I am a strong believer in the principle that corporate worship is for persons of all ages. In part my reasons are theological. I believe that removing any age-group from corporate worship on a regular basis takes them away from what is core to our collective life as the body of Christ, and affects the capacity of other generations to spiritually receive from and give to them. Persons of all ages are diminished in their experience and reception of faith when a generation (usually the youngest) is consistently missing.
But in addition to the theological case for all-age worship, there are also good practical reasons to reconsider the separation of generations for the Sunday worship hour. I was heartened to read a post this week by Brian Haynes, auther of the the book Shift and a pastor at Kingsland Baptist Church in Katy, Texas. Brian lists four “practical reasons” for all-age worship:
- Worship is full of God sightings. Every time you celebrate communion, observe a baptism, lift your hands as you sing, our hear the Word of God, parents have a chance to teach their children about God.
- Worship together creates a common experience for Faith Talks. If the Pastor preached about Noah that day and the whole family hears it, parents have common ground for faith talks with their children and youth.
- Worship together gives families the opportunity to be together at church for family moments like Mother’s day, Father’s day, Christmas, and Easter.
- Kids need to experience multi-generational worship. This blows away the idea that “church is for kids” and allows children the opportunity to see senior adults, parents, youth , and children worshiping together. That’s a lot like Heaven!
As Brian suggests in his post, moving from “here to there” is often difficult for churches. Promoting the inclusion of children in all-age worship may mean changing worship times to make room for children’s ministry (or vice-versa). The presence of children in corporate worship also challenges worship leaders to make the elements of worship more accessible for those of all ages. In sum, change in this direction may mean hard work and a lot of creative energy (which will certainly not be appreciated or welcomed by all). But I am convinced congregations that do so successfully will find themselves made richer by the journey and its outcomes.