How to...Encourage the Children in Your Congregation to Worship
The worship planning team has the mandate to plan services that enfold the whole congregation. However, often our good intentions to include children actually separate them from adults in worship. It may be easy to plan for children by including a children's sermon or a song for kids. A whole Sunday evening might be set aside for a special youth service. But because these activities suggest that the rest of the service is not for them, children can easily learn to feel separate. Even a weekly children's bulletin provides quiet busy time for children but rarely draws them into worship.
Children may not truly have the sense of belonging to the family of God until the church becomes a child's place of worship. To help that happen the worship team should make an attempt to
- get to know each child by name.
- place pictures of the children of the congregation where you plan worship so you will keep them in your thoughts as you prepare.
- spend time with the children. Plan to visit them in their various church programs.
- establish ties with their lives outside of church by attending school concerts, art fairs, and making home visits.
- encourage the pastor to enlist the help of elders, church school teachers, children's worship leaders, and other youth leaders in making important connections for sermon illustrations, prayer concerns, and the like.
- sit near children of various ages in the worship service to greet and worship with them.
- invite church school classes, other groups of children, or families to assist in planning services
Space for Worship
Be aware of the visuals in the sanctuary.
Is the space inviting and colorful? Plan to invite children to the front to have the artist explain why he or she chose colors and materials for the banner of the season or day and wonder together what the colors and images mean.
Can the symbols of faith and sacrament he seen by a child in we pew? Encourage kids to come forward to witness a baptism and meet their new brother or sister in Christ.
Are all members of the congregation able to see projected words of songs? If not, move the screen, have the words printed, or have the congregation sit when overheads are used. This is also true of drama and dance. If someone's view is obstructed, so is their ability to participate in worship.
Include children when preparing the space for worship and in leading the service. The youth can do any of the following:
- light candles
- carry flowers to the front of the sanctuary
- bring in the bread for communion
- read Scripture
- hold the microphone for prayer requests
- assist in the offering
- write a prayer or a psalm for worship
- provide art for the bulletin or for banners
- provide music for an offertory or prelude
- participate in liturgical dance and drama
- serve as greeters and church guides for visitors
It's always an good idea to have someone on the worship committee prepare the children for the tasks that you ask them to do. And provide opportunity for children to participate with other members of the congregation in these tasks. It was a powerful experience for me when 1 joined an eight-year-old in laying on of bands at the installation of a new pastor.
Suggestions for the Liturgy
- Repeated responses by the congregation make it easier for children and other worshipers who do not read well to participate.
- Slow the pace whenever the congregation speaks together. Worship leaders and planners can model this pace.
- Use the Lord's Prayer and the creeds regularly to provide opportunity for children and others to learn them and to allow all God's people to use what they know In worship.
- Choose music with children In mind. We enfold children in worship when we include songs they can sing. We should also place important songs on their lips so they can know and sing them throughout their lives. Planning songs for the season of the church year or a doxology repeated several times during a sermon series is an excellent way to teach songs.
The rewards will be great for children and adults when all are gathered together to praise God. By respecting children and affirming their needs and desires, worship planners can move from the tokenism of including a children's song and children's sermon to a holistic worship of God by the family of God.
Coming next time: Ideas for parents