DURING ALL THE Sunday mornings I spent in church as a child, I only cried once. After months of encouragement from my parents, I decided to go to our Catholic parish’s children’s liturgy (their version of Sunday school). I remember nothing else about that morning except that I stood in the corner crying while kind volunteers tried to calm me down with a few cookies. I never went to children’s liturgy again, and I’m thankful the experience didn’t leave me scarred for life, unable to eat another cookie.
My dislike of children’s liturgy wasn’t about what it was; it had to do with what it wasn’t. I grew up watching Mass unfold from the front pew, where I could be as close to the action as possible. Going to the basement meant that I had to give up the beauty, wonder, and fascination I experienced during church services.
It’s been more than 25 years since I lost my composure on that fateful Sunday, and my dissatisfaction with children’s liturgy is now echoed by ministers, Christian educators, and parents who realize the importance of including children in corporate worship. But as I see it, including children in corporate worship isn’t a matter of choice or changing trends; it’s a matter of justice.
“When your children ask you ...”
Practices for including children in worship are far from new. Children’s ministry leaders refer to Deuteronomy 6 so often that memorizing this passage might as well be a prerequisite for working with kids in churches! Many interpretations of this chapter focus on the first few verses—“Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children ...”—and emphasize the importance of teaching God’s commandments to children in all times and places. Yet a crucial point in this text appears in verse 20, which begins, “When your children ask you ...”