Welcome to Worship

Last year at Grace Covenant Church, a young and fast-growing Presbyterian Church in the suburbs of Kansas City, our worship and education leaders looked for new ways of encouraging the children of the congregation to grow in their understanding of and participation in worship. We first outlined "milestones" and teaching objectives for children in grades 1-5. Then we developed a "hymn of the month" program, so that each year the church school children would learn a core of hymns sung in worship. Though the program is still young, we are very encouraged about the potential benefits not only to the children, but to their parents and the entire congregation.

On these two pages, you will find the milestones and teaching objectives developed by our associate pastor, Diane Quaintance, and the children's ministry committee. You will also find an outline of the music program we are using to teach our children one new hymn a month. Through this combined approach of milestones and music, we hope to strengthen the ties between what our children experience in church school and worship and to help our children feel a part of the worshiping community.

Milestones and Teaching Objectives

In an effort to identify specific learning objectives for each elementary year, and to provide "milestone" experiences to mark each child's faith journey, the children's ministry committee adopted the following outline to be implemented in Christian education and worship planning.

1st grade: Welcome to Worship

Teaching Objectives:
Lord's Prayer

First graders, who as kindergart-ners and preschoolers left the worship service for an age-appropriate program, now receive an official welcome to the worshiping family. They are invited to the chancel area, where a pastor welcomes them and tells them about resources available during worship each week: children's bulletins, lap boards, and The Beginner's Bible (Questar Publishers, Inc. 1989). On this first Sunday, they also receive the "Welcome to Worship Bulletin" (see next page).

2nd grade: Communion Awareness

Teaching Objectives:
John 3:16
The Great Commandment (Matt. 22:39)
Words of Institution (1 Cor. 11:24-25)

Second graders and their parents participate in a three-hour fall communion worship service. The children learn about the sacrament's symbols and meaning: they practice their role in the passing of the bread, wine, and peace; and they learn a communion hymn that will be sung at their first communion.

3rd grade: Presentation of Bibles

Teaching Objectives:
Books of the Bible
Psalm 100

As part of one worship service during the year, third graders are presented with Bibles.

4th grade: Acolytes

Teaching Objectives:
Psalm 23
Psalm 121

Fourth graders participate in acolyte training and fill that role on a rotating schedule for the year. As acolytes, they follow the pastor into the church at the beginning of the service to light the candles; during the last song they extinguish the candles and follow the pastor out of the sanctuary.

5th grade: Ushers

Teaching Objective:
Apostles' Creed

Fifth graders are asked to usher with their parents on a rotating schedule.

Hymn of the Month

The singing time at the beginning of church school is an excellent time to acquaint the children with great hymns of the church, preparing them to participate more fully in worship. From the resources Our Heritage of Hymns and Our Heritage of Hymns II, published by Choristers Guild, we organized the following list of hymns, one for each month of the church school season.

September/October: Now Thank We All Our God
This is a good fall opener, which can be used as a preparation for Thanksgiving.

October/November: Creator of the Stars of Night
This is an Advent song, a new song in our Presbyterian Hymnal. It has a wonderful mystical atmosphere. We planned to have the church school learn stanzas 1 and 4 in preparation for Advent. On the four Sundays of Advent we would invite the children to sing the song during worship, teaching it to the rest of the congregation. We also planned to recruit a few middle-school bell ringers to come in and accompany the singing on bells (or perhaps use older elementary children from the Sunday School).

December: Angels We Have Heard on High
This Christmas carol is one the children love to sing, one that will always be used in one of December's worship services.

January /February: Jesus Shall Reign
During Epiphany symbols of light are often used, and here we have the image of the sun. Also, this hymn text was written by Isaac Watts, one of the greatest hymnwriters of all time. Teaching this hymn offers opportunity to acquaint the children with the name and work of this famous hymnwriter.

February/March: Were You There
During the season of Lent this hymn will help focus the children's thoughts on Jesus and his sacrifice. It can also be converted into an Easter celebration by the addition of the verse "Were you there when God raised him from the dead?"

April: All Glory, Laud, and Honor
There is an interesting story associated with the origin of this most famous Palm Sunday hymn. It's also a hymn that is quite accessible to children and one in which they can join in singing during Palm Sunday worship.

Mary Jane Voogt is Director of Music Ministry at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Kansas City, Missouri. She was also a member of the editorial council of Reformed Worship.


Reformed Worship 23 © March 1992, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.