Thesis Abstract of
The Historical Background and Philosophy Behind Graded Worship Among the Churches of Christ (Christian)
 RJ Kidwell

Volume XIV --  Number 4
Summer, 1968
pp. 89-126
(C)opyright 1976
All Rights Reserved
The Cincinnati Bible College & Seminary

    The problem.  It is the purpose of this study (1) to trace the historical background which contributed to the development of graded worship as it is observed among the churches of Christ (Christian) today; (2) to discover the reasons why the church has accepted the practice of graded worship, or rejected it; and (3) to determine what graded worship is and what it means to the church today.

    The method.  The method of study consisted of (1) a survey prepared and mailed during June, 1965, to 1,000 churches of Christ of which three hundred and sixty-seven reported; (2) correspondence with publisffing companies that are engaged in printing materials for extended sessions and cffildren's worship programs; (3) observation of churches engaged in graded worship and personal surveys of a limited number of churches with graded worship; (4) articles from journals and magazines; and (5) books.  In addition to the preceding sources contributing to the study, a major contribution was made by the graded worship class taught by this author at The Cincinnati Bible Seminary during the fall semester of 1965.  Information was supplied from students as they personally surveyed local churches engaged in graded worship programs.

    Principle findings.  Since 1935 the church has been involved in providing special worship services adapted for children and held concurrently with the Sunday morning adult worship hour.  Results from the survey established an escalation of these special worship services since 1960.  The original effort was known as "Junior Church" and often included children as young as four years of age as well as those of junior age.  As the concept grew in popularity the church refined the graded worship program, borrowing the graded principle from the already successful Sunday school and adapting it to the worship service for the children.

    Few publishing companies print materials for graded worship, but those who are thus engaged are producing teacher's helps and student's study books for ages two through twelve.  Some major denominations are opposed to graded worship arguing that children four years of age and older should be involved in worship with their parents and other adults.  The churches of Christ have generally embraced the graded principle in worship with little internal opposition.  Bible colleges are offering courses in graded worship and are training leaders to organize and conduct such services among the churches.  Some new church buildings are designed to serve both the needs of departmentalized Sunday schools and graded worship programs. There is little uniformity in practice due to the fact that churches purchase materials from varying sources.  The practice of graded worship is growing more popular each year and has become an established part of the life of the church.

The Philosophy Behind Graded Worship


    Much has already been written concerning the responsibility the church has in meeting the worship needs of children.  It has been clearly set forth that definite efforts have been made to plan the worship in the home and church in such a way that the children are vitally included.  It can be concluded that the interest the church has in leading her children in worship experiences is divinely appointed.  Many are the times a "thus saith the Lord" is given in respect to the responsibility of God's people to teach their children the will of God.

    Is the church doing enough for her children?  This question is constantly before the minds of those who deal directly with the planning of the worship program of the church.  One has written:

Those of us who are vitally concerned about the religious growth of children are interested in what worship really means to a child.  A child's worship should be his own.  Therefore, it will be emphasized that rather than merely conducting worship services for children, the church school teachers should prepare themselves to think and worship with the children and help them see religious meaning in their every day experience.1
    Another concerned individual as early as 1929 perceived the need of ministering to the children, and his words point up the frustration of his time.  Mr. Stocking wrote:
But in the case of children and younger adolescents I have come to feel that it is difficult to minister to them greatly through the sermon that is addressed to adults.  They are not "Little Men" and "Little Women."  The emotions of childhood, the interests, the operating motives, as well as the problems of childhood, are quite different from those of mature life, which has a past that childhood has not, a past that is both an asset and a liability.  The child's sense of values is not the same as that of an older person.  Much of the adult's vocabulary he has not yet learned.2

      How can we do more for the children?  As the church looked about to find the answer to this question, it observed what was already being done.  The Bible school had succeeded, and the church was adding new ideas to improve it.  Graded lessons, in some instances, replaced the older uniform lessons or were used in some departments along with the uniform lessons.  It was a natural step to move in the direction of graded worship.


Innovations Build on Former Discoveries

    "A new system of any kind is always a complex of many factors."3  So states John T. McFarland in an introduction to Henry H. Meyer's The Graded Sunday School in Principle and Practice.  Innovations build on former discoveries.  The graded church is no exception to this rule.  It would have been impossible fifty years ago for the present system of graded worship to have been successfully introduced.  The limited knowledge relative to the child and the Bible would have made such an attempt impossible.

The Graded Principle

    Through the centuries, the efforts to guide the mind of the child in the way of God were, in their own time and way, noble enough.  It is only because of the success of the graded Sunday school with a valid graded curriculum that the graded worship program can now be attained.  As one idea builds upon another, so the graded worship program is indebted to the main contributing factors heretofore mentioned.

    The graded principle has been successfully developed and applied in the national secular educational system.  Emphasis has been placed on stepping up the learning process in an attempt by the United States to catch up or keep pace with competitive national space programs.  Experimentation in graded secular education has been the key word for the past two decades.  The concept of graded education has been found to be both sound and profitable.  Meyer writes concerning the contribution made by particular colleges.

    Much of the inspiration leading to the introduction into American Sunday schools of better courses of instruction and better methods of teaching has come from university centers . . . While in many cases these educational leaders have mercilessly arraigned and condemned the older system and methods, they have not failed at the same time to point out something better (Italics not in the original).4
    To underscore the fact of a graded concept as a result of a rather general discovery on the part of both religious and secular leaders, the following is offered:
    ...after all these years of increasingly successful experimentation on the part of individual churches and denominations, and under the inspiration of the example set by leading educators and university professors, there should be evolved an International Graded Course of study to supersede the old uniform lesson system. Nor is it to be wondered at that the graded lessons thus developed should incorporate the best features of many courses already in successful operation.5
    The Bible school is primarily an educational arm of the local church, and its leaders are always searching for ideas that will enhance the effectiveness of the school.  Many secular principles of education will apply with equal value to religious education and thus have been applied to the Bible school program.

