Sunday, September 27, 2009

Confession is good for the soul, right?

I have a confession to make. I sort of feel like as soon as I make it I will feel incredible guilt, but it's a fact I live with every Sunday and someone needs to know, so why not the whole world wide web? I think that's a logic leap that is only possible through blogging or twitter, but whatever.

Here goes....

I hate children's time.

There. I said it. Not that I hate children, that's not the case at all. I LOVE children. I love it when they come and sit in my lap during worship. I love when they run and give me hugs any time they see me. I love when they whisper in my ear when they are bored with the prayer time. (ok, so I don't always love that, but it does make me smile). I love kids of all ages. I love their questions and their answers. I love kids.

I just hate children's moment. There is no other area of life that makes me feel more inept at conversation and communication. I said once at my last church (after a children's moment that flopped) "Children's moments are like a box of chocolate, you never know what you're going to get." And it's true. You never know whether the kids will identify or give the right answers (meaning the ones that lead you to your point).

I always struggle to come up with some short, pithy, child-like story or object lesson that connects to the sermon. And inevitably, the days I feel like I have the best connection the story ends up aimed more at adults than children. Sometimes I feel like the kids are just pawns for me to better explain my point to the adults, and that doesn't feel right either.

Some of you may offer an easy fix--just ask someone else to do the children's moment--I could, but I feel bad because I am more of a last minute sermon writer and it doesn't feel fair to only give them a scripture or a theme (especially if the theme is not fully developed) or to only give someone a matter of hours to prepare. I have been working to be more prepared with sermon planning and preparation to be able to tell everyone involved in worship what the central theme is so they can design everything around it, but that has been a slow evolution for me.

So for now, I am stuck, in a sense, trying to be creative and use easy language to connect with the kids. Fortunately, our ministry fair is about 6 weeks away and there will be a possibility for people to sign up to help with children's moments and maybe that will relieve the pressure and make me get on my game with sermon prep!


Diane said...

Some good books that wrestle with your same questions (and offer a few solutions :-)):

1) Real Kids, Real Faith by Karen Yust

2) Postmodern Children's Ministry by Ivy Beckwith

3) Welcoming Children by Joyce Ann Mercer

Hope those help! There seems to be a growing consensus among my professors that the "moments with children" model is outdated, and that ALL of worship should be child-friendly.

John Meunier said...


I hate it, too. And I don't even do it. When I was appointed to my current church I was able to kill the children's moment because all the "children" were 13 or older and all to happy to rid of it themselves.

I have rarely seen a children's moment that was not about being cute at the front of the church. It is hard to do anything really meaningful in 3-5 minutes.

I hope you get lots of people to sign up to help.

johnsue said...

OK - I LOVE time with children... I think yours are very good... I enjoy other folks' as well... yes, I even enjoy sharing them! I agree that often the "adult" congregants get a great deal out of them. (And, sometimes that's just a chance to see the kids and feel a surge of encouragement about the hope for the church of tomorrow!) I know that pastors frequently feel that these "sermons" are a tedious detail. I do think it is great for the kids to have that special time for connecting with the pastors. Remember, when I'm in town I'm always willing to give 'em a try...even last minute! Hugs and blessings, mom

johnsue said...

Oh, and Diane, I agree that it's good to have entire services "child-friendly", but sometimes parents want/need to have some worship time without parental responsibilities. (Or the distraction of children whose parents take a different view of parental responsibilities in church.) We found that was important for us. Our children still had many, many positive times in worship and are all active in church life today.

Diane said...


A lot of healthy churches have "children's time" ---- including my church. And I like it :-)
The books that I recommended helped me to see that the children's time can be freed from the box we've put it in (e.g., instead of having a traditional "children's sermon" in the middle of the service, bring the kids up to the altar rail to watch an infant baptism up close ).

One good thing about children's time is that it forces the congregation/pastor to plan for children in worship, week after week.

Re: parental worship time, I believe that the ideal solution for "parental responsibility" is for the church to take ownership of the "it takes a village to raise a child" philosophy (cf. Anne Lamott). In my church parents don't have to worry about their children because other adults in the community are constantly passing the babies around, together living out their baptismal vows to nurture them in faith.

I am excited to see where this conversation/confession leads...

Rachel said...

Hey, Debbie. I feel ya. I am a children's minister and have some of the same issues with children's time. Here are some things that are helping me in the midst of the wrestling.

1. I accept that it might really be more for the adults than the children, and try first to do no harm to the children. I can always hope they'll get something out of it.

2. I have created a special children's church during sunday school that allows them to actually worship, rather than say cute things in front of a crowd of adults. A lot of the ideas from this have come from the "Godly Play" curriculum, which I can tell you more about if you want. Basically, it's a combo of ritual, candles (cuz who doesn't find flames awe-inspiring?), and storytelling that allows for space to wonder and doesn't give pat answers.

That's what I've got so far. I'm interested to read these books your colleagues have recommended, too!