The Major Shift in Worship and Children’s Ministry that No One Is Talking About

A cosmic paradigm shift has occurred in the worship and children’s ministries of many churches. And though somehow this shift seems to have occurred under the radar, church leaders are awakening to its true significance. For a large and vital segment of our congregations, the role of worship leader has been transferred out of the worship ministry and given to someone else.

Children are no longer being led in worship by the primary worship leader at their church. That role has been transferred to the children’s ministry.

Children are no longer being led in worship by the primary worship leader at their church. That role has been transferred to the children’s ministry.

How did this happen?

Two significant church trends created this shift. First, many worship ministries are no longer engaging kids directly through children’s choirs or worship arts programs. Second, many churches have moved kids out of the main worship service and into their own service.

If you’re a worship leader in a church that fits these two criteria, chances are you no longer have any contact with an entire segment of the congregation you’ve been entrusted to lead.

If you’re a worship leader in a church that fits these two criteria, chances are you no longer have any contact with an entire segment of the congregation you’ve been entrusted to lead. And if you’re a children’s minister in that church, you’ve been handed a job for which you might not have training, study, skill or experience – and you might not even realize the weight of responsibility that has been handed to you.

So, what now?

First, let’s agree that teaching our kids to worship is a primary calling of the church.

Chances are the mission statement of your church includes the word “disciples” or “followers of Christ.” But we can’t make disciples if we don’t create worshippers. Take a look at Romans 12:1, a familiar and defining passage of Scripture: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

This passage equates two phrases:

  1. “true and proper worship”
  2. “a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God”

Doesn’t that second phrase sound like a great definition of what it means to be a disciple? Could it be that “worshipper” and “disciple” were meant to be synonymous?

Discipleship without worship is behavior modification. Worship without discipleship is emotional manipulation.

In fact, discipleship and worship are truly inseparable. Discipleship without worship is behavior modification. Worship without discipleship is emotional manipulation. Neither on their own will create lasting faith in child’s heart, a faith that will survive the transition to adulthood and the many struggles and storms that lurk on the horizon.

Remember that children were uniquely important to Jesus, to the extent that his warning to those who would lead them astray reads like a scene from The Sopranos. This is a calling that is close to the heart of Christ.

Second, let’s agree that this calling belongs to both the worship leader AND the children’s minister.

Henry Ford pioneered the use of the assembly line in automobile manufacturing. The basic concept is simple: take a complex process (like building a car) and break it down into its individual parts. Then give one person one job and let them do it over and over. Efficiency is increased, and costs come down. Everybody wins!

We’ve adhered to the same model in church ministry. We’ve taken the complex process of discipleship and broken it down into its component parts: worship, missions, age group ministries, men’s and women’s ministries, recreation ministries, etc. This increases efficiency, allows for the development of expertise, and saves one person from being the Pastor of Worship/Youth/Missions/Communications. (Can I get an “amen” from the small church crowd?)

We start running into problems when we forget that our segment of the process is NOT the end goal.

But we start running into problems when we forget that our segment of the process is NOT the end goal. Instead, it’s an integral part of the larger purpose of creating followers of Christ. Too often we start competing with each other when we should be supporting each other. We fight for resources and time. We resent other ministers in the church who seem to have the ear of the pastor or the finance committee. We undercut each other with fellow staff members or, worse, church members.

Despite the shift in worship leading responsibility that has occurred in many churches, the end goal remains the same. We want to make disciples. And if we want to teach kids to follow Christ, they must be taught to worship. That calling belongs to the worship leader AND the children’s minster!

Third, let’s agree to support each other in fulfilling this calling.

Worship leaders, your children’s minister needs you. He likely does not have the same skill, training, and experience you have. She may not have a developed philosophy and theology of worship. He may not have the resources or volunteer base he needs to lead a worship service each Sunday. She may be reluctant to ask you for help because she knows how much is on your plate.

Children’s ministers, your worship leader needs you. He likely does not have the same skill, training, and experience you have. She may not have a developed philosophy of faith-development in children. He may not have the resources or volunteer base he needs to connect with the kids in your congregation. She may be reluctant to ask you for help because she knows how much is on your plate.

