Their presence is essential
to the vitality and growth of our church
Worship without children is like sitting down to the family meal without the kids. Sure, their manners might be far from elegant but we welcome them because they are part of the family.
Young people giggle, they poke, they ask questions and they swing their legs because they are young children.
Children learn about worship and how to participate by experience, by how they are welcomed into the community, and by what they see adults doing.
Children are not the future church. They are the church of the present. Children add richness to the community. They bring a new perspective to old familiar rituals, they show a unique understanding of the wonder and mystery of the sacraments, and they have a fascinating way of taking nothing for granted.
Their presence is essential to the vitality and growth of our church.
How do young children learn to worship?
● By being taught they have a place in the community of the church.
● By seeing, hearing, feeling, even smelling, the sanctuary as a place of welcome and worship.
● By being around other children in the worship space.
● By watching how adults sing and make prayers and offerings.
● By sharing prayers, communion, and worship leadership alongside adults.
● By being given ways to watch for God’s presence in their own lives and encouraged to share where they notice God and how they participate in God’s love.
Suggestions for adults without children
● Be helpful to parents of small children by not making them feel awkward or unwanted.
● Acknowledge children by smiling, or nodding in their direction, to show your appreciation of them.
● Invite a family to sit next to you. Pray for them, take an interest in them.
● Make a special point of sharing the Peace of Christ with children.
● Find a young child before or after the service, introduce yourself, tell them you are glad to see them and will be looking for them next week. Ask about their week.
Suggestions for adults with children
● Worship at home through saying table grace together, bedtime prayers and family devotionals. Teach them the Lord’s Prayer so they can pray it in worship.
● Attend worship regularly — repetition reinforces a child’s learning.
● Arrive early to get settled. Before worship begins, point out interesting elements of worship — how the table is set for communion, the different colors representing the different seasons, or who your child knows who is singing in the choir.
● Sit up front. It may seem natural to sit in back so you can slip out with a restless child, but many children pay better attention when they can see what is going on.
● Help your child participate. Give children the chance to find the songs in the bulletin. Use your finger to follow the words of the song. Find the scripture reading in the pew Bible. Help your child remember to bring an offering. Allow them to serve as ushers, greeters, singers, scripture readers.
● Speak to your children in a whisper — they may copy you by responding in the same quiet way. If your child has a question during worship, answer it.
● Model participation — sing the hymns, read the scripture, say the prayers. Children follow adult examples.
● Be clear about the behavior you expect during worship. State your expectations in a positive way, such as: “We all stand when we sing” or “This is the quiet time; you can talk after the next song.”
● Be realistic about limits. Little ones cannot be expected to sit still all the time. However, children in elementary grades are old enough to participate in worship with your help. Set goals that are important and reachable for your family. Compliment the child who reaches the goals that you set.
● Take advantage of the worship bags available at the door and bring them to your seat. Return bags and supplies to their place when you leave.
● Remember, we provide and safe nursery for preschool and younger children any time during worship. Also, there is a cry room in the rear of the sanctuary. On communion Sundays, children will return to the sanctuary so they can also experience God’s blessing through the Lord’s Supper.
Not every part of worship is understandable to children. But much of it is or can be. The church staff seeks to make the service accessible to children without making it childlike.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)