Application of Graded Principles to Worship

    In like manner, the development of graded worship is a result, to a large degree, of the adaptation of the same principle to the worship service.  It has been the experience of the church that the graded Sunday school has been most effective.  The church leaders now ask: Why not apply the same principle to worship that has been used in the graded Sunday school?  When the churches answered this question, the graded worship program was introduced.

    Graded worship was met with an astounding success, and it would appear that the same popularity the graded Sunday school program has enjoyed will be shared by the graded church.


    Results from a survey mailed by this writer in June, 1965, to one thousand churches of Christ manifested an ever-increasing number of churches with graded worship.  Three hundred and sixty-seven churches from thirty-six states responded to the survey.  A total of one hundred and sixty-eight of the responding churches reported some phase of graded worship.  Eighteen churches reported that they had had graded worship programs at one time but for various reasons had discontinued them.  A large number of churches spoke favorably concerning plans for future graded worship programs.

The Geographical Distribution

    The geographical distribution of churches with graded worship is rather general.  The area with the greatest number of churches reporting such programs are, on the whole, those areas where the larger churches are located.  This would lead to the conclusion that the practice is not determined by where the church is located but by the size of the congregation.

    In the following table the first number on the left represents the number of churches in the state that returned the survey.  The number on the right represents those churches reporting a graded worship program.

 Reporting to the Survey
 Reporting a Program
New Mexico
South Carolina
South Dakota
West Virginia
    A sampling.  The returns from the survey cannot be interpreted as a serious cross-section of the major part of the churches, but they do offer a general picture of the current trend.  California, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee reported the largest number of churches with the program.  One reason for this may be found in the fact that Bible colleges are located in each of these states with the exception of Indiana.  Indiana is but a few miles from Bible colleges located in all four neighboring states.  The large number of trained personnel associated with a Bible college and the large number of students supplying leadership on week-ends to the local churches may account in part for the heavier concentrations of graded worship programs in these states.

The Size of a Congregation a Malor Factor

    In addition to the geographical distribution of the churches with graded worship, the survey pointed up the fact that the size of the congregation had a direct relationship to the practice. The larger the congregation, the higher the percentage of churches practicing all four graded programs: Nursery, Beginner, Primary and Junior.  Of the twelve churches with memberships of one thousand or more, ten reported all four programs.

    The number of churches with graded worship increases sharply once a membership of two hundred is attained.  However, it is to be noted that even the smallest church may have a graded program.  Thirteen churches responding to the survey had memberships under fifty, and three of these reported some phase of graded worship.  Eleven churches with a membership between fifty and ninety-nine reported, and five of the eleven have graded worship.  This does not mean that such a ratio will stand across the nation, as undoubtedly churches were encouraged to return the survey if they had a program and often would not be so inclined if they did not have one; especially would this be true of the smaller churches.

    The following chart demonstrates the sharp increase in graded worship as the size of the congregation increases.

Size of the church
 Without graded worship
 With it
Number Increases in Recent Years

    Since the earliest programs recorded from the survey, there has been a steady increase during the past dozen years.  Most of the churches reporting to the survey started their graded worship after 1955.  The three highest marks on Table III were set in 1963, 1964 and 1965.  During the first five months of 1965 an average of three and one-fifth programs per month were started.  If the average continued through the year of 1965, a projection would result in forty-four and two-fifths churches introducing graded worship.  This would be twice the number reported during any previous year.

    Table III summarizes the number of new programs introduced from 1930 through the first five months of 1965, at which time the survey was mailed.

The Year
The Number
1965(January through May)
44 2/5



    It has been established that the church has opened her doors to graded worship, but it remains to be answered why.  In this section there will be (1) a finer definition of the term "graded;" (2) the basic reasons why the church has moved toward graded worship; (3) a brief summary of additional motives and (4) a discussion of the final but most significant reason why the church accepted the program.

What Is Meant by the Term "Graded"

    As opposed to the earlier "Junior Church" concept, the graded church follows the example of the graded Bible school. Graded material6 introduced in 1908 was in the beginning a compromise and left much to be desired, but with the passing of time the church began to see the value of the graded lessons over the uniform lessons, which had been introduced in 1872.

    The concept of graded lesson material motivated independent writers to improve the graded Sunday school without the whole-hearted support of the International Sunday School Association.  Today graded lessons are a popular and generally accepted part of the Bible school program.

    The relevancy of such a discussion to this thesis is found in the fact that much of the success of the graded worship program and the immediate acceptance of the program by the church stem from the highly successful graded Bible school with the graded curriculum.

    The graded church follows the same age grouping as found in the graded Bible school.  Nursery, Beginner, Primary and Junior are the commonly accepted groups.  Usually, the larger the Bible school, the more detailed the graded classes; this does not necessarily follow in graded worship.  It is found to be more practical to have larger groups such as an entire department worshipping together, although this is not always the case.

An Assistant Professor of Christian Education at Wheaton College Graduate School of Theology offers the following grading system as the "ideal"7 situation.

1 for every 
5 children
1 for every 
8-10 children
1 or 2 for 
each group
1 or 2 for 
each group
    In addition to the fact that the church found it natural to move from graded classes to graded worship, the following reasons are offered as to why the church accepted graded worship.

