I just came across this post from a fellow blogger and thought it was worth sharing here. The quotation, from Debra Dean Murphy, a theologically sensitive director of Christian Education at a UMC in North Carolina, is from a short essay entitled “Introducing Children to Worship”, from the latest issue of the Baylor University-sponsored journal series Christian Reflection: A Series in Faith and Ethics (click here to find out how to get the journal for free).

Murphy says:

…we must regularly communicate to children (and their parents) that they are integral to the whole worshipping body gathered weekly to imagine and practice God’s world into being, and that their presence and participation are not merely tolerated but happily anticipated. When we “dismiss” children from the worshipping body (say, for “childrens church”), no matter how well-intentioned our efforts at teaching them about worship, we convey to them and to all others present that dividing the worshipping body is an acceptable norm. More importantly, we rob children of the gift of being formed by the regular habit, discipline, and joy or corporate worship – which is really how they learn it and learn to love it in the first place …
But it is also important to insist that worship should not cater to children, since to do so is to give in to the pressures of accomodating style and preference and the temptation to appeal to a target audience. Rather, worship that seeks above all else to enact God’s story of redemption and to imagine God’s politics of peace invites and expects the participation of the whole household of faith – young and old, rich and poor, the able and the infirm – with the understanding that, in regard to young children especially, there are privileges reserved for their maturity, and mysteries and riches of the worshipping life that reveal themselves as rewards for years of practice and perserverance. Children should never be the center of attention in worship (God alone is the object of our devotion) but as children learn about worship by regularly participating in it, we hope and trust that they will come to reap those rewards …