Many communities are beginning to name the importance of children to our churches. Children have a place as worshipping members and churches are seeking to provide worship that engages, involves and welcomes children.
Below are a few ideas for how you might go about making a place for children in your worship services. No doubt you can come up with many more!
Creating Opportunities for Children to be Involved in Worship
Ask children to draw illustrations for weeks bible readings. Depending on your technology, you could scan the images and project through the data projector or colour copy onto acetate and put on the overhead projector as you are telling the story. Or ask the children to draw on poster size sheets so that ‘people in the back row can see too.’
During Prayers of the people, invite children to offer their prayers, through naming people or situations, through drawing images of people they want to pray for (prepared earlier or during an appropriate time in worship), or through (supervised) lighting of candles. Encouraging children in prayer will help them learn to express concern for others and gain the ability to share that with the community.
Engage the senses. This helps the whole worshipping community to participate, especially children. When planning worship think about the different senses we have been given.. .. .. .. Has artwork been created around the theme for this week? Does the bible reading lend itself to use of spices or anointing with scented oils? Are the disciples eating a meal together that offers something small that the congregation can also partake of? Is there a different style of music – cd, cello, saxaphone, drum that can be used during prayer, ritual, bible readings? or can you create a soundscape to engage the auditory senses? Can you hand out stones or candles, bread or felt, leaves or sticks that create a tactile impression of the prayer, sermon, song, message of the day?
Help children learn the responses to prayers. Often our spoken responses are quiet simple,’God hear our prayer.. .. .. .Lord have mercy.. .. .. Christ is risen.. .. .. Hallelujah.. .. .. Amen.. .. .. etc. Before praying, remind the congregation of the responses so that children hear what they are to say.
Include children’s experiences in prayers, liturgies and sermons. Ask questions, expect responses.
Have the congregation learn some simple sung responses to prayer. As well as being something to engage the congregation, pre-reading children will be able to learn these as well.
Are there children in your congregation who play instruments? Invite them to be involved. If they aren’t quite up to providing instrumentation to sing to, perhaps they can play during the offering or during a time of prayer. Give children plenty of notice that you would like them to play so that they can practise, and make sure you praise them for it after the service.
Providing a welcoming space for Children in your worship centre
While children are equal worshipping members of our communities, they do have different needs. Children are more inclined to want to move, eat, talk and do something active to engage in worship than adults who perhaps welcome an hour to sit and be in the presence of God.
Here are a few examples of what you can provide for children during worship to make them feel more at home:
Create a space in the worship area that children recognise as their own. They may have even helped create art for the walls, or hand prints on the chairs. This is a space where children can go during worship to do drawing, clay work, or playing. It is positioned so that children can still see what is happening at the front of the worship space. In this space you might have small table and chairs, pencils, crayons, paper. If you use Godly Play resources, you could keep some of the story boxes, or a basket of bible people here for children to play with. Decorate this space with colours of the church year, giving children prompts about the change in the seasons.
Worship Templates: Worship templates are a bit like an order of service with space for children to write and draw and respond to the service in their own way. Find some samples online or create your own.
Busy Boxes: Busy Boxes or Busy Bags are activity packs that contain clipboards, pencils, crayons, activities, questions about the service, cut out figures of the bible characters for the day (whatever you can think of to make this worthwhile) Busy boxes should not take the place of worship being accessible for children, they are an extra, not the whole thing. Update the busy boxes weekly and make them relevant to the days worship.