lord of the.....

I have two small children. one is smaller than the other and respectively more fidgety in church.

I don't think that I've ever been in a church which has 'got it right' with children in services, and for once I'm at a loss to know what I think might be a solution to the problem. I love my children and I don't think that they should be expected to sit poker still through a service that they don't find interesting. On the other side, they should learn to be a part of something which is for the whole community. The trouble is more often than not it isn't for the whole community, is it?

dave's been having an interesting conversation on his blog regarding 'family services' or whatever we call them (all-age, intergenerational) and it seems that this one is a hot potato for anyone who ever set foot in a church.

at our church we don't really do family services (only occasionally), rather we have a service once a month specifically designed for under 8s, and I think that this is the closest I have found to something that truly caters for children and isn't just a form of purgatory for both children and adults - it does what it says on the tin, you see, with no pretension that it is for the adults (primarily, although there's often nuggets for us too) and certainly no pretension that it's for those who have little to no interest in the little darlings.

but, as ever, surely it goes back to some kind of theology on the matter. a theology of children? a theology of church?

surely something about children being whole people, just as much as adults are (with all their brokenness too, of course) and something about the church as the body of Christ, including all, with their gifts that they bring, despite what we think those gifts should be.

I'm not wholly convinced about family services, but I'm not sure if that is more about the lack of evidence that they work, rather than the theology behind them. I'm sure they're trying to do something good, but have had to enter them, either with the belligerence of a parent who will allow her child to be a child in church regardless of the disapproving looks (and they do occur), or spend the time with a prickly heat rash - both of which end up being exhausting if all-age services are a regular occurrence.

so, the theology says 'yes', but the endless experience says 'no'. which one needs revision?


Anonymous said...

I would say that the theology of the whole church should win the day here, but I do see how completely frustrating it must be to have to put up with disapproval of your children's behaviour, especially (but buy no means only) during a 'family service'.
Like I say on Dave's blog, it's got to be modelled from the front. If the person leading the service is comfortable, then the congregation is more likely to be as well.
But that's no guarantee, and I would say that people who whinge about family services should have their bottoms smacked. By the Vicar. Just before Communion.

jody said...

yes, the disapproving looks have been a little wearing.

just to make clear, like I said my current church doesn't really do family services. it's more a general comment.

(please don't smack mark's bottom at the parish weekend.... ;-) )

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't dream of it!
Had a nice email from Debbie Watson the other day saying that people are starting to book in for it. Looking forward to it again!

liturgy said...

Children are not the church of the future. We should not want children and young people in church just so that in the future there continues to be money on the plate to care for our pretty building, and to wheel us old people up to the altar rails.

We need to work out why we want children and young people in our services.

IMO a service is for everyone there - and anyone who comes should find a welcome. Hence every service is a family service. Every service is all-age.

We do this so so SO badly!
The alternative is we kidyfy the liturgy and provide nothing for young people to grow into.

I write more about this at "children at the eucharist" at

jody said...

grrr you're absolutely right - it used to be a real bugbear when I was a youth worker, when people said 'church of tomorrow'.

I used to say 'how would the older people like it if we described them as the church of yesterday!'

I'll have a look at the liturgy stuff for children....