Over the last few weeks I sent an email to our denomination's Christian Formation/ Children /Family person looking for people who had used Young Children in Worship for an extended length of time. This openned up some wonderful conversations and encouraging emails. People were quick to share their love of this approach and some of it's drawbacks. This approach specifically highlights a young child's ability to approach God, ponder, and respond to the stories of scripture and who God is.
Two of my conversations ran into our first choice which is to include children in as much of community life as we can ( right now most of that being worship) These conversations were affirming, inspiring, and encouraging.
Here is an updated resource list - books to read. If you have to pick one book, I've numbered them, not by preference, but in the order I think will be most valuable to you as you wrestle with the idea of including kids in worship. Any of these books will open windows to see a bigger picture. Some books you read about parenting make you feel guilty. I hope that these will inspire you, encourage you, enable you, and affect how you think. They aren't exactly how-tos. But I think they'll affect your thinking.
Updated Resource List (Disclaimer: all of these resources will have things I'm excited about and other elements not ... but all are definately worth discussing!)
1)Parenting in the Pew by Robbie Castleman (Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove Ill, 1993 ISBN 0-8308-1627-5) is for any parent who wants to bring their child to worship with them or maybe more for those who don't! Very parent friendly! This book is an enabling book and very engaging. She shares her passion for worshipping Jesus and her willingness to bring two little boys 17 months apart with her. (They're adults, now.) She touches negatives and the positives. I'm about half way through it.
2)Young Children and Worship by Sonja M. Stewart and Jerome W. Berryman ( John Knox Press: Louisville KY, 1989 ISBN 0-664-25040-8)
3) and the 2nd book Following Jesus by Sonja M. Stewart publ. by Geneva Press, Louisville KY are worth reading. Although the larger part of each book is a collection of actual story presentations used in the program, I think their insights into young children interacting with God and worship are worth reading. Many of these books focus on worship as formational - more formational than instruction - but I don't remember which book has the most in it or maybe it was a conversation...?
4) Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey: Nurturing a Life of Faith by Catherine Stonehouse (Baker Books: Grand Rapids, MI 1998 ISBN 0-8010-5807-4) I'm on page 44/213. This lady has done a lot of research from scripture, child development, social science sources, and her own love for Christ Jesus and children. She touches the role of family and community in a child's faith walk - not just parents. She looks at different approaches to teaching/imparting faith to children. She examines a child's faith journey. It isn't a quick/easy book to read unless you happen to be hungry for this kind of information but it's very very readable. There's just a lot to think about.
5) Postmodern Children's Ministry by Ivy Beckwith Youth Specialties/Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, 2004 ISBN 0-310-25754-9) . I think her insights and observations are prophetic. It's a bit of a wake up call. She contrasts post-modern parents and families with what the previous generation has known and she strongly advocates change. She highlights changes in children's ministry that are beginning to happen in churches.
6) "Suffer the Children? Why Kids Belong in Church" by D. Brent Laytham Covenant Companion August 2005 (http://www.covchurch.org/cov/companion/index.html). An Evangelical Covenant article worth reading.
I posted a resource list a while back. Did I mention these? I read these before I started reading specifically about children.
The Younger Evangelicals by Robert E. Webber. (Baker Books: Grand Rapids, MI 2002, 2003 ISBN 0-8010-91-52-7) Now, I waded through this one. (You can also borrow one from someone who has already highlighted the important parts.) There are also some great charts at the end of each chapter.) I didn't wade because it was hard to read but, because there's a lot to think about and I could only chew on a little at a time. This is a good comparison of modern and postmodern perspective. It's narrated by a professor but includes many voices of younger evangelicals.
Reimagining Spiritual Formation by Doug Pagitt and the Solomn's Porch Community. (Emergent YS/Zondevan: Grand Rapids, MI 2004 ISBN 0-310- 25687-9) Narrative and Community Journal (as in diary). Ivy Beckwith mentioned Solomon's Porch in her book. This is a radical but engaging look a spiritual formation that isn't isn't teacher/classroom centered in any way, shape or form... Although I was hoping to read more about their kids there were snippets here and there. The beauty of it is that perhaps they've made their children less separate, including them but focusing on the larger community. It's absolutely worth reading. Read it looking for Jesus...
Children in the Worshipping Community by David Ng & Virginia Thomas (John Knox Press, Atlanta, 1946, 1952,1971, 1973). Yes, it's an old book and I just happened to see it for 75 cents at a book sale but how interesting! I don't even think I finished it when I got to the part about children holding hymnbooks but the wonderful perspectives and attitudes of people who love to worship and to bring children to worship are always inspiring. Lots of how-tos for more traditional worship.
I AM: This is My Name: The God of the Bible and the Religions of Man by George A. F. Knight.
Eerdmans: Grand Rapids MI, 1983. Ok. This doesn't have a lot to do with kids until they're in High School learning about other religions and say, "so Christianity and all the other religions aren't that different. . ." When they say that, this is the book to read. The writer of this book is my very favorite Hebrew scholar (maybe because of his obvious love of Jesus, maybe because he's the only Hebrew scholar I've read :-). This was my first experience and realization that Hebrew thinking is different from Greek thinking and most evangelical thinking. ie the Hebrews didn't divide a person into body, mind, and spirit. The whole person wasn't just body, mind, soul, heart, spirit, but family and other relationships, too. Little things like that have shaped my thinking about children and Jesus and faith. (This book is only 90 pages and alot to chew on.)
I'm processing all this through Artisan's desire to include children and enable parents and because I believe it's possible. I may be seeing things, potential, ideas that aren't in any of these books. It's all sort of a blurr! To be honest, a year and a half ago, I wasn't thinking about any of this!
It's not clear whether we can do this with our 1-4 year olds without parents totally disconnecting from worship to focus on their children. It's definately overwealming. It's also only 3 out of 18 years per child. We can enable, we can encourage, we can cast vision, we can recommend books on bringing children to worship but I should say to everyone that unless you want your children to join you there we won't succeed . . . Wonder with me for a moment ... how could worshipping with parents in the larger community from birth to 4 years form a child's faith differently than if they're in childcare or Sunday school? It's a sacrifice for a parent to do this. (It's a sacrifice for a parent to have children ... ) but what can worshipping together as parent and child give each of you that you can't get anywhere else?