Sanctuary or Classroom: Where Should Children be During Praise & Worship?

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Sanctuary or Classroom: Where Should Children be During Praise & Worship?

by Amy Wilbon

(This week, Innovative Church & Worship Consulting conducted an unscientific opinion poll on Twitter asking the question: Should children be in the sanctuary during praise and worship, or should they have their own praise and worship with their peers? The results were nearly split down the middle.)

This is a very hot topic. One of the hottest in the church. And I see both sides. While there are pros and cons to both opinions, as someone who spent over 15 years in children's ministry — and this is just my own opinion — I feel that children (up to 6th grade) should be in their own classroom with their peers during praise and worship.

I’ve heard the arguments of why children should be in the main sanctuary during worship, such as:

ARGUMENT: Going to separate rooms only tears the family apart!

REBUTTAL: But sending your kids to school alone for 6-7 hours per day isn’t an issue?

ARGUMENT: Children need to see their parents worshipping.”

REBUTTAL: Parents should be modeling a lifestyle of worship, i.e. at home, in the car, etc.

ARGUMENT: Kids need to learn reverence and how to behave in church.”

REBUTTAL: They can learn this in their classroom, with their peers. (This argument typically comes from parents who raised their kids in church, and are already well-behaved.)

ARGUMENT: Kids should see adults modeling how to worship.”

REBUTTAL: Kids also need to see their peers worshipping. Again, parents should be worshipping outside of the church, too.

ARGUMENT: When kids in my church worship, it inspires adults to worship.”

REBUTTAL: We worship because of God’s goodness and because of what Jesus did on the cross. Not because we see a child worshipping.

If you disagree with any of my points (rebuttals), it’s okay. Again, this article was written from the perspective of my many years of working in children’s ministry, and is just my own opinion. If you care to read on, here are a few reasons I believe children should be in their own classroom with their peers during praise and worship:

Children Need to See Their Peers Worship. When children are in the sanctuary during praise and worship, they can be prone to think that worship is something only adults do. Seeing people of their own age-group worship lets them know that worshipping is normal. 

Children Can Be a Distraction in the Sanctuary. At my church, I sit in the back because I have a heart for our visitors, who often sit near the back. I see a lot of kids running, screaming and often being taken to the back to be disciplined by a perturbed parent. It’s not only a distraction for me, but for visitors.

Children Often Tune Out in a Roomful of Adults. Think back to when you were a kid. If you’re anything like I was, being in a roomful of adults (whether in church, or in someone’s home), I was always bored, because in my mind, when adults spoke, it was always in big (multi-syllabic) words that weren’t yet in my vocabulary.

Children Are Often Unsupervised. Two weeks ago, I was at a church who uses flags during worship. Adults used the flags…but so did some of the children. This one little girl grabbed a flag (which had a pole attached) and proceeded to run around the sanctuary with it. She nearly grazed my face during her first pass. I was distracted for the rest of the worship service, since I was constantly watching out for her (and potential injury).

Children Should Learn at an Early Age to Lead Worship. When I was in children’s ministry, I selected certain children to lead the kids in worship from the platform. The ones I selected were not only reverent and well-behaved, but they understood worship. It built in the other kids the desire to be leaders with their church peers.

30 Minutes of Worship (or more) is a Long Time to Expect a Child to be Engaged. Due to a child's attention span, children’s services have abbreviated elements of the adult service: the message, the offering, and the worship. How do we spend the rest of our time? You probably call it “play time.” We in children’s ministry think of it more as the necessary elements of fellowship and social interaction.

We’d love to hear your comments on this hot topic, so please leave your comments below.


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