Note: This is a longer than most posts (& no pics),
but I hope you will read to the end.
It’s been on my heart & would like your feedback.
How does your church celebrate Christmas Eve?
As I was sitting in our Christmas Eve service, I thought to myself, “I sure like having all the kids in church”. I know they make noise, but it’s great to have families worshiping together. It’s a rarity in our church. Most families send their kids to Sunday School, while the parents are in the worship service. It was nice to hear kids in the audience.
We started singing Christmas carols and I was brought to tears a few times. Maybe it was having all our kids together to worship Jesus. Or, maybe it was meditating about Luke 1-2 the past couple weeks. Or, maybe I was paying close attention to the words in the Christmas carols.
Next was our children’s message – More on that in a few paragraphs. Separating the Christmas message specifically for kids.
Our service was closed by an excellent presentation of the Gospel message. Our pastor talked about the “noise” of the Christmas season that distracts us from paying attention to the reason for Christmas. The noise of shopping, decorating, baking, cooking, getting ready for family. It’s easy for even the most sincere Christian to forget the message of God sending His son to earth as our Savior.
Our pastor brought the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth to the real purpose of Jesus coming to earth. If unbelievers were in the audience, they heard their need for Jesus because he came to earth to save us from our sin.
Children’s Message for Christmas Eve
In the middle was the children’s message. I’m not quite sure how I feel about having a children’s message or if there’s much point to it. In the past, we’ve heard kids shout there is no Santa or kids talking & not listening to the kids’ message. Usually, it’s just comical.
As the children wandered to the stage, our children’s pastor reminded us that Jesus told the disciples to let the children come to Him. So I thought, “OK…let’s have a message just for the kids”.
As I watched them set up, I thought to myself this looks like something out of Veggie Tales. Well, I wasn’t far off.
As a poem about Christ’s birth was read, puppets were shown & props were thrown into the air. Everyone was laughing out loud. But, I was wondering why we were disrespecting the story of Christ’s birth. Had they told any other story outside the Bible, I would be laughing too. But acting out God’s Word in a silly, insincere way is not appropriate. In a subtle way, they’re teaching the kids (& families) to not take the Bible seriously & the Bible is for entertainment.
Is the Christmas Eve service the place to make fun of the Bible story?
I know they were trying to keep the kids’ attention because it’s extremely hard to keep the attention of 100-200 kids sitting on the stage by themselves. But really! Putting a ball under the children pastor’s shirt as he talks about Mary being pregnant. Throwing clothes in the air as they read about a baby wrapped in cloths. Playing donkey sounds each time the donkey is mentioned.
What do you think the kids learned from this presentation?
It’s ok to tease & make light of Bible stories. Christmas Eve service is more about having fun & laughing than worshipping Jesus, our Savior, as families.
You may think I’m being too harsh. That I’m old and not in tune with society today. That we need to relate to the kids like society relates to kids – fast moving video-type stories.
I beg to differ.
If my kids were young, we would have gone home to discuss how we need to treat God’s Word.
Irony at Christmas Eve
In actuality, our Christmas Eve service was filled with irony. Our pastor’s message encouraged us to overcome society’s “noise” at Christmas so we can focus on Jesus coming to earth as a humble servant. Our children’s message simply increased the noise – making fun of Jesus coming to earth, laughing and being entertained as we read the story of Jesus’ birth.
I am conflicted because the adult message was so on-target.
Possible Solution to Christmas Eve Service Ideas with Kids
I miss the days we spent in Idaho, when we participated in a Lessons & Carols Service each Christmas Eve. It was so simple, but all were able to participate. Kids & parents worshipped “together”. We didn’t water down or make fun of the Christmas story. We didn’t separate the children’s message from the adults’.
In short, an elder read a Scripture passage and then we sang a Christmas carol together. We repeated this with 8 more carols & passages. In the middle, one of our pastors gave a 5 minute Christmas homily. It was simple & meaningful and ALL could participate. Kids & adults together.
Why not let God’s Word speak for itself, even to the kids?
And I close as I began. I love participating in family worship services, where children & adults sing & learn together – a “Family” Christmas Eve service. I believe it’s possible to include kids in worship services, without watering down their message.
