Sunday, October 24, 2010
Kids in Worship
Our congregation is trying two new methods of getting young people involved in worship. Like all good ideas in the church, we borrowed/swiped these from other congregations.
There is a 15-20 minute stretch in the middle of the service where the sermon is preached, a song is sung, and a lengthy prayer is prayed. This is a brutal time for parents who strive to simultaneously participate in the service and keep their kid(s) quiet during these subdued portions.
The Creation Station is a set of tables in the back of the sanctuary where kids can color, cut, paste, and mold items based on the theme of the day. There are some coloring & activity pages (similar to a "children's bulletin) that are available as well. During the offering portion of the service, kids bring their creation up front to the altar as their offering to God.
Shortly after a young child enters the sanctuary, they are typically given something to play with or eat so the adults can sing gathering songs. The immediate message is "you might be in the sanctuary, but you are not a part of worship." So, in the spirit of Psalm 100, we invite little ones to the front of the sanctuary to dance and play Orff instruments during the gathering song(s) and Gloria portion of the liturgy. We mostly incorporated egg shakers and jingle bells, so as not to obstruct the singing.
We had a great response from members of the congregation after each of our three worship services this weekend. Parents appreciated the chance to listen to the sermon, knowing that that their kids were still in the worship space doing something to connect with the sermon theme. Many older folks (60+ years) loved seeing the PreK group accompanying the opening songs, and they really loved watching kids come forward to lay their creative gifts on the altar. A couple of people even came up to me afterwards with tears in their eyes, filled with gratitude that we had carved out space for young people in worship.
It's worth noting that not everyone was enthusiastic. Two people seated near the back commented that twenty kids moving around and shuffling papers during the sermon was distracting. Another person, while pleased that the kids weren't very noisy, expressed a belief that Sunday School (not worship) was the appropriate venue for "arts and crafts." Someone else wondered rhetorically why the kids needed to be moving around so much and why they couldn't just sit still in the pew.
I mention both sides, not to put a damper on what was a marvelous worship experience, but to be realistic for anyone who might read these ideas and want to implement them in their worshipping community.
What about your congregation? How do you involve young people in worship?