Reasons Why the Church Accepted Graded Worship

    Adequate facilities.  From a church in Baltimore, Maryland, comes the following statement: "At present we have no Children's Church as such.  Lack of room forbids this.  After the new building is built we will have extended classes."  From Austin, Minnesota, the minister wrote: "We will begin as soon as facilities are available."  From Montezuma, Indiana, the church wrote: "We are expanding our facilities and intend to have (graded worship) when we have proper facilities for such."  Motives beyond adequate facilities move church leaders to include graded worship in their church program, but as noted here it is part of the answer.

    Churches with departmentalized Bible schools have ready-made facilities for graded worship.  The large assembly rooms serve a dual purpose in meeting the needs of a small auditorium for worship services as well as affording sufficient room for Bible school departmental gatherings.

    Small classrooms or a lack of classrooms would make graded worship difficult, but churches with adequate space are discovering the value of such facilities during the second hour as well as during the Bible school hour.

    The Catlin, Illinois, Church of Christ, through the ingenuity of its minister, has erected worship centers in each of the new assembly rooms in the Bible school departments.  A plywood facade of a church building confronts the young worshippers as they sit in their pew. The doors of the little plywood church front open and a worship center is revealed.  The church front is erected in the corner of the assembly room, taking up very little space, but contributing much to an atmosphere that is designed to contribute to a worship experience.  The worship center may contain a Bible, the Lord's Supper or some other object that would be of a particular spiritual significance to the child.

    Many churches have adequate facilities and do not choose to have a graded worship program, but it is most difficult to have a graded worship program without adequate facilities.

Inadequate adult worship space.  Thirty-eight churches stated that the motive behind their graded worship program was to make more room in the auditorium for an expanding, growing congregation.

    This is singularly a physical reason.  The church is evangelistic by nature and since evangelism is at an all-time peak, it would appear that many such programs will be started for this reason.

    It is a natural thing for church leaders to search for ideas that afford more room when the auditorium no longer can contain the growing number.  Sometimes the congregation will conduct two worship services on the Lord's Day morning rather than remove certain age groups from the main service of the church.  However, as noted, thirty-eight churches reported that rather than conducting two worship services for the whole church, they elected to start a phase of graded worship to afford more room for the adult worshippers.  It is assumed that the church leaders believed graded worship to be of such value that they chose to move in this direction rather than conduct two worship services.

    Churches beginning in homes, rented store buildings, funeral chapels or small buildings of their own often discover that more auditorium space is a vital factor to the continued growth of the church.  From circumstances such as these, the church solves the space problem by removing particular age groups from the auditorium and conducting graded worship services.

    An established church in a growing area, or one whose evangelistic fervor is revived, may find the auditorium taxed to capacity.  Under these circumstances graded worship services are started and thousands of dollars are saved as the church does not find it necessary, even with a growing membership, to expand her facilities.

    The churches reporting this reason may not continue with the program once the facilities have been expanded.  Some churches reported that once their new church buildings were completed they returned to the more conventional family worship plan.  If the reason is singularly physical, once the problem of space is solved, the church would discontinue the graded worship plan.

Make adult worship more meaningful.  First Christian Church of Springfield, Ohio, provides for all immersed believers in the adult service.  Their graded services are designed for children who are not yet Christians.  Although the children are cared for in a meaningful and serious manner, the distinction the elders make emphasizes the importance of worship for the adults and young Christians.

    There is a general belief in the church that worship experiences in the regular worship service should be designed for adults.  Forty-seven churches stated that they started graded services to make worship more meaningful to adults.

    Few argue that worship is just for adults, but those who do make this argument remove the youth from the worship service that the adult may have more freedom in worship.  Others realize the worship experience of the child can be and should be as real as that of the adult, but the primary interest is in the adult worship service.  Under these circumstances, children are removed from the main worship service and placed in other areas in order to give maximum benefit to the adult worshippers.  It is argued that certain subjects which are too delicate or too profound for young minds should be discussed by the minister.  If the children are not present, such lessons can be delivered.

    Some object to children in the worship services because they are always a source of distraction.  By their inevitable childish ways, children make it difficult for adults to share as deep and as continued a worship experience as they might otherwise enjoy.  Many churches have, by means of a nursery facility, relieved some of the pressure.

    On behalf of the child's sharing in the worship with adults, and as a word of wisdom to those who think otherwise, John G. Williams writes:

    Where there is an atmosphere of profound devotion and koinonia, and where children are made welcome without a hint of superiority or undue repression, we need never hesitate to allow the tiniest children to share such worship.  As with everything else, they will catch the spirit of worship from people who are really worshipping.  But where there is any danger of a child encountenng an atmosphere of restraint, boredom, or even positive misbehaviour and irreverence on the part of older people, it would be far wiser to delay; because, as we have reminded ourselves repeatedly, it is the general impression he receives, whether free and happy or dull and oppressive, which will colour his whole attitude to the church and her worship... But don't be unduly worried if he fidgets-a young child must be always moving his body and it is not a sign of irreverence.  If you take your own part in the service quietly and without fuss-and if other grown-up people can be persuaded to do the same-it will teach him a lot more than any amount of exhortation and regimenting.8
    Unaccompanied children.  The unaccompanied child presents a problem which is similar to, yet also different from, that just discussed.  Children who attend Bible school without adult supervision seldom remain for the worship hour.  However, there are instances where children do come to the worship service unaccompanied by adults.

    One church successfully meets this problem without the assistance of a graded program.  An adult is assigned to each child attending the Bible school without his parent.  If the child is persuaded to remain for the worship service, he sits with the sponsoring adult.  This gives the child the adult guidance he needs as well as supervision during the worship service.

