Ten-year-old Lauren Hartwell had just finished singing and dancing her way through much of a 40-minute First Christian Church service with more than 60 other youngsters.
A big part of the service’s message was delivered by a man dressed as a nerd in a painfully mismatched outfit, and another segment included a drama with professional stage lighting. Yet another part featured pop-oriented praise music with nearly a dance-floor groove.
Children’s church, it seems, is all grown up.
Welcome to Kid-nect, a fast-paced modern ministry aimed at kindergarteners through fourth-graders that uses a variety of media to move youngsters both physically and spiritually.
“This is a lot more of an energetic way to learn about God,” said Lauren, in her fifth year of the program.
“I loved it,” said 8-year-old Keiden Wright, a big fan of the dry humor that took center stage in a drama about making prayer like a simple conversation.
The program purposely includes a variety of media, according to Jenny Lowry, First Christian’s director of children’s ministry.
“We’re deliberately trying to reach every single learning style,” Lowry said. “Some kids learn through music. Other kids learn through visuals or the auditory.”
While some children’s services used to be little more than a way to keep kids busy while their parents attended adult services, Lowry said that they are golden opportunity to get kids engaged in the church at a young age.
“This is the next generation of the church,” she said. “And their focus and attention is one way we know we’re reaching them.”
Several other churches have the same idea. A few years ago, Community Church of Columbus launched Disciple Land, which includes separate 75-minute services for fourth- through sixth-graders. The services, which are conducted at the same time as the adult services, attract about 60 young people and are among only a handful of children’s services in the area to feature a live band.
Dorelle Hogan, director of children’s ministries, said the heavy emphasis on live tunes helps the church encourage and cultivate young musicians for its other worship bands.
“The kids seem to respond better to the live music, especially at that age,” Hogan said. “A lot of the available, canned music appeals
mostly to younger children and features a younger flavor.”
At Columbus’ Northview Church, John and Charlotta Ferril lead Kids Church, where the pair want youngsters ages 6 to 12 to know that God is a communicator through Scripture and more. They lead one regular exercise in which they encourage participants to ask the Holy Spirit to speak to them.
Then the leaders instruct the youngsters to sit quietly and wait for several minutes. Later, they write a few thoughts or draw a picture.
“There’s some deep stuff,” John Ferril said, adding that one youngster recently depicted an angel in the sky calling deceased believers to heaven.
“If they know when they’re young that God is speaking to them, it can strengthen their walk with him,” he said. “And I think that will keep them in a closer relationship with with him later in their life.”