Why does the minister wear a robe? What is justification? Why can't I eat the bread? What is a benediction? You know how many tiles there are in the church ceiling?
Those who sit in church with children will not find these questions unusual. Children often find our worship practices beyond their size: the pews they sit in and the words and concepts they hear are too big.
Traditionally, we have ignored these obstacles that children face. Comments like "But you'll be amazed how much they get out if it" have glossed over the very real differences between adults and children in our congregations. But recently many pastors and others who lead worship have been asking questions about how to involve children in worship—how to be sensitive to the intellectual and spiritual needs of children and make worship as meaningful as possible for them. Obviously, we can't totally revamp our corporate worship, making all parts easy for children to participate in and understand, but we can at least answer some of their questions and make them feel part of what's going on.
Many congregations are discovering that children's bulletins help bridge the generation gap in worship. Through pictures and quizzes such bulletins involve the children in the service and answer some of the questions children ask about worship and church life.
However, anyone who has attempted to start a children's-bulletin program in a church knows that it's often difficult to know what to include and how to fill four pages. Some of the following suggestions might be helpful:
Special Days. Use the cover to explain in pictures or in a brief paragraph the significance of the day. On Pentecost, for example, you might make a simple cover picture about the tongues of fire and come up with a word-search puzzle for the inside pages, including words like Spirit, tongues of fire, wind. Even young children who are just learning to read love to find words in a word search.
Sermon. To help some of the older children begin to listen and get involved in sermons, include questions that will encourage the children to write down the title and main points of the minister's message.
Offering. The offering will become much more meaningful to children if they know a little about the group who will receive the money—especially if it's a children's agency such as Elim or Bethany Services or a relief agency that provides food for children in third-world countries. Explain simply what the agency does, perhaps giving a personal example of a child that has received help. You may want to contact the agency a month or two before you hand out the bulletins to see if they offer bookmarks or another small item that you might include in the bulletins for the children.
Family. A church family page that includes children's birthdays, news of births, prayer requests, and announcements about new families, junior choir rehearsals, and church school will help children feel that they are part of the congregation.
Children's Contributions. Encourage the children to produce parts of the bulletin themselves; include pictures they have drawn of their dads in a special Father's Day issue or, as a regular feature, publish quizzes and dot-to-dots they create. You may also want to include some children on your "staff." Perhaps one of them could be assistant editor and others could distribute the bulletins before the service on Sunday. There are many ways in which you can help the children feel that this is truly their bulletin.
The important thing to remember as you're struggling to produce a weekly children's bulletin is that what you're doing may well make a difference in children's lives. These children are the future generation of the church. Anything we can do to interest and include them at an early age will serve to draw them into corporate worship and closer to the family of God as they mature.