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Time to worship

In this blog we continue our basics series. This time we are thinking about leading our children into worship.


We were made to worship God. This is our purpose. Yet often in children’s programmes the worship times can be a challenge. Of course every church situation is unique – for some children will join the adult congregation in corporate worship, for others they will be there for 2 songs before going to their groups but there are principles that apply to all our circumstances.


From these principles we will also provide some practical tips to help our children go deeper in their worship of God.


Principle 1: Worship is more than singing.

For children’s church it can be easy to reduce worship to singing songs. Yet worship is so much more than this. Worship is a heart posture – a desire to put God first in all things. This means that our lives are meant to be acts of worship, continually living in a way that brings God glory.


Some of the songs we sing in church are not worship. They are memory verses, songs we sing to each other or songs that teach Bible stories and theological truths. These songs all have great value and are good to sing to children as they learn lessons that will hold to them for the rest of their life. Music is a great way to communicate these things.


Having said all this sung worship is an important expression of worship. Historically in the Old Testament, the New Testament and throughout church history songs have been written and sung to the Lord. In sung worship we have the opportunity to focus on the Lord 100 percent without the distractions of any other activity that we are doing at that time.


Principle 2: God deserves our worship

Worship is an area of children’s ministry where many leaders struggle. There are the practical aspects (no instruments, not confident in singing yourself, unsure of songs) but these can all be overcome.


If we want our children to know God personally, and not just to hear Bible stories then worship is not optional, it is imperative. God deserves our worship and as such worship is not an optional extra to the programme, but it is a core part of allowing our children to develop spiritually and grow in love for God.


Sung worship is an important aspect of our children’s spiritual growth. As our children learn to worship God whole heartedly in sung worship this can overflow into other areas. It can be tempting to avoid leading children in worship (the classic group of boys aged 9-10 who don’t want to sing comes to mind) but it is something that is worth persisting in.


Principle 3: Worship is life-changing

The more time we spend gazing on the glory of God the more we are changed. We cannot receive the benefits of the kingdom of God without worshipping the King. We cannot enjoy the fulness of salvation without putting the Saviour in His rightful place.


2 Corinthians 3:17-18 puts it this way,  ‘Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.’


The only place where true freedom is found is where the Spirit of the Lord is and we get to gaze on the Lord. As we look to him we are changed bit by bit by the Holy Spirit. Worship changes us because of who we choose to worship, it brings us into the wholeness that God intended for us. As our creator is revealed to us our identity as his creation is sealed.


Principle 4: Worship is a heart attitude not a visible action

While worship may lead to visible action, such as taking care of those in need or lifting hands during sung worship the inverse is not true. Just because someone raises their hands in sung worship, it does not mean that they are worshipping. As we lead our children we want them to encounter God in a way that is life changing. For this to happen we need the Holy Spirit to move in their hearts. Giving children space to express their worship to Go in their own words is a great way for them to connect their heart to God.


Some practical ideas:

So, here are some practical ideas to help children begin to go deeper in worship.

1.        Teach your children about worship – what is it, who are we worshipping, why does it matter. As they understand what they are doing they are more likely to engage from their hearts.


2.        Don’t simply expect your children to be involved, involve them! This is especially important if you have a group of children who do not want to engage. Inviting them to lead the time of worship, help choose the songs or explain why they like a particular song can be a great way for them to take ownership of their own worship lives.


3.        Choose your songs carefully. There is an art to choosing the rights songs. As ones who are called to worship in spirit and in truth it is important that the songs we sing contain clear truth and not simply nice sounding platitudes. In the same way the words need to be simple enough for the children to engage with. Very often some of the best songs that will release your children into worship are the ones that the adult congregation are singing! The children will often know these songs and will have had worship modelled to them.


4.        Help the children to focus on God. The children will have arrived in your group from a variety of settings, some will have been bored in adult church, some will have argued with their sibling that morning, some will have been told off by their parents, some can’t wait to be with you, others can’t wait to get home. All this is swilling around inside them. We can help them to cast these things onto Jesus and focus on Him.


The psalmist suggests in Psalm 100:4, that we enter his gates with thanksgiving in our heart and enter his courts with praise. Thanking God for what he has done is a great way to start entering in, praising God for who he is a good way to set our mind on higher things. Of course, entering the temple courts is just the beginning – we want our children to carry on moving towards the holy of holies where they worship God and the songs we choose (see point above) will help them to do that.


5.        Remove distractions. Whilst we can’t make our children’s hearts worship God, we can make it easier for them to worship. Encouraging children to close their eyes, inviting them to lift their hands as an act of openness and surrender are all helpful tools to help children to focus in on God.


6.        Model worship. It may not be easier to worship God with a ‘toddler’s song’, but if you want to see your toddlers encounter God in worship, then you need to lead the way and worship with them.  (Some of our songs from our ‘I love Jesus’ album are great simple songs for the little ones.)


7.        Be watchful. I have noticed that when leaders choose to be more intentional in helping children to engage with God directly (moving beyond hearing Bible stories about him and singing fun action songs) that very often the children who find it hardest to engage are those who are well behaved and know all the right answers. Meanwhile those children who were struggling to engage can be the first to find themselves lost in God’s presence and changed by Him. The ‘good’ children may know the right answers, but their hearts are not yet connected to God. It is key that we go back to God and pray for these children that their hearts will soften to Him. Many times, we have seen children become more responsive to the Lord as we have prayed and as a knock-on effect seen them flourish in their relationship with the Lord.


8.        Finally, be creative. There are many ways you can provide opportunities for your children to worship. My one caution would be to make sure that the activity does not distract from the worship. The best way I have found for this is for children to learn to worship God through sung worship and then they find it easier to use creative ideas to worship God. They could write a worship rap, or the 151st Psalm, create a dance or take it in turns to lead the worship time.


One of the activities I have found helpful is to encourage the children to sing a song, but the first time through tell them they are not to focus on God. Then sing it again but this time encourage them to focus on the Lord. This simple exercise helps children to engage in a fun way. We have over 100 other activity ideas for children and young people to help them worship the one true God. You can find them in our book, Give Me 5.


However you choose to do it, call your children to worship God – this is part of training them in the way they worship God. In a secular world it is more important than ever that our children enjoy encountering God through worship.




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