Children who take part in the Children and Worship program know what worship is all about. They say worship is "telling God you love him," "showing God how much you love him," "praying to God," "singing songs," "learning about God," "believing in God and talking about it," and "giving things to someone special."
Can you imagine adults defining worship more aptly?
Children and Worship is a separate worship program for children that helps them worship, not just learn about, God. Based on the book Young Children and Worship by Jerome Berryman and Sonja Stewart, the program takes place in a special worship environment where children and adults together sense the awesome wonder of God.
The worship leader tells Bible stories, using two-and three-dimensional visuals. Everyone, including the leader, watches the story unfold on the floor in the center of the circle. The Old Testament Bible stories occur in the desert, so leaders use a desert box filled with sand. Rubber "people" figures (see box p. 8) stand and move in the sand while stories unfold. After the stories are told, the children may retell the story using the visuals. They enjoy making hills and valleys while working with story figures. Sometimes they need to be reminded that this is a desert box, not a sandbox!
Wondering is also an essential part of Children and Worship. It encourages children to stand in awe before God, to recognize God's wisdom and knowledge, and to understand that God's judgments are unsearchable and his ways past finding out. Through wondering, children learn that it's acceptable to think about big questions that are not easily answered.
After wondering about the stories, children have an opportunity to tell God what they've learned and experienced. They usually work alone or in small groups—retelling the Bible stories, doing art projects, reading books about the story, or putting puzzles together. Sometimes they make bookmarks that illustrate the story and place them in their Bibles on the page where the story is found.
At the end of each worship service children receive a personal blessing whispered in their ear. Comments can be quite personal or a reminder of Jesus' presence. The worship leader uses words like g "Jesus loves you; Jesus will go with you all week; I'm so glad you were here today; your drawing made me happy."
How do children feel about Children and f Worship? RW asked five children's worship leaders to interview children about their worship experience. They talked with young children who are currently in the program as well as eleven- and twelve-year-old children who are now helpers in the program. You'll find the questions the leaders asked, along with a sampling of the children's responses.
What is the first thing you do when you go to the worship center?
Sit down. —Matthew
Be quiet. —Ashley
Sing songs. —Sarah
The greeting "The Lord be with you." "And also with you." —Hope
Sing some songs. —John David
Pass the sharing basket around. —Leeann
Get ready. —Crystal
Sing songs to get ready. —Wendy
Why do they call your room the "worship center"?
This is where you get together to worship with other
This is where God lives. This is where you learn about God and learn about love. —Whitney
Because you worship God in it. —Matthew
Because it's a place set apart for worship. —Janae
It's where we worship God and learn more about God. —Jaci
What do you like best about the stories?
I like it that there are figures in it. —Caleb
You have wooden people that act out the story, and 1 can understand it more than regular church. —Crystal
There are characters from olden days, and we hear what they were like, like the wooden figures we see. —Jaci
Interesting and fun. I feel like my friends and I are big people with the little wood people. —Craig
I can understand them. —Wendy
I just like them. —Sarah
They seem more real because you can see the figures. —Hope
The way people sit quietly and listen. —John David
Tell me something you wonder about in children's worship stories.
I wonder in how many places the Light can really be. —Wendy
What it was like when Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt. —Matthew
Why did people kill Jesus? —Whitney
If the characters are happy or sad. —Ashley
When I was younger, I wondered about how the people who wrote the books of the Bible wrote so fast or how they could fit time in to do it. —Hope
If the people looked like real people today. —Nicole
Sometimes if they are taking a journey, I wonder how long the journey will be —Caleb
I wonder how the people who found the stories in other languages decoded them. —Leeann
Did Moses really think God was in the burning bush, or did he lack faith? What did it feel like to be in the presence of God? —Crystal
How did the angels get to the shepherds and how did the shepherds know they were angels? —Jaci
How could Jesus really feed five thousand people from five loaves and two fish? —Janae
When I saw the story of the temple, I wondered if bad men would come and steal all the things in there. —Craig
How do you like to respond to the stories?
Sometimes I rest, and sometimes I color. —Caleb
I loved to draw pictures of the stories and make bookmarks and bring the pictures to my mom to see the story we had. —Crystal
I like to do the stories and make pictures. —Jaci
Drawing or making my own parables. —Nicole
Drawing pictures and coloring. —Leeann
I like to draw. —Hope
Mostly color a picture. —Sarah
I like to color and use the desert box with my friend. I like the church year thing. —Craig
Read books. —Ashley
Working with sand. —Wendy
How do you feel when someone whispers a blessing in your ear?
Makes me feel good. —Janae
I feel proud and important. —Craig
I know that someone cares for me. —Wendy
Good. —John David
I don't want to answer anymore! —Sarah
What things happen in the worship center that you think should also happen in the regular service?
Do blessings and use candles to remind us that God is everywhere. Have something to look at like the wooden figures in children's worship. When I look at something, I listen better. —Crystal
Sing songs that we know. Use some kind of figures for the sermon so we can understand it better. —Janae
I would probably like more things to draw or color in the children's bulletins. And harder word searches. —Hope
I would like to be able to tell the stories to adults. —Wendy
WHERE CAN I FIND THOSE FIGURES?
Using small figures to help tell stories is an important part of the Children and Worship program. Wooden figures, to be used for New Testament Bible stories, can be purchased from the RCA Distribution Center (call 1-800-968-7221). Another possibility is to ask a carpenter in your church to make figures, using the patterns in the back of Berryman and Stewart's Young Children and Worship.
For the Old Testament stories, using the desert box described earlier, rubber figures made by Lauri, Inc. work well. These figures are part of a puzzle called "Kids" that contains eighteen figures in various positions. They are available from "educational" toy stores for $6.50.
Children's Worship Leaders Who Participated
Helene Vander Werff from Good News Reformed Church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Ann Jean Winder Veen from First Christian Reformed Church in Ripon, California
Holly Schut from Southridge Reformed Church in Portage, Michigan
Kay Weeks from Annandale Reformed Church in Annandale, New Jersey
Susan Langeland from Sherman St. Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan