LEAven Blog


Some Ideas to Have Children “Up Front” in your Congregation’s Worship Services

Part I – Children as Lectors

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 19:14

Research on Children in Worship

     A number of years ago I was privileged to be one of a team of researcher who examined the topic of “Children in Worship.”[1]  One of the most significant finding of the research was that in the majority of churches studied, worship is for adults and by adults. Even in churches with Lutheran elementary schools, children’s role in Sunday worship services was surprisingly limited.  That may run counterintuitive, but the study noted that, with exceptions, such as the annual Children’s Christmas Service,[2] children’s leadership roles in worship were at best limited and, at worst, nonexistent. I’d like to believe things have changed dramatically over the last twenty-four years, but I’m not convinced they have.

Why Should We Encourage Children’s Participation “Up Front?”

     Worship is a primary source of faith formation and children’s active participation in worship needs to be cultivated so that they learn how to share their faith and serve God in their families, congregations, and communities. Having children serve in various age-appropriate ways during the worship service helps them to grow in faith and serve as role models for children who are listening, watching, and worshiping.[3]

Question #1 of Several Questions to Follow in Later Blogs

How often do children and/or young adults serve as lectors in your congregation’s worship services?

     If your answer is: “Children read the Psalm, Epistle, and Old Testament pericopes many times during our worship services throughout the year!” you probably don’t need to continue reading. But, if as I suspect, children are not reading the Scriptures in church very often, or at all, here’s what you can do to encourage their participation as lectors.

  1. Talk to your pastor, DCE, school principal, board of elders, etc., to see how children in your church can serve as lectors.  Get the “go ahead” from all interested parties and then…
  2. Set up a schedule for readings.
  3. Invite your school’s “best readers of various ages” to serve as lectors and assign them times to read.[4] 
  4. Inform the parents so you have their support.
  5. Set up practice times to guide, encourage, and help children with pronunciation, pacing, projection, articulation, speaking into a microphone, etc.
  6. During practice, discuss the meaning of the Bible passage, and reasons why their role as lector is important.[5]
  7. Have their parents practice with them at home.
  8. Before services, pray with and for the child and encourage them.
  9. After the service, thank the child for work well done.
  10.  Evaluate.

God’s blessings as you foster children’s active leadership roles during worship service in your congregation.

PS:  If you want to see an example of a young child reading in church (with mom standing next to him as an encourager), followed by children leading the children’s sermon, watch the following video starting at approx. 30 min., 20 sec. 


Next time…

Children as ushers, greeters, and helpers in other capacities never imagined…

[1] Children In Worship Study (Study #1, 1997) Center for the Study of Children’s Ethical Development (CenSCED) Concordia University, Chicago.

[2] Sometime erroneously dubbed the “Children’s Christmas Program.” 

[3] According to the research, the most common way children help in worship is serving as acolytes.  Other than that, children were not found “up front” very much.

[4] Recently, while I attended a schools chapel service, I heard a very young child speak with such articulation that couldn’t believe my ears.  Don’t be afraid to have younger children read.

[5] “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”  Romans 10:17 (ESV) 

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Dr. Jeffrey E. Burkart, former Associate Dean of the College of Vocation and Ministry and Coordinator of Lutheran Teacher Education, now serves in retirement as Emeritus Professor of Education and Artist in Residence at Concordia University, St. Paul, MN. He is a nationally known teacher, author, speaker, dramatist, poet and musician. Dr. Burkart has over 200 publications including 12 books, numerous professional journal articles, book reviews, chancel dramas, Christian musicals, hymns, poems, CD recordings, films and videos.

Before coming to Concordia, St. Paul, he taught in LC-MS elementary, junior high, and secondary schools in Indiana, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. He and his wife, Martha, have three grown sons (Jonathan, David and Andrew) who all are proud graduates of King of Kings Lutheran School and Concordia Academy, Roseville, MN.

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