Worshipping with Children
We believe children belong in worship. We try to design liturgy that fully integrates all participants in the worshiping life of our parish. Children present in worship help us to think more creatively about our liturgy. Having to teach children why we do what we do in worship, forces us to be intentional. Children inspire us to remain fresh, relevant and alive in our expressions of worship.
We sometimes think of children as having certain limits that prevent them from entering fully into a worship experience. For example: They have a short attention span. They do not have an appreciation of moral complexity. Their age shelters them from many of life's challenges.
But children also bring unique qualities to worship. Children tend to be authentic, or "real," not yet having learned to hide behind a public face. They demonstrate genuine enthusiasm and avoid self-censoring behavior that sometimes inhibits adults. They give and receive love freely.
We welcome children in our liturgy. Below is a list of things you can do to help children enter more fully into worship.
- Show genuine interest in our children. Learn their names. Talk to them and try to discover their interests, concerns, passions and gifts.
- Help children participate fully in worship by helping them to make enthusiastic responses to the liturgy. When the priest says, "The Lord be with you!" Teach your children to respond with great enthusiasm, "And also with you!" After the Eucharistic prayer, when the priest elevates the body and blood of Christ, the people respond with the great AMEN. Help your child to join you in an enthusiastic and joyous "AMEN!"
- During the liturgy help your child learn the different parts of the liturgy by calling attention to what is going on. When the scripture is read say, "Now it is time to listen to God's Word." During the Prayers of the People ask, "Who would you like to pray for this morning?"
- If a child doesn't have a good view of a liturgical action, a baptism for example, quietly move to another part of the nave where your child can see more clearly. Once again, explain what is going on.
- If you do not have a child with you in church but see that a family seems overwhelmed managing their children, offer a friendly nod or hand to help mother and father to make this a positive worship experience for their family. If you are the mother or father who needs help, please do not be offended when it is offered. We have all been there before.
- When it is time to receive the offering be sure everyone in the family has something to put in the offering plate or basket. Pass the plate or basket to children, not past children.
- Teach your children appropriate liturgical actions. If this is your tradition, teach them to make the sign of the cross after prayer or in receiving a blessing in remembrance of their baptism. Help them to make a "cradle for Jesus" (overlapping hands, cupped) to receive the Body of Christ in Communion. Teach them how to receive the Cup, to assist in steadying the base of the cup and in guiding the cup to their lips. If receiving communion remind them to say, "Amen." If you need help understanding these things yourself, please ask a priest or one of our lay leaders, it is a privilege to help people learn.
- When it is time for the sermon, cuddle with your children. Make listening to the sermon a special family time together.
- After the service talk to your children about their experience. Ask, "Did Jesus speak to you in church today?" Or, refer to the gospel reading and ask, "I wonder what if felt like when Jesus. . . .?"