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.

Creation Station
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.

Joyful Noise
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?


  1. Love the ideas. I'm thinking communities who try having a Creation Station of some kind will find that it is not only the youngest ones who will appreciate them!

  2. The culture shift from children are "seen and not heard," to active participant in worship is challenging. The former cultural perspective dies hard sometimes, but where did that culture get us? There's really no alternative. I appreciate the Psalm 100 reference. Children would constitute as a member of "all the earth." Thanks for the post.

  3. I'm pleased to see this happening! For All Saints Day worship our Sunday School students and teachers were invited to dress up as a Bible character to attend church. The adults were invited to Sunday School after church to hear the Bible story which the dressed up individual was to tell to explain their character. One teacher fooled several by wearing a white sheet - Ghost? - No, she was Lot's wife that turned into a pillar of salt. Good Story!! Love to see the children involved they grow up and hopefully stay involved!!

  4. Good stuff Erik!

    I copied and pasted, and e-mailed to my pastoral colleagues and our worship director...

    Hopefully fodder for good conversaion.

  5. Maybe it will get those back row pew dusters to move to the front

  6. I have replaced the "Children's Message" with a time of exploring the building, or looking at the bulletin, or inventing a processional.

    I start with the Confession and Forgiveness or Remembrance of Baptism at the back of the church (both of these are technically 'pre-rites") then, I round up the kids and we wander around looking at something or (like on all saints Sunday) I explained what a processional is and then gave then each a part in the processional. (We don't process much so this is my way of trying things out with my congregation.)

    My goal was to keep them upstairs as I believe that children who go to Sunday School during church are taught not to attend church (they go from student to helper to teacher and then they graduate high school without having ever attended church). BUT... as you indicate... that long section of song/preaching/long prayer was just too much for the parents so... for now we offer a "Post Prayer of the Day to Communion" Sunday School. It's working well.

    Thanks for your article. I find that setting 6 in the ELW is perfect to give kids shakers for the "This is the feast" song... it works well... and it gets better with time (and some people who can't sing also like the opportunity to participate in this way.)

    My 2 cents from Edson, Alberta.


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