What Should We Expect of Kids in Worship?

In June of 1996, Madonna and I moved our family of three boys, then 10, 6, and 5 to Columbus, OH where I became the Pastor of a local church. That same summer, a song shot to the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 and stayed there for 14 weeks. It’s the Macarena.

In July we were in a Sunday morning worship service. We didn’t do Kid’s Church. Madonna was in the choir, and I sat on the platform. That left our three guys on their own in the second pew, up front where we could keep an eye on them.

I don’t remember the worship song we were singing, but our 5 year old was really into it as he stood to his feet on the pew seat, turned to face the congregation and started doing his best Macarena moves! “Yeah, that’s the Pastor’s son.”

It’s a moment I’ll never forget, a little embarrassing as the new leader, but the congregation loved it. It was a five year olds way of responding to a crowd of people singing from their hearts. He didn’t understand it all, but it was okay. He was five and he was learning.

Maybe you’re a little concerned about what expectations you or others may have for your kids during worship? You may be thinking, “My kids just aren’t ready for this yet!” I hope our experience and these few ideas will help take the edge off and rest your expectations.

First – we expect your kids will ask questions – probably lots of them at first. That’s good! Quietly answer them in the moment – no need to “shoosh” them. It’s an opportunity to help them grasp what’s happening. Helping your child learn to worship isn’t about training them to sit quietly for 70 minutes without speaking.

Second – we expect your kids to be restless and squirmy. It’s okay! Give them a bit of space to move. God didn’t build kids to sit still for 70 minutes at a time. And if they do move around some, it doesn’t mean they’re not picking up what’s going on around them. (see above illustration)

Third – some of it will be over their heads. Of course – and it will be alright! We’ll give you some tools to help your child pay attention during the sermon. It may be as simple as drawing a picture of a story from the sermon, or listening for and writing down key words, or eventually making an outline. Remember this, one of the most important ways your children will learn to worship during worship, is by sitting with you and watching you worship. Worship isn’t just about what they’ve learned with their minds, but how they’re responding to God from their hearts.

Finally – keep the future in mind during the difficult moments. None of us learn to pay attention, concentrate, open our hearts and respond to the Lord in worship in a day. It’s what you do to help your kids pay attention, concentrate and respond to the Lord during those moments that will add up over time, helping your child love Jesus and become a worshipper from the head and heart!

“Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up.” Gal. 6:9