I don't doubt that those involved in this effort are very sincere, helpful people who truly want to share their talents with the young and help bring the little ones to a closer understanding of God's Word and His plan for salvation. But I do question the wisdom of this whole enterprise, this "Children's Liturgy" phenomenon which has become quite popular in the past decade or two.
The whole thing started with the "Decree and Directory for Masses with Children," published in 1973. The relevant passages, which I found here, are as follows:
Just reading that, I'm struck by a couple of things:
"16. In many places parish Masses are celebrated, especially on Sundays and holy days, at which a good many children take part along with the large number of adults. On such occasions the witness of adult believers can have a great effect upon the children. Adults can in turn benefit spiritually from experiencing the part that the children have within the Christian community. The Christian spirit of the family is greatly fostered when children take part in these Masses together with their parents and other family members. …
"17. Nevertheless, in Masses of this kind it is necessary to take great care that the children present do not feel neglected because of their inability to participate or to understand what happens and what is proclaimed in the celebration. Some account should be taken of their presence: for example, by speaking to them directly in the introductory comments (as at the beginning and the end of Mass) and at some point in the homily.
"Sometimes, moreover, if the place itself and the nature of the community permit, it will be appropriate to celebrate the liturgy of the word, including a homily, with the children in a separate, but not too distant, room. Then, before the Eucharistic liturgy begins, the children are led to the place where the adults have meanwhile celebrated their own liturgy of the word."
First, the expression of the idea that children should not feel "neglected" seems a bit strange, at first glance. Before the Mass was in the vernacular children were going to feel a bit left out at Mass, yet generations of Catholic children grew up to be practicing Catholics without as much difficulty as seems to happen today. Perhaps there is a value in having children present, occasionally, at what they see and know to be "grown-up" business, and at having them feel, not neglected, but inspired to want to reach an age at which a fuller participation can be theirs.
Second, while it is suggested that children be mentioned in introductory or concluding comments or during the homily, the further idea that a separate Liturgy of the Word be conducted for them is preceded by some qualifiers, e.g. "Sometimes..." and "if the place itself and the nature of the community permit..." These are not phrases which suggest that the idea behind the document was to create a regular weekly Children's Liturgy and to parade groups of children ranging from quite small toddlers up to children old enough to have received their First Communions out of the church every Sunday, led by a lay volunteer holding aloft a book and making a procession out of it.
I have heard some people insist that Children's Church is necessary to keep children from misbehaving and being disruptive during the Mass. But any child who is really old enough to participate in a Children's Liturgy ought already be old enough for simple good behavior, four or five years old, I would think; and the result of allowing children to leave during the Liturgy of the Word can sometimes be misbehavior during the Liturgy of the Eucharist--the child thinks, not unreasonably, that his "church" is over; why should he have to wait around for Mom and Dad's Mass to be over, too?
And while processing children out in neat rows (or straggly bunches, as more often happens) just before the Liturgy of the Word may be orderly and not particularly disruptive, the children are not caused to process back in, but scramble in randomly sometime between the end of the homily and the end of the Offertory Hymn; sometimes they wander about looking for their parents, and sometimes they crawl over people trying to squeeze in to a bench because while they were gone latecomers to Mass sat beside their parents and occupied their places. I can't imagine how it is that I've never witnessed a child being misplaced during this disorderly dash, but perhaps others have.
Like many things which arose in the early days after Vatican II, Children's Liturgy seems to me to be a nice idea with unintended consequences. Certainly the advent of Children's Liturgy has not seemed to coincide with an equal rise in numbers of adult Catholics who point to its influence in their lives as being among those things which helped them remain Catholic beyond their teenage years (and their Confirmations, which is increasingly the Sacrament of Bribing Kids to remain Practicing Catholics until they are Teens--but that's a subject for another blog post). One thing it has seemed to do, sadly, is reinforce the idea in children's heads that church is "boring," and that since it is boring some nice grown-ups have taken the time to read them Bible stories about Jesus and His "friends" (not disciples, a word that is presumably too hard for children who already know what HDTV stands for). Oh, and maybe let them do some cut and paste, or some coloring.
How they are supposed to transition from that environement--and that belief, that church is something boring and grown-up--to quiet and focused participation at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass just a few years later is beyond me. Which is why I hope that the rumors that our Holy Father is quietly planning to revisit the "Decree and Directory for Masses with Children" prove to be true.