I would enjoy hearing your thoughts about children’s messages, kids in worship services or Christmas Eve service ideas. Please leave a comment below, instead of emailing me. That way everyone can benefit from each others’ thoughts.
If you’re looking for practical ideas to reduce your overwhelm at Christmas time, pick up a free copy of our Christmas Unit Study…use as a homeschooler or non-homeschooler.
Sign up below to get your free Christmas Unit Study.
.Question: What are your thoughts about kids in worship services.? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
I hope your current & former pastors are among your blog followers. If not, I pray that you share these thoughts with them, if you haven’t already.
I enjoy the simple services that you described, filled with narrated or spoken by the congregation in unison as well as hymns & carols.
Blessings on your New Year.
Thanks, JanaRae. I appreciate your comments. I decided to share my thoughts here, instead of complaining at church. I hope this doesn’t come across as complaining
I believe it is crucia for children to participate in the same service as adults. They need to be taught respect of God’s Word. There is a lot of entertainment out there to teach our children, and it can be used effectively in the proper setting, but I would agree a church service is not appropriate. My church offers children’s church, but I want my child with me hearing the same message I hear so we can discuss it. I see
Parents giving children their phones to entertain or distract them from making noise and if feel they’ve missed the point of having the child(ren) in the service. Mine doodles on the bulletin, but he needs something to occupy his hands. His ears and heart hear the message evidenced by our conversations afterward. I believe entertainment is ok in isolated cases, but needs to used sparingly. My child watches the “What’s In The Bible” series at home. But again, it is used to facilitate serious conversation about what the Bible contains. They are silly, but we go to the Bible and read about the stories covered in the video. It is not used as a stand alone teacher.
I guess to your question, Kerry, I believe there are appropriate times to use entertainment. In the middle of an otherwise “serious” service would not be one of those times. Entertainment should only be used in conjunction with follow up teaching of a more serious or detailed nature.
I’m working on a post about What’s in the Bible. I think it’s different from Veggie Tales, in that it teaches Bible concepts & theology…in a fun way.
I’m not opposed to fun & entertainment, but in the right situation, as you suggest. I agree with you that a church service is not the place for such entertainment.
We brought our kids to the church service because we wanted them to be accustomed to worshiping in a church service. At lunch we were able to talk about the sermon…like I’m sure you do.
I believe that children should always be in the church service. I also believe in a good Sunday school program for both the child and the parent. It is there I think that the parent gets an opportunity to dig deeper in the word on all levels. Ad it is also an opportunity as a parent to be trained how to paint in a Godly way. Back to the service; if we only allow children to go to children’s church which I think is a joke everywhere I have seen it, the how will this generation of people know the true meaning of church? And what are we asking of the children, an hour or two to be quiet? To sit still?? That is no big deal, they can do it! We don’t expect them to anymore, oh trust me, I have a roudy crew! Let’s look back just a generation or two ago and see where the kids were. And we wonder why so many leave the church today. I grew up in a small country church and as an adult with children, we have experienced the children’s church thing, we nor the kids like it. As to the children’s thing you described, I agree with you, I don’t like it.
You took the words right out of my mouth. Kids NEED to go to “big” church. They need to experience & learn how to participate in worship. Children’s church does not do that.
This is an interesting topic for discussion. On one hand we left a church that “entertained” the children more than taught them and the children were NEVER together with the adults in the service. So we seeked out a church that was less *busy and loud* and found a great one where the children are very welcome in the service.
Every Sunday all the children start the service with the adults, although there is a nursery available for the youngest if the parents so choose. Two of the elementary aged students will acolyte (light the candles) to begin the time of worship. After part of the service we have a “Children’s Moment” kind of like you described where the children go up and listen to a lesson for them, but it’s never been loud like you described. There is usually an *object lesson* associated with it, but I don’t remember ever feeling like they were trying to entertain with it. The one that sticks out in my mind is when the lesson was about showing others we belong to “Team Jesus” through our actions and how we treat others. The teacher had a sports team jersey on, but had other shirts on too such as a school shirt and a family shirt, etc. She would take off each shirt as she talked about all the “teams” that she was a part of and how the shirt showed others that her loyalty laid with certain groups. It was memorable, but I didn’t feel as if it distracted from the lesson that was being taught. Then the children go to children’s church after that so they miss the sermon, but I really like how it’s set up. I can have my boys with me, but I can also have a moment of quiet to reflect on the sermon without being distracted with making sure they are still and quiet, etc. There is also one Sunday a year called Youth Sunday where the youth complete all the tasks of service. It is so wonderful to see!
