My daughter and her husband attend a church that offers only Sunday school and not children’s worship. Our congregation has had both for years. What are my grandchildren missing?
There are many reasons why a church may choose one program over others: congregational history, a lack of adults to lead programs, families who would attend only one program, or even a lack of space. So we don’t want to make assumptions about what is going on this particular church.
We view the purposes for Sunday school and children’s worship as different. In our Sunday school we try to emphasize Bible knowledge as well as building relationships with adults. Children hear Bible stories from a Reformed perspective, but they also have time for the teachers to tell personal stories from their lives that fit the lessons. Both are important.
Children’s worship, on the other hand, is exactly as the name indicates: worship—a time when children, with an adult worship leader, meet to work with the stories of God, to pray, and to respond to what they have heard. This is done in a way that is developmentally appropriate based on the child’s age. Children’s worship uses a number of different names: Young Children and Worship, Godly Play, or Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, depending on the materials used. While the stories are aimed at young children, they are presented in a way that inspires both storyteller and listeners. Time is spent helping children learn how to be in worship and how to respond to God’s work in their lives. Relationships with caring adults are built here as well.
These programs have different goals, so having both of them makes sense but isn’t always practical. Many good things unrelated to specific programs happen with children in congregations. The faith nurture of your grandkids could also be supported in other ways. Lessons about worship can be introduced to children in congregational worship. Bible instruction can occur at church during the week or at home in family devotions, bedtime readings, or storytelling.
As grandparents, you can be part of your grandchildren’s faith formation by establishing close relationships with them, providing and reading Bible storybooks, celebrating faith markers, and telling stories about God’s presence in your life.
About the Authors
Laura Keeley is a regional catalyzer for Faith Formation Ministries in the CRCNA and director of childrens ministries at 14th St. CRC in Holland, Mich.
Robert J. Keeley is Professor of Education Emeritus at Calvin University and a music leader at 14th St CRC in Holland, MI.