    An affluent society and trained personnel.  The church is in the midst of a financial era unlike anything known in her history.  Church budgets are increasing sharply, and as a result more trained, paid personnel are employed by the church. Some churches gave as a reason why they started graded worship the fact that they had sufficient leadership trained in the area of Christian education.  Associate ministers, assistant ministers, youth ministers, education directors and other types of workers are trained in the Bible college and are available for specialized service in the church.  The availability of a leadership trained in the area of graded worship, coupled with the availability of funds to provide a multiple ministry for many churches, has contributed to the growing number of churches accepting graded worship.

    Miscellaneous reasons.  Before discussing the major reason why the churches have accepted graded worship, a list of miscellaneous reasons is offered.  These reasons were voiced by individuals from churches reporting to the survey and are listed here as they were received:

(1) Reasons having in view the benefit of the adults:

to keep adults from going home after Sunday school; to remove small children from the worship service; to take pressure off the parents; to reach more adults by conducting a Junior Church;
(2) Reasons having in view the benefit of the children:
to teach the correct concepts of worship to the children early in life; to aid the worship of each age group and make the worship more effective; to teach children how to worship; to afford one more hour of teaching time each week; to provide a church service on the level of the children; to relieve the nursery; to enlighten people in the community about the interest the church has in young people and encourage children's participation; to keep more than the eight children for church we used to have as now we have from sixty to seventy children in the two graded programs.
    Summary.  Each of the reasons discussed or listed demonstrates the fact that graded worship is a result of the church's making an effort to reach a maximum effectiveness.  There are differences of opinion in respect to methods and programs, but the church manifests a keen sensitivity regarding the needs children have in worship.

    The final reason and the discussion of that reason will serve to underscore this truth.


    The survey shows that although each of the one hundred sixty-eight churches reporting a graded worship program lists other reasons for introducing it, each one states that the main reason was to make worship more meaningful to the child.  The problem facing the church is simply this: what should be done with the child during the regular morning worship time?  This problem is set forth in the words of James Bissett Pratt:

Certainly it is evident to all, in this day of the understanding of human psychology and social heredity and environment, that at different stages of our development we bring to worship a different experience. And if worship is to be vital, it must meet the needs of that experience in which the individual finds himself.9
Barbara McHugh Wilson asks: "What greater opportunity does the teacher . . . have than to help develop within each person wholesome and creative worshipful feelings?" 10  "If worship is to be vital and creative on any age level," Wilson continues, "it must meet the needs, capacities, abilities, and emotions of people.  This is true of children as it is of adults."11  The problem is brought more clearly into focus through the words of Peter P. Person when he writes:
    We often hear the complaint that the modern youth lacks reverence.  One reason is that we have never seriously tried to teach them the spirit and techniques of group worship.  Another reason is that we older Christians have not set a good example in our worship.  We have ourselves either not known how to worship; or if we once knew, we have forgotten.  Unless we teach our youth the great hymns of the church, we should not be surprised if we discover that they have developed a taste for religious flippancy set to jazz rhythm.  The pastor will find it extremely difficult to create an atmosphere of worship on Sunday morning if the 'worshippers' have been brought up through the Sunday School with religious pep rallies, and gospel syncopation.  Worship, some claim, is a certain mood that is caught rather than taught.  But much can be done to create the type of environment that is conducive to the mood of worship.  We must teach our youth how to worship (italics not in the original).12
    Although one does not discover a unanimous agreement on the part of the church as to what should be done to teach youth to worship, there is nevertheless a unanimous awareness that something should be done.

    Just what are the churches doing to make worship more meaningful to the children?

    It is far easier to point out weaknesses in the teaching and worship programs of the churches than it is to find ways for the correction of these weaknesses. However, with widespread and earnest effort being applied to the problem, we have reason to think that a solution in large part may be found.13
    It is just such a solution the churches seek today.  The experiments continue because the problem is still present.  Part of
what the churches have done and are doing to meet this vital need is discussed here.

Nursery Worship

    The survey established the following principle: the younger the child, the more likely it is that he will have a service of his own apart from the adult worship.  This service may or may not be an effort at worship, as this depends on the age of the child and/or the philosophy of the local church.

    Curriculum. Genuine efforts are now being made to guide children who are two and three years of age into a form of worship.  Certain basic concepts can be taught to such age groups, and constant efforts are being made to penetrate the spiritual realm of the smallest children.  Although most of the churches provide facilities for such nursery children, it does not necessarily follow that in each church an effort is made to guide them in a worship experience.

    Standard Publishing Company introduced a new series of lessons for two-year-old children during 1965.  The series includes material for the regular Bible school hour and supplementary material for the extended session or second hour.  The material is designed to guide the child into a God-consciousness.  The lessons offer the following aims:

Going To Church.  Aims: (1) To make church-going a happy experience for the child.  (2) To help the child associate church with God and Jesus.
Thank You, God.  Aims: (I) To help the child know that God gives us homes, clothes, and food.  (2) To help the child learn to thank him.
Jesus Loves Me.  Aims: (1) To teach the child that Jesus Loves him.  (2) To help the child love Jesus.
God Made Everything.  Aims: (1) To help the child know that God made everything.  (2) To help the child thank God.14
    Complementing this new Teaching Twos series is a similar work for the nursery age child entitled Teaching Threes.  The emphasis is placed on the importance of guiding the three-year-old into an awareness of God and His love and not just an effort at baby-sitting the child.  The editor comments:
Most churches, if they have space for a nursery at all, use it for a Sunday-school session and then for a play room during church. Many times this second hour is merely play with no purpose and becomes a wasted hour.15
In addition to this it is pointed out to the teacher:
    Remember that at the age of three the factual knowledge of Bible stories and Bible verses is not so important as the feeling that God loves me, that Jesus is my friend, and that the church is a wonderful place to be.16
    There is evidence that the church recognizes the possibility that two- and three-year-old children may desire, trust, love and understand the things concerning God; and as a result it is attempting to convey such knowledge to the young mind through a controlled worship service.  Such a worship service should not be thought of as the kind of formal service one would expect with adults or older young people, but rather as an informal attempt to convey, through experience and observation, the great truths set forth in Teaching Twos and Teaching Threes.