So I really like having a time in the service for the kids, but I agree that maybe the noisy, goofy way of presenting the Christmas story may have been a bit distracting from the lesson. It is a personally preference of mine to teach the kids that there is a time to be reverent. That’s one thing that I felt was missing in the church I grew up in and so we seeked that out when finding a church.
I really like the way our church involves children in lighting the candles. Great way to start the service. For me personally, our kids quit going to children’s church with my youngest. He didn’t even want to go, so he stayed in church with us. I’m still not sure that a children’s lesson in the middle of the service is the right time to have those type of lessons. The only time we have a children’s sermon is the Christmas Eve service because there isn’t time for it on a weekly basis.
As I type this comment, I remember that our church used to have the kids come to church until the sermon. Kids participated in all aspects of the service, except listening to the sermon. Since I’ve attended several other churches, I’ve seen it is possible for kids to sit through the sermon.
I know God is using different types of services, but I think it’s important to be reverent & respectful no matter which way you go (with kids or without kids in the service)
We live in an entertainment driven world and unfortunately, that adversely influenced the church in many choose to teach. Somewhere along the road, leadership determined that kids cannot learn unless it is fun and entertaining, yet there are several generations of us that learned quite well what the Bible has to say without the entertainment. I agree that there is nothing funny about God’s Word. It is holy and should be treated with respect and dignity when being taught to anyone regardless of their age. I find it troublesome that so many children’s programs, whether it is Sunday School or Children’s church are focused so heavily on entertaining the kids and making sure they have “fun”. Corporate worship is not about us and our comfort and fun, it is about coming before a Holy God in worship. We do not normally allow our children to attend a children’s church when we are visiting other churches. They have been sitting in church from the beginning. When they were younger I did have busy bags for them but even then, they were listening and often would ask questions at age 4 and 5. Churches in general seem to be more entertainment driven in the post modern church.
Isn’t that the truth . . .
I find it troublesome that so many children’s programs, whether it is Sunday School or Children’s church are focused so heavily on entertaining the kids and making sure they have “fun”. Corporate worship is not about us and our comfort and fun, it is about coming before a Holy God in worship.
Thanks for the awesome reminder of the purpose of corporate worship…to worship God, not entertain ourselves or make us feel a certain way.
The whole idea of our children being with us within church service is such a beautiful picture, and one that I enjoy firsthand each Sunday within our own church. Family worship is SO very meaningful! Our whole lives should be about living for and worshiping our Sweet Savior in many different ways as a family…so why not at church as well?!
Is it always easy to have a 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, and 11 year old’s within the service…no…but as you train them (just like you would at home) and acclimate them to family worship…I have found personally speaking that the struggles that sometimes come with it fall to the wayside completely as you see the benefits far outweigh those times of training within a service. The kids come home talking about what they have learned within the service, asking questions about scripture, and have a wonderful time worshiping God with their sweet voices raised forth to our Lord and Savior! LOVE hearing those sweet voices singing out to God! It blesses the adults just as much as other children to have them there!
To me worship should be apart of everyday life, if we want to be with our children at home, why not at church as well? If we feel we are one of their best teachers, then why not let them play a vital role within the church service as well as they sit with their parents and siblings and learn about God and worship God as a family too. It shouldn’t change just because we are in a new location…whether home or church, to learn about God together, to worship God together, to pray and share what God has done for us all together…it’s a beautiful picture and a small taste of how it will be one day when we are all together with our Savior in heaven!
