I asked the children in our Preschool -2nd grade choir what parts they wanted in the retelling of the Nativity story on Christmas Eve and one little boy wanted to be the Grinch, another Iron Man!
Some would see this as good reason younger children don’t belong in worship but I see it completely the opposite way. How will they learn the Biblical Texts of Advent and Christmas if they are not in church from an early age? These boys were still preschool age children who often come to worship until the children’s message then go to the nursery to hear a children’s Bible story and do an activity. At four years of age they had already missed 3-4 seasons of Advent. The children in choir that have been attending worship knew about the shepherds, donkeys and Magi and wanted those parts.
Children learn through lots of repetition, ask any parent who has asked a child two thousand times to pick up their socks or close the door. They need to be in worship year after year hearing the hymns sung, and Bible texts read and watching the liturgical seasons go through their yearly color wheel.
They love to be included in any small way into worship and to have their presence recognized by the congregation. They can greet, help hand out bulletins, help with the offering, pick up the pews after the service and many other small ways can be included in the process of worshipping. The Advent season offers a great opportunity to include your children in the lighting of the Advent Wreath, singing in a Christmas choir concert, participating in a Hanging of the Greens or a Christmas pageant service.
If children are kept in worship, the rhythms and special language of worship becomes comforting and familiar; isn’t that what we want to give our children when we bring them to church anyway?