    Facilities.  Some churches have so planned new educational facilities as to accommodate the nursery worship concept.17 Others have improvised in older, existing facilities.  A basic physical arrangement18 includes an interest center, piano, storage cabinets, central area for worship time, tables, chairs, equipment for handwork, adjoining restrooms, closet, bulletin board, phonograph, toy box and flannelgraph board.

    In some churches the two and three year olds will move from one room to another for the second hour.  However, in most churches the same room is used for Sunday school as well as the extended session or second hour worship time.  Rest time is a necessity19 during such a lengthy period for this age child, and usually such a time is included in the schedule.

 Diagram Of A Room For
Two-Year-Olds and Three-Year-Olds

    Leadership.  Most nursery teachers or leaders interviewed have not had formal training to prepare sufficiently for the work they have undertaken.  In a few churches, where the nursery personnel are associated with the editorial staff of Standard Publishing Cornpany or the teacher has had formal college-level training, the leadership excels in a well-organized and worthwhile effort.  In most churches the success of the nursery worship depends upon the determination and dedication of one or two women whose love for the children compensates in part for a lack of formal training.

    In many churches high school age girls are used as helpers and usually will serve for a short period of time.

    Order of service.  The key to the success or failure in the nursery program is leadership.  The church that has responsible leadership will often have a successful nursery program.  The attention span for two- and three-year-old children is very short, and thus the time set aside for worship in the second hour will be short.  Most churches follow the order herein outlined:

Welcome newcomers and put up coats.
Visit the restrooms.
Story time.
Rest time.
Lord's Supper brought to the adults.
Worship time.
Prayer time.
Play time.
    There is little debate over the merit of nursery programs.  Churches may vary concerning the emphasis they place on guidance during the two hours the children are separated from the rest of the church, but the consensus is in favor of such separation.

    Even those whose philosophy of worship would discourage the separation of the older children from the adults in worship recognize the value of a nursery program.  Illustrating this is a letter received from J. Elvin Reeves, Church Administration Consultant of the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, dated October 24, 1966.  He said in part:

    ... there is a nursery program for children through age three. These children are not expected to attend the worship service in the sanctuary, but have activities in the nursery department.
    Southern Baptist churches do not provide a worship service for young people apart froi~n the regular worship service. It is felt that the youth of a church should attend a worship service in which persons of all ages attend. Of course, persons through age three would be expected to remain in the nursery.
    This philosophy stated in Mr. Reeves' letter is typical of some churches of Christ and christian churches.  In these churches the nursery service time could be used to prepare the child to take his place in the corporate assembly when he becomes four years of age.  However, in the church where a graded worship program exists, the nursery time is designed to prepare the child to take his place in the Beginner Worship, which is designed for those children who are four and five years of age.  The goals are somewhat different while the preparation may be similar.

Beginner Worship

    The largest number of churches (one hundred and twenty-nine) reported a Beginner worship program.  This follows the principle set forth at the beginning of this immediate section, namely, the younger the child, the more likely it is that he will have a separate service from the corporate worship of the whole church.  The church recognizes the fact that the older the child, the better prepared he is to adjust to the adult type of worship.

    Materials.  "Obviously, it's important to choose materials that will help promote real worship among your boys and girls."20 The difficulty facing the church has been in discovering such materials.  Until recently, leaders were forced to gather materials from many different sources, and this resulted in the lack of a planned curriculum in most instances.  Today the church has turned to publishing companies supplying such graded worship material.  Materials used in the Beginner programs among the churches are supplied by Standard Publishing Company, David C. Cook Publishing Company, Gospel Light Publishing, Inc., and Scripture Press Publications, Inc.  Most of these companies also supply materials for Nursery, Primary and Junior worship.

    Churches have been more selective in recent years since they have had different sources from which to choose.  They have not followed the traditional trend of purchasing materials from Standard Publishing Company.  This is due in part to the fact that the church was forced to seek materials where they were available, and other companies preceded Standard Publishing Company in printing such materials.

    The following guidelines summarize the goal of the church as she seeks to provide the best curriculum:

I. Emphasis
 Are the materials distinctively Christ-centered and Bible-based?

Do the materials promote worship, or provide just another Sunday School lesson?

Do the materials provide for a balance "understand, respond, do" worship emphasis, with each session built around a central Bible truth?

II Teachability
Are activities within the range of the children's abilities?

Is there a variety of activities in which the young worshippers are participators, not spectators?

Are there enough different-from-Sunday-School activities?

Is the program completely planned, rather than sketchily outlined?21

    Such requirements for a good curriculum may be applied to the entire spectrum of graded worship and is in no way limited to Beginner programs.

    An extended session.  In most churches, the program for the four and five year olds is more of an extended session than a formal worship service.  It is usually admitted by leaders of preschool-age children that it is difficult to hold their attention for worship; but efforts are made to do so, and in most cases the church has been satisfied with the progress.

    Typical of the Beginner Worship time are the regular activities of the Clovernook Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Between the Bible school hour and the second hour the new teachers arrive and gradually take their places.  The change is so gradual that the children hardly realize that it has taken place.  The handwork and lesson material taught during the second hour correspond with the Sunday school lesson.  The following is the regular weekly schedule for the Beginner program during the second hour at the Clovernook Christian Church:

    10:20-10:30 a.m.  Finish the first hour handwork at the tables.  Some will leave and others arrive.  The lead teacher will take over immediately, gathering the children on the circle for relaxation exercises, games, marches, etc.

