If you look around your congregation you might notice a lack of young faces lining the pews but is regular church attendance really necessary for a child’s faith and what can we do to make it a more welcoming atmosphere? Rev Linda Hanson offers her thoughts.
Yes, but … regular church attendance for children, as it is for people of all ages, is a necessary part of faith formation as it nourishes faith. However just as worship needs to be relevant for adult faith formation, it must be engaging for children.
Kids love energy, colour, play and noise. It’s how they learn. Too often we say children are welcome in our churches—providing they are quiet, sit up the back and go straight out to Sunday School after the “children’s song”.
Children know the difference between being truly welcomed as a member of the church or just tolerated before they head out for Sunday School. Children are painfully aware when they are being used for something “cutesy” in the service or as bait to welcome other children or patronised as the church of tomorrow.
If you don’t believe me, just ask them. Most have an opinion and are willing to share it if asked. Regular attendance only forms faith if children are appreciated as valuable members of the congregation.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.” (Mark 10:14)
There were no rules on their involvement. They were welcomed as they were, just as Jesus welcomes us all as God’s sons and daughters. If children aren’t being given the opportunity to meet Jesus in a way that is appropriate for them, they will vote with their feet and miss out on the benefits regular worship attendance has to offer.
Casey Ross, guest speaker at Newlife’s Further Faster conference, said, “When you create irresistible environments for children, they make their parents bring them back.”
Leaders in the “here2stay” movement have discovered eight pillars that are critical for faith formation and all can be found in churches. Regular attendance at church gives children both a positive peer community and the opportunity to have Christian mentors as they mix with Christians of all ages.
Church services provide encounters with Jesus and great opportunities for rites of passage such as blessing services for starting and ending school and confirmation. Religious Instruction classes give children a good overview of the Bible, but worshipping as a family has the added bonus of family members discussing what
they learned throughout the week as they live out faith together.
See here2stay.org.au for more of the pillars and ideas of how to ensure your church is including these eight pillars, to form faith in children.
Rev Linda Hanson