God has taught us a sweet lesson about praise over this past year! We have always enjoyed singing praise and worship and hymns both at church and at home together as a family…but there are many forms of worshiping the Lord…and this can even take place in the last moments of losing a little one. Strange but true, when our eldest 3 happened to be at the Children’s Hospital with us on the VERY day we lost our 7th little blessing (Jotham) we had the precious gift of all being able to be together in a special room as a family alone, holding him and savoring that sweet time while it was there! As we held him and cried tears of both joy and sadness in having this moment, we had a time of worship to the Lord…for His gift of allowing us to know and be with Jotham (whose name means “God has perfected/God is perfect”) for 11 days, for allowing us to see him come into the world and leave the world, using us to share God’s love and gospel message in the hospital with hospital staff over those 11 days….it was completely appropriate not only there to worship the God who gives and takes away…but it’s appropriate for our children to be with us in that process there and within the church service too so they can be apart of worshiping the God we love and have given our hearts and lives to…and for them to see that firsthand is vital!
When we let our children be apart of service, we are giving them a sweet gift of family worship! There’s no reason to water it down for kids, or to leave them behind in another room….that disconnect just doesn’t seem to have a purpose for their long term relationship with the Lord? Biblically if we are to talk about the Lord with our children as we sit and as we rise…why not in service as well for the whole family to be encouraged for Christ and be apart of the body of Christ and that Christian love and community!
In that room, at the hospital, when our eldest three were with my husband and I in Jotham’s last earthly moments on earth…God gave us this incredible opportunity to not only worship God for every moment He gives us together as a family, but when the Doctor and Doctor in training came in to check Jotham’s heartbeat…we literally worshiped and praised God in prayer with them being apart of that process with the last heartbeat heard…and as that time of passing was written down by the Doctor for his records, they were there also to see and be apart of us worshiping the Savior who gives us the gift of our next breath…it was beautiful!
So, all this to say, that wherever we are at…whether home, at church, or even at a children’s hospital…to worship with our children…there is no need for bells and whistles for the Sweet Savior is worthy of our praise just being Him plain and simple for all to hear…for He is the “I AM” and to have our children with us seems exactly how it should be!
Thank you Jesus for the opportunity to praise and worship you no matter where we are…this gift of family is such an incredible opportunity to praise you that much more!!!
Thank you, Amber, for sharing your story. What an awesome picture of God working in your family. I’m sure it was a sweet time of worship, as well as a difficult time of grief.
I agree with your thoughts about training your kids everywhere, including the church service. No, it isn’t always easy to have the kids in worship service, but it is well worth it. They will only be with us for a short time & then off on their own. The benefits definitely outweigh the difficulties of having your kids in the church service. I wholeheartedly agree;.
I have to agree with you. Our church had an entertaining skit to open the family service, which we have early in the evening.. But then the youth minister went into a serious sermon, brought it all together, so parents p, grandparents and children all got the gospel message. We sang carols together. Our traditional Christmas eve service we have candle lot, carols, gospel message. Since that’s not till 7, smaller children are usually not the norm but are still welcome. I’ve seen families of all ages there. It’s my gpfavorite.
I remember having candles at the end of every Christmas Eve service. I wonder why we stopped????
We always took our children to church.
When we were “encouraged” to put them in Sunday School we chose to teach our youngest child’s class and take our two older children with us. We trained our two oldest to teach our youngest’s class, oversaw them for awhile and then turned it over to them.
Then they all three taught for many years. Our oldest two still teach a class.
At first, we sent our kids to Children’s Church (which only lasts through age 5). But our youngest stayed with our family in church. I’ve heard of other families who teach their children’s class;.
I totally agree Kerry! We have gotten rid of some of our Veggie tales movies because of this. The ones that change the Bible story all around to make it silly make me a little angry. I think it confuses children and makes the stories more imaginary in their minds than real historical facts which is what they are and what I want my children to acknowledge.
I don’t understand why people think children don’t think the Bible stories are fun just the way they are. Most of the stories in the Bible are EXCITING! There are plenty of ways to get children to be involved in an interactive way without making it crazy and silly.
You’re so right about exciting Bible stories…sometimes a bit too exciting. At one time, a friend of mine was teaching Sunday School & told me the stories were not accurate with the Bible. So sad.
