We are blessed to have many families actively involved in our church, and we enjoy a lively children’s program. Every Sunday we offer nursery care for small children all morning and children’s worship for ages 3-6 (1st grade) during our 10:30 worship. The older children are expected to sit in worship.
But from talking to parents of children who are too old to attend Children’s Worship, we found that many kids still struggle with sitting through worship. We heard comments like: “My kids don’t get anything out of it,” and “It’s a struggle every Sunday; the kids ask constantly: ‘Do we have to go to church?’ or they whine: ‘I don’t want to go—it’s so boring.'" Or parents ‘bribe’ their children with using electronic devises during worship, which makes it difficult for fellow worshipers to focus on the worship service. Families told me that they stayed away from church, because the parents didn’t want to struggle with their kids week after week.
By incorporating a special worship experience just for tweens (older elementary and middle school students), we make church more interesting and remove a barrier to families coming to worship.
Our Tween Worship takes place once a month. After the children’s sermon, we leave the sanctuary, to go to our special worship place in the Fellowship Hall. We sit in a circle facing the altar and our space in marked with movable walls. Our worship follows a similar order of worship to the one in the sanctuary.
Order of Worship
We start with sharing joys and concerns, passing around baskets with either flowers or stones (pick a flower for what makes me glad and a stone for what makes me sad) and after each child shares their joys or concerns, we summarize these prayers and conclude with the Lord’s prayer. We then collect an offertory (children decide the mission) and sing a song or hymn.
The ‘message’ part is interactive and mostly follows the biblical text that is preached about. A child reads the Scripture for the day and we either play a game, act out the story for today’s world and relate the biblical story to the children’s world. We always conclude with prayer, hold hands, and sing the benediction as it is customary in our church.
Here are some examples of what a lesson/message could look like:
For Psalm 23 the kids were divided in two groups and the psalm was written as a puzzle and the children had to put the words in the correct order. The main focus was to trust in God as our shepherd, so we played the ‘trust game’ (two adults kneel with outstretched arms and the child falls backwards to be ‘caught’ by the adults). As we sometimes have to dare to trust, we know we are always caught and don’t fall.
For Lent, a time to get closer to God and a way to get rid of what is between God and us, we talked about a typical day in a kids life (school, after school program, and activities, dinner, homework, TV, computer) and what could be in the way between us and God. We admitted that sometimes our live is too hectic and we just don’t have enough time. We sometimes even do things we are not proud of and we feel sorry about. Each child wrote on a piece of paper what they are sorry about and want to be forgiven, and as a sign of the past is gone and God provides us with new opportunities, each child put their ‘sins’ into the shredder.
In December we played a quiz: “How well do you know the Christmas story?—a game where the children had do decide which of the answers (a-d) was correct and to run to the station they thought was the right one and as a group come up with reasons why their answer was correct.
These are just examples of how a typical Tween Worship looks like. Each session is different. Every Tween’s worship is active, participatory as we explore the biblical story for the lives of their children.
A Big Impact
Our monthly Tween Worship is not only a success for the children participating, but also for the parents and the worshiping communities in the ‘regular’ sanctuary worship. They can worship without being interrupted by children who are bored or play electronic games or fidget in their seats. Parents have told me how much they appreciate that their children ‘get something' out of Tween’s worship. There are some families in our church who only come on ‘Tween’s worship Sundays’ in order to avoid the discipline struggle with their children, but this program has actively increased our attendance, membership with families who are looking for programs how their children can participate in the life of the church, and filled a gap of what is offered in the traditional children’s ministry.
You can download our Tweens’ Worship planning outlines for the 2011-2012 school year below.