The Ripple Effect: Why We Bring Students and Families Together to Worship

Alison Lewis   -  

When I was a kid, I loved to skip rocks on the water. It took practice to get that awesome glide just right. My dad was patient, giving me time to master the art of the perfect throw. It was fun to watch the ripples move across the water from the toss of one rock.

Like the small waves from a stone on water, we can see a ripple effect in ministry as it relates to kids and church. In the 1980s, churches focused on engaging the boomer generation, looking for creative ways to draw them back to church. In order for parents to be engaged, churches determined they needed to have the kids engaged, too.

A movement to have dynamic services for all ages became the norm in America. Churches began separating kids from their parents to experience age-specific worship environments. By crafting unique environments for each audience, kids and adults could have more meaningful worship experiences.

Aesthetically attractive, kid-friendly meeting spaces and fun, interactive content was appealing to families. The heart behind these improvements was good, causing exponential growth in congregations.

But for all the positive trends these changes caused, there was at least one unintended result that no one saw coming. 

While drawing kids out of the main adult environments, churches did not anticipate the needed effort to involve kids in the life of the church. When kids made the shift into these relevant student-friendly services, they were unintentionally shifted out of having any view of what an adult worship service looked or felt like.

Many lost all contact with what adults do in church and no longer had a point of reference within the adult environment. Kids and students spent so much time in worship experiences designed for them that the ‘big church’ experience was unfamiliar as they entered adulthood. What happened, according to the Barna Group, is that we have “raised the largest unchurched generation in the history of our country.”

Churches have “Sunday schooled kids out of church.”

So, what does this mean for us today? Should we eliminate ministry environments for kids and students altogether? Not at all! But it does mean that we should consider the ripple effect, understand the value of age-specific environments, and intentionally provide times for families to worship together. It can be as simple as providing opportunities for a child to stand beside dad and hear him sing, watch mom laugh as the pastor shares a story, or even participate in communion with the rest of the family.

Worship Center has been intentional about providing these opportunities. For instance, four times most years, the calendar produces a fifth Sunday. At Worship Center, we call these “fifth weekends.” On these weekends, elementary students in Grades 1 through 4 and Route 56 students are invited to participate in the adult service.

This intentionality provides those times when adults and kids can experience church together: how we worship, how the Bible integrates with our lives, how we pray corporately, and how we experience the Holy Spirit’s move.

To be a life fully engaged in the local church and loving Jesus is the ripple effect we want for our kids. We want our students to not only grow up in this church, but we want them to graduate with their own authentic faith and be able to walk into a church knowing that they belong.