Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Mimi Larson

Wheaton, Illinois

To gather wisdom from ministry leaders who thoughtfully engage children in worship, seeking to better theological and pedagogical understanding of how children make meaning of their worship experiences.

Researcher(s): Dr. Mimi Larson 
Academic Discipline: Practical Theology; Christian Formation & Ministry

Project Summary

The purpose of this project is to understand how experienced ministry leaders thoughtfully engage children in worship experiences, addressing this question not only from a developmental perspective but also considering theology and pedagogy, and how children make meaning of their worship experiences. 

What questions have you asked about worship in the past year? List at least two questions that have generated theological reflection and have helped shape your project.

How do we engage children (and adults) as active (vs. passive) participants in worship?  Also, in baptism, we state that children are now part of the covenantal community.  What does it mean that we often remove them from the covenantal community's most important act of worship?  Isn't that their baptismal right? Lastly, Mark's gospel states that Jesus was indignant with his disciples for keeping the children away from him.  What does this mean for our own attitude towards children in worship? 

In what ways has or will your project strengthen the worship life of congregations?

This project has already contributed to a denominational paper regarding engaging children in worship.  I also have presented on this topic on three different occasions including CICW Worship Symposium 2020; Vibrant Faith workshop in Fall 2020, and upcoming at the Children's Spirituality Summit in May 2021.  It is my hope that this work will challenge and equip the church to not only welcome children, but to empower children as active participants as well as leaders in worship. 

What have been your greatest challenges (or challenging opportunities)

The pandemic threw a curve ball into how this project was shaped and proposed.  I was not able to travel to churches to observe their ministries as hoped.  Interviews took longer to schedule due to people's time, energy, and health.  Personally, it was hard to conduct a research project during one of the most difficult years of teaching I have experienced.  Having said this, these restrictions allowed me to rethink the project and make room for more interviews.  This diversity has added so much to the understandings of engaging children in worship.  While I think the observations would have been extremely helpful to this project, I am very grateful to have included other ethnic and diverse voices into this conversation. 

What advice would you like to share with other Teacher-Scholars? 

First, enjoy this incredible gift and opportunity.  For me, this has not just been a research project, but a journey with God on his heart for children and how he provides for research to be done.  So, this research project was both academic and spiritually formational for me.   

Ask for help...and the quicker you do, the easier it is for you move on.   

With the pandemic restrictions, our cohort/CICW meetings were all online, so making connections was very hard. I would recommend that you make connections and talk to other teacher-scholars who have similar interests.  I am deeply grateful for the scholar who reached out to me.  To be able to bounce ideas and findings off of another teacher-scholar was incredibly helpful. 

What products will emerge from your project?

Both a denominational paper and a presentation has already emerged.  I also plan on writing a journal article for the academic audience and a magazine article for practitioners.  My hope is that a book will emerge from this research.  I already have a very rough outline and am thinking through how to connect with publishers.