Last weekend my wife and I went out for dinner and live music at a local hangout. When our meal was finished but the music was not nearly done, I asked our server for some paper and a pen (like some of you, I seem to be able to listen better if I am drawing). As I was letting loose on paper whatever was coming into my mind, I looked up and noticed the boy sitting at the table next to ours. Previously he had been engrossed by a handheld gaming device of some kind, but now he was staring at me and my sketching. I slid one of my sheets of paper over to him, and his mom found a pen in her purse. Until he and his family left, he stayed at it, biting the corner of his lip the whole time. The strength of his focus struck me.
This experience got me thinking about children in communal worship and how most of the time we fail to spark kids’ imaginations. Yes, we can get their attention by bringing other kids up front or by projecting a snippet of VeggieTales, but their imagination? That’s much harder.
In fact, when I think back on my own childhood, I can remember only two things in worship that seemed to reliably capture kids’ imaginations: chalk talks and the use of wooden figures to tell a Bible story.
These days, with the preponderance of snazzy digital presentations, these ideas probably sound trite, but might that be more a reflection of what impresses adults than what gets children’s imaginations going?
Over the next few issues, we’ll include ideas to help bring imagination into home or communal worship with children. Below are some ideas for Advent/Christmas. For each activity, kids will need paper and markers.
- If your worship includes Advent candles, ask the kids to draw the candles each week, paying close attention to the changing shapes of the flames. (Don’t imply there’s a hidden meaning here—there isn’t—but use it as a way to get children to look closely at what they are trying to draw.)
- After reading the Nativity story aloud, ask kids to draw the person, place, or thing in the story that stands out to them the most.
- Kids love extremes. Ask them to draw both the largest and the smallest animals that might have been present in the place where Jesus was born.
- Hand out paper five-pointed stars that are large enough to draw on. Challenge each child to add to their star to make it as fancy and special as they can—special enough that someone would want to get closer to it if they saw it in the sky.
Pretty straightforward, right? That’s intentional. Avoid your adult need to explain too much. Challenge your kids with the assignment, let them fly with it, and then listen thoughtfully to their explanations. Rather than correct what might be “wrong” or different, wonder aloud with them why they did what they did. Better yet, do the activity yourself and then have a fun conversation with a child about what you created.