Your worship leader or children’s minister may not even realize the implications of the shift in worship leading responsibility that has occurred in your church.

And your worship leader or children’s minister may not even realize the implications of the shift in worship leading responsibility that has occurred in your church.

Let’s help each other, but not like insufferable know-it-alls who are attempting to conform another person to our way of thinking. Instead, let’s serve each other the way Christ served us. Instead of assuming you know what the need is, ask questions. Instead of making your philosophy and preferences non-negotiable, have the humility to listen. Instead of mindlessly imitating the churches around you, develop the unique approach that will help your church fulfill the ultimate goal of making disciples.

Worship leaders, children’s ministers, don’t let this vital part of a child’s faith development fall through the cracks.

Worship leaders, children’s ministers, don’t let this vital part of a child’s faith development fall through the cracks. Don’t be afraid to live counter-culturally – even if that culture is American church culture. God has given you a sacred mission. Let’s work together to fulfill his divine calling to raise up a new generation of worshippers.


Teaching kids to worship is our greatest calling and greatest joy. We created Doorpost Songs to help reconnect worship ministries to the children in their church, and to give children’s ministries awesome worship resources to help them fulfill this mission. Visit our Music page to listen, and click on any song to view available resources, or check out our Resource Pack bundles and videos.


Dave-Profile-PicDavid Ray is a worship leader, artist and songwriter from Houston, Texas. He and his wife, Jess, are the creators of Doorpost Songs Family Worship, a series of songs and resources designed to help parents take up the mantle of spiritual leadership in their homes. He is father to three rambunctious kids and he loves getting to serve churches and families across the nation.

6 Comments on “The Major Shift in Worship and Children’s Ministry that No One Is Talking About”

  1. I believe that the job of training children falls on parents. The church joins them in a partnership. My first disciples are my own children.

    1. You’re right, J. We are big believers in that as well. That’s why we create a Family Worship Kit with every album. But church leaders have a role to play, too, and they may not realize that the landscape has shifted. My hope is to speak specifically to worship leaders and children’s ministers to encourage them to work together to fulfill the church’s role in the discipleship/worship process.

  2. I grew up with the choir director coming in to children’s church and doing fun bible songs with us and we worked on the Christmas Cantata music. I have been the Children’s Minister in 2 different churches now spanning 20 years. I grew up in a musical family and singing is a talent God has given me. I guess I never thought about how other churches do worship. Many ministry friends in my area lead the worship part too. Leading worship, especially when the kids get into, is my favorite part of Sunday. I do wonder if it depends on the denomination or if it based on region of the US. Interesting article.

  3. I agree 100 % on the need of co-operation between the music minister and the children’s minister. I have spent most of my adult life working with children, and during that time the music minister did work with the children, but then I saw a move away from that, and the children’s leaders did the best they could to fill the void. Fortunately we do have a music minister now who is beginning a children’s choir, and I am looking forward to working with her for the good of the children. I also agree that the parents are the primary providers of the spiritual growth of their children, and would like for parents to consider at least some corporate worship time with their children. As far as worship, I am concerned that music, in the minds of some, has become the sole connection made with the term worship. I teach my children that worship is connected to every aspect of Christian life. In prayer, we form a relationship with the God we worship. In Bible study, we come to know the One that we worship. In ministry and obedience, we show that God is worthy of our devotion. As Jesus told the woman at the well, worship does not occur in a particular time or place, but “… they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” John 4: 24b … at all times and all places.

  4. Our branch of the body is somewhat small yet growing from a church plant. We don’t currently have a worship leader. Either the pastor leads worship for the adults and/or family worship which is twice a month, or one of the teachers does for the kids. We do our best and commit the rest. Your article gave me a new perspective on worship for the kids. Thank you. Hopefully God will raise up a worship leader for His little church in Iowa. 🙂 In the meantime, I love doorpostsongs and the kids enjoy them as much as I do!

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