Children need to worship with their families. A church service is not the place for play and laughter. If taught from little on that God needs full attention during service and then after service is time to visit and fellowship. As far as the veggie tale stuff our 10 children do not watch them. We learn bible stories with true people who they are about and we learn about vegetables in life-skill class or science. Talking vegetables, about the same as Santa and the Easter bunny.
Yes, we need to teach our kids from an early age, how to sit through a worship service. Too often, I see parents go to the worship service while their children go to Sunday School. This continues through high school. What a shame
the Holy Spirit in you was simply saying He was grieved by the conflicting message represented….over the years, I have been subjected to similar events (unfortunately, even with adults using ‘Fruit of the Loom’ underwear for an illustration for the fruit of the Spirit) How tacky is that?! Thank you for being open about this so it may speak to anyone on this blog to help the body of Christ show dignity and respect to the wonderful gospel of Grace.
Mary, Thanks for your encouraging words. I hope this opens up discussions in other churches – to encourage parents to bring their children to the church service. It’s the only way kids will learn corporate worship.
First of all I am so glad to hear you were against all the
“Fluff” that was being portrayed to the children regarding
The Christmas story. Sad to say that it’s not just children that
Are being entertained that way but adults too. Why can’t churches
Just preach the truth of God’s word the way it’s meant to be preached?
If Jesus’ preachings were good for both children and adults then,
It’s good for all ages now. Too many people want their ears
Tickled instead of hearing the truth and for those people
We need to pray and for the pastors in the pulpits who r doing
The “ticking.” I think it’s good for kids to be in with parents during worship. But I’m
Not totally against Sunday School for kids either. Where we previously fellowshipped
At we had r kids in SS but then pulled them b/c the SS
Was during the “family bible hour” where the word was
Being preached. We wanted r kids to be part of that.
Now we fellowship at a different church and there they have the worship
Service first then SS for both adults and kids so we
Decided to allow r kids(ages 3 & 6) to be in those classes.
It’s interesting that you said Jesus taught adults & kids together. Before our children’s sermon, we were reminded that Jesus told the disciples to let the kids come to Him. That’s why we had a children’s sermon. I agree with you – Jesus let the kids come, but taught everyone together.
I’m not against Sunday School. What I’m against is kids ONLY attending Sunday School. Parents go to the church service & kids go to Sunday School. It’s a cross-cultural phenomena. Kids need to learn to worship God in a corporate manner, even at an early age.
I am required to put on a Children’s Pageant on Christmas Eve. It’s very difficult because families are busy and sometimes have little time for rehearsals. For a few years, we put on the traditional story in a few different ways, Last year we tried a non traditional play that was well received. It was serious and calm. This year we tried another non traditional play. Half the scenes had a family discussing Christmas and the other scenes had elves at the office of impossible wishes discussing letters that only God can answer. While they were funny, they were also delivering a very serious message. In the foyer we had a few inflatables that were relevant to the service theme ( the word joy for example) . I had a very traditional style usher give me a funny look when he saw inflatables inside the church building. My comment was simply that the church is a living breathing place and we can reach children in a relevant way if we get on their level. I believe that comedy used respectfully (unlike your example) can add to a service, but there is definitely a very fine line.
Thank you for your comment. I understand the busyness of families today. I write and speak about busyness on a regular basis. For some reason, our parents find the time (at my new church) to come to weekly rehearsals for November & part of December. I believe there are places for relevancy, fun and even comedy. The Bible has much comedy in it when we read it for what is being said. I don’t think we should portray God as stoic and non-relevant.
You used the word respect. Respect is so important. Respect for God, first and foremost. Respect for those around us. Respect for those older and younger than us. Of course, I’d like others to respect me and my ministry, but that’s not my concern. God calls me to love & respect others, so I filter what our ministries do through the lens of Scripture. If you’re play is respectful to God and those in your church, then I hope it brings kids to knowing Jesus as their Savior. Unfortunately, the play from our old church was not respectful. Just entertaining, which is what many churches have become these days. Thanks again for sharing your story.