    10:30-10:40 a.m.  Restroom and wash.  Two girls and boys leave the circle activities at a time for restroom and washing.  When they return to the circle, two more leave.  One teacher will keep this moving while two work on the circle.

    10:40-10:50 a.m.  Refreshments.  One worker will prepare the tables for refreshments.  Two high-school girls will see that the cookies and Kool-aid are in the kitchen and prepare the cold drink.

    On a routine basis, three children (one for each table) will be helpers, placing napkins and cookies at the places on the table.

    Children will be released from the circle in small groups (by color of clothing, etc.) to stand behind chairs at the tables until all are there.

    The children have a prayer for refreshments and enjoyment of them.  One child is 'garbage man' to pick up paper scraps.

    10:50-11:00 a.m.  Rest time.  On alternate Sundays the boys will rest on the rug or with heads on tables, reversing this for the girls.  The change of position is good and more space per child makes for less bothering of neighbors.

    Soft or singy music is needed during rest time with occasionally a short, everyday story.

    Teachers quietly keep order, not nagging at the children because of restlessness but dealing with individuals as they need a bit of help.

    11:00-11:30 a.m.  Activity time.  One or more workers will be with each group, entering into the activity with the children.

    At tables: puzzles, books, Activity Book, drawing, coloring, modeling (on place mats or giazed paper to facilitate cleaning up).

    Block center: 'daddy' teacher to assist here.

    Housekeeping center: teacher here suggests activities arising naturally from the day's Bible story and application of it.

    11:30-11:35 a.m.  Put-away time.  Children are encouraged and expected to pick up and put in their place those toys and materials that they got out to use.  It helps for teachers to work with children.

    11:35-11:50 a.m.  Talk-about time (closing).  The lead teacher will call the children to the story rug for review and closing activities.

    Children will leave from the rug when parents or other authorized person calls for them.  They will have their belongings in hand before they go.  Individual bags, or other container, will hold these belongings until they are given to the child or he picks them up as he leaves.

    Problem of the Lord's Supper.  In some churches the Lord's Supper is brought to the adult workers while it is being distributed in the regular corporate worship service.  Other churches have a short service for the Lord's Supper for all Christians who were involved in some phase of service and unable to partake.  This is held at a special gathering after the morning worship hour and before the workers leave the building.  Other churches expect such workers to return to the evening service where they will be given the opportunity to partake of the Lord's Supper at the regular worship of the whole church. This problem is more acute with the churches that have Nursery and Beginner programs, since those with Primary and Junior services usually have their own time for the Lord's Supper since many in these groups are Christians.

Primary Worship
    The number of churches reporting a graded worship program for Primaries was one hundred and twenty-four.  This is only five less than the number of Beginner programs.  Those involved in the Primary services are children six, seven and eight years of age.

    The need.  Pauline Jones, Director of Extended Session at the Catlin, Illinois, Church of Christ, has expressed the following reasons why she and her staff felt the need for a separate Primary time for worship and study.  The following points are a fair expression of the churches surveyed:

    (1) Children needed the proper environment to learn and experience reverence.  (2) Each child needed an opportunity to experience meaningful worship.  (3) We lacked a worship time suitable to the age level of each child.  (4) We needed additional time for various experiences with the Bible.  (5) We needed additional time to 'omplete lessons properly.  (6) We needed an unhurried atmosphere.  (7) Children were leaving after Bible school.
    Organization.  The imagination and initiative of those desiring a graded worship program usually guided the organization of such a program in a local church.  One church visited another and viewed first-hand how the program operated.  In other instances, books were read, filmstrips were viewed or committees talked with committees.

    Prospective teachers and helpers were encouraged to learn as much as possible about the program.  Special meetings were held to acquaint the personnel with the project.  Programs were then accepted that were best suited to the particular needs of the individual church.

    The churches do not share a uniformity of program or curriculum.  This is a result of the individuality that must be expressed as the program is organized wifhin each local church.  One church may copy an idea from another, but little total duplication of practice was noted in the surveys.

    It is to be noted, however, that most churches attempt a more formal type service for this age than for either the Nursery or Beginner age.  The following program is offered as an example:

    Typical Lord's Day Program.

    9:10-9:30 a.m.  Presession (each child meets in his own classroom).  (1) Greet children, chat with them, find out any problems that they may have.  (2) Be sure each child has a Bible.  (3) Get acquainted with guests and make them feel at home.  (4) Take attendance and offering.

    9:35-9:48 a.m.  Song Service.  Our extended services include first and second grade children but third grade children are included in this gathering, then they attend Junior Church after the Bible school hour.

    9:50-10:35 am.  Children Return to Rooms. (1) Lead teacher conducts circle prayer - co-teacher is included in the circle.  (2) Chit Chat Time.  In the beginning this was about going to grandma's house, circus, gifts, etc. Children are beginning to share what they've learned and put into practice during the week, share experiences and problems of Christian living, tell who invited them, etc.  (3) Lead teacher teaches and reviews the previous lesson while co-teacher quietly works with records, attendance charts, records, contests, etc.

    10:30-11:00 a.m.  Break and all go to restrooms and get drinks in orderly fashion, classes alternating.

    11:00 a.m.  Group Worship.  This is important because the Lord's Supper is served to adults.  The children are taught the meaning of the Lord's Supper in a way they can understand.  Then all the hearts are prepared and the adults partake.

    Return to rooms and finish any projects they may have begun.  One teacher says this is important because this schedule is flexible and worship projects can be done in any extra time teachers teach and reach the children - they are not watching and worshipping the clock.


