Recently I have seen several posts about it being okay to be bored in church. The base intent is a justification for children to attend the worship service as a family and not separate children by holding Sunday School, or Children’s Church during the same time. That while children may seem bored, they may actually be learning, but ultimately, it was okay to be bored. Yet in all of the posts I saw about it being okay to be bored in church they shared ways to keep the children from being bored: doodling, activity sheets, bring iPads, etc. I even found a picture on a church’s we page that was probably the most truthful I’ve ever seen. It promoted their family worship as the parents sit in the pew attentive to the message while their young children are on the other end of the pew surrounding the glow of an iPad (or tablet). Is that really family worship? What is that really teaching the children?
The issue that I have with these types of posts is that they give the implication that if you do not require children to attend the worship service and/or you offer children’s church, then you are missing it. That you are doing it wrong and not supporting families. I even saw where the verse from Mark chapter 10 about allowing the children to come to Jesus used stating that if we kept children isolated and out of the worship service with their parents, then you are hindering them from coming to Jesus. Comments like this come from a view that children’s church, and some Sunday school settings, are merely set up to provide fun for children, and not discipleship. While there are some churches that simply provide fun to entertain children, there are many who do not and use this time to teach the children about Jesus in ways they can learn and grasp. So often in most posts, they point to extremes, the worst children’s church that just entertain, and the family services where the children are “bored” or disengaged.
In my personal experience, I was the children’s pastor at a church which had a “family service” once a month. As time grew, I realized that the children were not engaged with the message, or even the “worship” (music). Parents actually began to dread that service and would occasionally avoid it if possible. What the children were learning in the worship service was to sit still and be quiet, not to be a participant, that it was not for them. I began a family service style that was geared for the youth, yet respectful and relational to the adults. It was well received, but admittedly, children were seen as performers, not as worship leaders. It wasn’t your “traditional” service. The adults didn’t “get it”, but they were engaged in the service. The services received many positive reviews and families began to enjoy, and look forward to the family service. People began to attend with expectation and they spoke about them, and the message, for months after the service. But should everyone do what I did, is that the best way, the only way? NO! It worked in my context, with the culture of our church. We had families who kept the children with them in the service, and others who had their children in children’s church. There was no requirement to have it one way or the other, I let the parents decide what was best for their family, for their children.
What’s the bottom line? There is no one way for the church to reach children and families as each church, each family, is different. If there was one way to do things, the Bible would explicitly tell us what method to use. The Bible tells us that there is only one thing that has one way to do it. That is the way to be reconciled with the Father and to spend eternity with Him, and that way is Jesus.
There are many different ways to teach children, and families, the things of God, but being bored in church is not one of them. Whether you entertain children by allowing them to doodle, work on activity sheets, have an activity bag, etc for the children while they sit near their parents while the pastor preaches, or you entertain them in a separate class, or service using skits, illusions, stories,puppets, etc. they should not be bored in church. As the Psalmist writes,
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! (Psalm 100:4)
If we come to church expecting it to be boring, it will be, If we come with thanksgiving, eager to learn about God, we will not be bored. It is our mindset when we come to church.
There is one mission (to teach children about the things of God), but many methods. Which method you use may be right for your church culture and family, but not for all. Let us each share the methods we use and rejoice in the results we see. The biggest joy I receive through these types of services is when I hear children, and adults, share things that they learned and remember months, and years after the service. If you are hearing these kinds of results, seeing children getting saved, and seeing families grow closer to God. Then well done, no matter what method you are using.
While I did not intend to include this in the post, it is appropriate. This year, the theme of the local Awana Ministry Conferences is “One Mission, Many Methods”. Whether you are involved in Awana or not, I encourage you to attend a conference near you to learn how you can use many methods for the one mission that we have from God. Even if you do not attend a conference, it is still good to remember, that there are many methods for the mission set before us. May we not debate which is best, let us rejoice in how God is using these methods.