I’ve never been a fan of all age services. Too often it has felt as if I have to make too many compromises in preaching, listening, and so on. However, due in part to losing 2/3rds of our Sunday School teachers because of relocation in the summer we have started a monthly all-age service. It’s not perfect, I’m not sure it’s easy for parents of pre-school children, but we do have somewhere they can take them to play if it all gets too much or too long. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but here are a few things I’ve learned.
Children need to see adults engage with the Bible taught
One of the big pluses of having the children in is that they get to see what the church normally does when they are out being taught by their Sunday School teachers. They sit with their parents and other adults and teens and see what they normally do. Both the good and the bad. I think children seeing adults wrestling with the word of God is good.
It is good as a church to serve the Sunday School teachers by flexing in this way
How do we love and honour those who teach the Bible most weeks to our young people? One of the ways we show love to them is by finding ways to enable them to hear the word of God taught. If a way to do that is by having an all age service with the occasional noise from one of the children that is a small part to play.
Churches underestimate the ability of children to engage with the Bible
Whilst I’m a little more careful what passages the children are in for I preach a normal sermon. I don’t compromise, increasingly because the children can engage with it. Go and sit in a lesson with a class of 7 year olds and see them spotting trigraphs and digraphs, and talking about verbs, adverbs and adjectives in a text. Our children are capable of looking at the word of God, examining it, searching it, hearing it taught. We mustn’t baby our children when it comes to the Bible or they will never engage with it seriously. We have worksheets to help them focus, but they are used to doing and listening and then engaging.
It’s left me wondering if we had a sudden influx of Sunday school teachers would we scrap our all age service? I’m not sure.