About this blog

PC(USA) Bloggers

« Lessons from Captivity (Is the PCUSA in Exile?, Part II) | Main | The Unity of this Denomination »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Theresa Cho

Thanks for posting this David. I look forward to working with you at Big Tent as youth coordinator. I wrote similarly on this subject as well. http://theresaecho.wordpress.com/2010/08/22/let-the-children-come-intergenerational-worship/

David Gambrell

Thanks, Theresa. I was glad to hear that you're coordinating youth at Big Tent! Great post on children and intergenerational worship. I hope other readers of this blog will check it out.

I also like the community covenant you all have developed at St. John's: http://stjohnscommunity.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/community-covenant/

Janet L. Bohren

I like this idea. Where and when will the workshop be that you are preparing to lead? Will there be an online component?

David Gambrell

Thanks, Janet. The workshop will be at the Association of Presbyterian Christian Educators (APCE) event in Albuquerque later this week. There's not an online component, but I would be happy to post notes from the workshop and the bibliography (resources collected by my co-leader Betsy Ensign-George) on our website. When it's live (probably sometime next week) I'll post an update on the blog.


I find that although they rarely ask for it, adults in worship really appreciate it when I ask the whole congregation (children 5 to 95) to do things that are usually reserved for "children's time." This includes clapping, answering questions, call-response, dancing, etc. Maybe the problem is not in expecting children to be too much like adults; maybe it's in not expecting adults to be enough like children.


I am glad to see this idea taking root. In seminary a professor made this comment, "I don't know why we expect young adults to come to worship when we have been kicking them out for the first 18 years of their lives." That comment has stuck with me and in our small church children are loud, funny, active, and honest throughout worship. The congregation welcomes them in the pews and families sense this is a safe place. As a pastor and father with my own kids, I want them to feel like the sanctuary is a place for them as much as it is for adults. We have to be comfortable with our congregants' most spiritual moments each week happening outside the walls of the church and not limiting them to the sermon.


I jumped on the 'Children in Worship' bandwagon back in my college days (long past now). I've been the driving force in two congregations to change the worship schedule to eliminate concurrent worship and Church School and move to an educational hour for all ages and keep kids in worship. I bought into the theory 100%.

After 30 years of moving in this direction, I've come to one conclusion: It's a failure. It doesn’t work.

My experience has been that college aged kids and young adults are no more likely to regularly attend Sunday worship after high school graduation if they've been in a worship service through elementary school.

If someone can show me a church that has increased their 18-25 year old worship attendance after making this change, I'd love to see it.

The only factor I have seen that keeps kids in church on Sunday mornings is a strong college/young adults program and a vibrant CONTEMPORARY worship service.

David Gambrell

Emrys, I think you're right. One of the wonderful "side effects" of welcoming children in worship (a worthy goal in itself) is the liberating impact it has on adults—making worship a safe place for everyone to enjoy the gifts of energetic praise and childlike wonder. As Jesus said, "whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it" (Luke 18:17).

Jeremiah, glad to hear about what's happening in your congregation too. And I think there's a vital relationship between what happens in worship and what happens beyond the sanctuary in daily and family life. We have to attend to all of these things to nurture the spiritual lives of children and youth (and grown-ups too).

Al, I appreciate you bringing your experience and perspective to this conversation. Sounds like we need some research on how children's early worship experience contributes to (or doesn't) involvement in the church in the young adult years. (It's probably out there, but I can't cite any statistics. Maybe other readers can.)

In any case, I think the issue of whether young people attend worship during the college years, as important as that is, is only part of the picture. It seems to me that having children in worship is the right thing to do regardless — for the kids and for the whole community of faith. And even when college is a dry spell in worship attendance, I would hope that the seeds planted in those early years will eventually bear fruit.

Having said all that, I want to affirm your point about strong programming for young adults and vibrant contemporary worship. The church needs to devote more attention and resources to those matters.

The comments to this entry are closed.