    The co-teacher now takes over, and from now on the teacher worships with the children - she goes to church with them and is silent with them.  The co-teacher prepares the children for silence and reverence.  Small details are taken care of now, such as having church offering in hand, etc.  They walk orderly and quietly to the pews and sit.

    WHEN CHURCH DOORS OPEN, CHURCH BEGINS, BUT DOORS NEVER OPEN UNTIL ALL CHILDREN ARE IN PROPER FRAME OF MIND.  The teacher sits quietly while children wiggle and get settled.  Children are quiet and wait for the teacher let the children wait a few seconds.  The children watch as the doors open.  DOORS OPEN AND CHURCH BEGINS.

    (1) A congregational song is sung which is in keeping with the sermon.

    (2) A minute of silent prayer.  The co-teacher makes a point of telling them this is their opportunity to pray to God.  Makes suggestions such as the future Daily Vacation Bible School or safety and work of a missionary, etc. The co-teacher helps them to know they are trusted to pray, not waste this minute.  The co-teacher or teacher closes with prayer.

    (3) A child gives an offering prayer.  The child holds the plate and passes it in front of others and receives the offering.

    (4) A special song is sung by one of the children.  The child and song are selected a week in advance.  The child stands in front of the congregation and sings beside the teacher and the church doors.

    (5) The teacher begins her lesson.  At the end of lesson, the teacher asks for a word of prayer.  In her prayer she emphasizes points brought out in the lesson which in turn refers to the Sunday school lesson of the day.

    (6) The teacher looks up and smiles, and closes the door which is the sign of dismissal.

    (7) The children walk quietly back to their seats.


    (1) The church hour is meant to be near the end of the session, however, closing will vary.

    (2) Dramatization of a lesson may be done at this time.

    (3) Memorization may be repeated.

    (4) Anything appropriate may be done at this time that interests children and teacher.22

Junior Worship

    The most popular term used to describe the earliest efforts at graded worship was "Junior Church."  However, what the church meant thirty years ago by this term and what is meant today, are in most churches two entirely different things.  When the Junior church program was first introduced, it was patterned as closely as possible after the adult worship service; it was thus called because it was a junior pattern of the adult worship.  It included children ranging in age from four to sixteen.

    Information gathered from the survey indicated that the oldest such program among the churches was started in 1930 by the church of Christ in Auburn, Nebraska.  This program has continued as a Junior Church through the years.  This particular program includes all ages from five through eleven years.

    Nature of the program.  A personal letter from the minister of the Auburn church, dated September 8, 1965, indicates the nature of the program.  He writes:

    Our Junior Church is conducted very similar to the Adult Worship Service.  Of course it is not formal nor as stereotyped, but generally follows the same plan.  The young people are given the opportunity to help plan the program.  They choose the songs, and help with the various details.

    Because we have the 6th grade young people, we serve the Lord's Supper.  This is conducted by our Elders at the same time as the Adults are receiving the emblems.  The older boys serve the emblems, and both boys and girls are used to receive the offering.  The young people are given their packet of envelopes, and are very regular in their giving.

    The "sermon" is usually given with the use of visual aids.  Our leader is quite adept with chalk.  She draws pictures which the children are awarded for various reasons.  Sometimes the children are asked to bring something to help with the "sermon."  A good imagination helps our leader work out a program of variety and interest.

    In the first attempts the idea was not to grade the worship services but to remove the children from the adult service and make the program as meaningful as possible.  The term Junior Church became widely used and accepted.

    Although such services are held in churches today, the trend is in the direction of a more closely graded program with the Juniors including only those who are nine, ten and eleven years of age.

    In most churches the program is still designed after the adult worship.  However, there is a tendency on the part of some churches to move toward a less formal service; it is called the "Junior Extended Session."  The extended session may have numerous advantages over the more formal service, but the key advantage is the fact that the same lesson is taught the second hour as was taught in the Sunday school but with a different approach.

    Advantages over adult services.  Leaders of the varied extended sessions for Juniors and the Junior worship have expressed the following advantages which they believe such programs have over leaving the youth in the adult service:

(1) It provides adequate learning time.

(2) It provides adequate worship time.

(3) It provides opportunity for expression and more participation.

(4) It teaches the junior to accept church responsibility.

(5) It helps build a solid church for tomorrow.

(6) It establishes good habits such as paying close attention during the worship period.

(7) It meets the varied needs of the junior youth.

(8) The parent is assured his child is adequately guided during the service.

(9) It helps avoid the break between Sunday school and church and thus destroys the concept that the two are separate and that attendance in one negates the necessity of attending the other.

    Or as one authority has expressed it, Junior Church will:

    . . prepare Juniors for participation and leadership in Adult Church Worship Services.

    . . teach boys and girls the meaning of true worship . . . prepare them for active church leadership through planning and conducting (under adult direction) worship services slanted toward their level of spiritual understanding.23

    Purpose.  First Christian Church in Bell, California, has had a continuous Junior Church program since 1938.  Each year the church publishes in mimeograph form a Junior Church Operating Manual.  Through the years the church has set forth certain purposes of the Junior Church.  The following is taken from the 1965 issue:
(1) To bring a worship service patterned after the adult church, keeping its image but maintaining the level of the child's understanding.

(2) To keep the children familiar with the adult service by taking them into the Sanctuary several times during the year - always when the month has a 5th Sunday (Christmas and Easter optional).

(3) To teach Juniors the true meaning of worship as they participate.

(4) To teach Juniors the importance of the offering as a part of worship.

(5) To teach a reverence for God's house.

