked about how that was different than the way that you would clap at a basketball game. At a basketball game. You'd take both of your hands together and you'd clap them together really loudly, and you'd probably go like, woo, where we said at an orchestra, you don't do that. Okay? So you want to explicitly state your expectations for what it's going to look like when you're in the corporate worship service.

Then model and practice what that will look like ahead of time. You can say, okay, we're going to pretend that we're going to a corporate worship service at church, and then model what it looks like to get out of the car and then to walk through the hallway and then to find your seats and to talk with those around you, and to sit there and to take sermon notes. This is something also that I would do when I was preparing my third graders for the orchestra concert. I'd say, okay, now what I want you to do is I want you to show me how are you going to be in your seats. Then we'd listen to a song played by an orchestra, and I'd say, okay, let's pretend this orchestra is right in front of us. Okay, where are your eyes going to be? Okay, what are your hands going to be like? And then we'd practice clapping. Okay? And so all of these things can really help prepare our children for the corporate worship service. Then also would encourage you to discuss the sermon after corporate worship. I have a friend of mine at church, and she has three sons who are older who are now in their teens. And so what they do is they require that their sons come up with three main points that they learned from the sermon, and then they discuss those at lunch after church. And so if you have littler ones, if you use our sermon guides, we do have three separate sections. So you can have them write down or draw pictures of three things that they learned from the sermon and then discuss those after corporate worship. So it's not like corporate worship is just something you go to and then completely forget about. So this would be my recommendations for parents who are wanting to prepare your children for the corporate worship service.

As I mentioned in the beginning, if you are not already convinced that children belong in the corporate worship service, highly recommend that you check out the webinar that we ran last year called Three Reasons to Stop Sending Your Children To Kids Ministry. This webinar is not a recommendation that we stop all kids' ministry. That is not at all what we recommend in the webinar. It's not a recommendation to get rid of the position of a children's ministry worker. That's not at all what we recommend. We're just giving three solid evidence-based reasons of why during the corporate worship hour children belong in the service.

Well, that's a wrap for this episode. But as always, my prayer for you as we leave this time together is that no matter the situation in which you and the children God has placed in your care, find yourselves that you would trust that God is working all things together for your good. By using all things to conform you more into the image of His Son. I'll see you next time.

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