    Our aim as a result of the above is Christian living.  Bible school is a learning situation where we look out to God, learning to love Him.  In Church, through the worship service, and the fine films and flannelgraph lessons and special messages, we learn to look up to God in adoration for strength, guidance and wisdom, and forgiveness of our sins.
    Although the older concept of "Junior Church" is giving way to the newer graded worship, the purpose remains basically the same.  Concerning this purpose, Dr. Edward Simpson has written:
    I am as thoroughly sold on a departmentally graded children's church program as on a departmentally graded Sunday School.  Each age child needs a meaningful worship time on his own level and a challenge for service. And adults need in their own service an opportunity for greater concentration on deeper truths from God's Word.24
    Order of service.  The following is submitted here as a typical service for Juniors.  It is taken from the Junior Worship service of the South Side Christian Church of Hammon, Indiana.
Order of Service
Call to Worship
Scripture - read in unison Prayer
Missionary Lesson
*Communion Meditation
*Communion Hymn
Communion - Children serve it
*Offering Prayer
*Offering and Offering Hymn
Special (sometimes)
Closing Prayer
Bible Games (sometimes)
*Led by children.
    Participation.  One major reason why the church has so enthusiastically encouraged graded worship on the Junior level is the numerous opportunities it offers the young person to participate in the service.  In many congregations elders will visit the Junior worship service, but their participation is usually limited to the prayers at the Lord's Table.

    Some of the ways the Juniors participate in the worship service are (1) prayers, (2) singing specials and in the choir, (3) leading the songs, (4) receiving the offering, (5) passing the emblems of the Lord's Supper, (6) making announcements, (7) ushering, (8) operating visuals or audios, (9) playing specials on instruments, (10) planning worship programs and socials, (11) mimeographing service bulletins or weekly papers, (12) home visitations and reports, and (13) occasionally bringing the lesson or sermon.

    In most churches, the sermon or lesson of the day is brought by an adult leader.  The leader is often a Youth Minister, Educational Director, Assistant Minister or a rather talented elder who has been assigned the oversight of the program. However, if formally trained leadership is available to a church, it is usually involved in the Junior program.  In a survey of churches in or around the Cincinnati area, this principle was most evident.

    The Latonia Christian Church used a Bible college graduate to organize their Junior worship.  At the time of the survey a Bible college student was in charge of it.  In the Western Hills congregation, the Junior worship is conducted by a graduate student who serves as Assistant Minister.  A graduate of a Bible college serves as the leader of the Junior worship at the Chase Avenue Church of Christ.  A Bible college student leads the Junior worship at the Bright Christian Church as well as the Miamitown Christian Church.  The Assistant Minister, who is a graduate of a Bible college, supervises the Junior worship program at the Bridgetown Church of Christ.

    Facilities.  Junior worship is usually conducted in a small chapel or assembly room that may easily be converted to a worship center.  Some churches have planned a small auditorium, designed like the adult worship center, specifically for Junior worship.  Most churches, however, use the same area that serves the Bible school by simply rearranging chairs, removing portable partitions and thus adjusting to create a worshipful atmosphere.  For a diagram of a typical room arrangement for Junior worship, see Chart No.2. below.

Suggested Room Arrangements For Juniors


1.   Addle Frances Rhodes, "Guiding Kindergartner Children in Worship"  (Unpublished Master's Thesis, The College of the Bible, Lexington, Kentucky, 1962) p.2.
2.   Jay T. Stocking, The Child in the Congregation (Boston-Chicago: The Pilgrim Press, 1929), p.19.
3.   Henry H. Meyer, The Graded Sunday School in Principle and Practice (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1910), p.118.  For a discussion on the Graded Sunday School: Beginnings, Development and Practice, of. p. vii.
4.   Ibid., p. 115
5.   Ibid., p.153.
6.   Meyer, Op. Cit., p.105.
7.   Lawrence 0. Richards, The Pastor and Children's Church, Christian Education Monographs, No.2 (Glen Ellyn, Illinois: Scripture Iress Foundation, 1966), p.3.
8.   John G. Williams, Worship and the Modern Child (London: William Clowes and Sons, Limited, 1957), pp.109-110.
9.   James Bissett Pratt, The Religious Consciousness: A Psychological Study (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1921), p.27.
10.   Barbara McHugh Wilson, "Children's Growth in Worship" (Unpublished Master's Thesis, The College of the Bible, Lexington, Kentucky, 1955), p.92.
11.   Ibid., p.85
12.   Peter P. Person, The Minister in Christian Education (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1960), pp.22-23.
13.   W. C. McCallum, The Graded Church (St. Louis: The Bethany Press, 1930), p.29.
14.   Orrin Root (ed.), Teaching Twos (Cincinnati: The Standard Publishing Company; July, August, September, 1965), p.11.
15.   Orrin Root (ed'.) Teaching Threes (Cincinnati: The Standard Publishing Company; October, November, December, 1962), p.7
16.   Ibid., p. 5.
17.   Two examples of this are the educational buildings erected in 1960 by First Christian Church of Springfield, Ohio, and in 1967 by Clovernook Christian Church, Cincinnati, Ohio.
18.   See Chart No.1 p. 109a
19.   Elsiebeth McDaniel, Success Tips for Children's Church Leaders (Glen Ellyn, Illinois: Scripture Press Foundation, 1965), p.3. 20 Richards, loc. cit.
20.  Richards, loc. cit.
21.   Ibid.
22.   Information presented at the North American Christian Convention at Tulsa, Oklahoma, June 1965, by Pauline Jones, Director of Extended Session at the Catlin, Illlnois Church of Christ.
23.   McDaniel, op. cit., back cover.
24.   Ibid.

Scanned:  Michael Riggs
Edited:  Shelley Wozniak