Bringing children into the Sanctuary is something like letting them eat at the dinner table. Even though their manners are not elegant, we do it in the hope that, given time, they will begin to feel like part of the family.
Children giggle, they poke, and they swing their legs simply because they are children. But they also sing, pray, and give with us. Even as children exhibit a natural restlessness during worship, they are also learning:
- that it is important to come to this place each Sunday
- that they belong to this special company of people
- that the sights and sounds and feels of the sanctuary are good, though not always understandable
- that something is expected of them in this place, and that they may respond in song, in prayer, and in offering.
Arrive in time to find a place to sit near the front. Make sure your children can see the pulpit area; seeing facilitates understanding.
Bring something for little ones to hold or look at. We have worship bags and Children’s Bibles and storybooks available for children sitting in the pew.
Call on the Lord’s Prayer, familiar hymns and Sunday School lessons to use for grace and prayer time at home.
Direct your children to the bulletin and locate the congregational responses, hymns and scripture lessons before the service begins. Make a note of places where your child can participate.
Encourage your child to listen to the sermon for stories and important ideas, and engage in conversation after church.
Find your offering before the service and talk about the importance of giving. Invite your child put the offering in the plate.
This child spends considerable time:
*wiggling in the pew
*wandering down the aisle if allowed to sit at the end of the pew
*insisting on a personal bulletin (and keeping it in constant motion and clinging to it tenaciously if a parent reaches out to take it away)
*writing their first name on as many of the friendship pad pages as is allowed, and
*fitting toes nicely into the hymnbook racks and finding that more comfortable than letting them hang down.
At the same time, this child also will be:
*assisting with finding the page numbers of the hymns and have them ready to sing
*singing along with everybody else (albeit with unrecognizable words)
*wanting to hold the offering plate as it goes by adding their own offering to the contents of the plate, perhaps sensing that worship involves giving.
Six and seven year old’s generally:
*sit in place (unless there is an acceptable reason for moving, such as a dropped bulletin),
*write his or her whole name plus address and phone number on the friendship pad, and
*while feet are closer to the floor at this age, the hymnbook rack is still closer (though the increase in shoe size may cause a foot to get stuck.)
This child can do some new things. The six and seven year old:
*knows to sit and when to stand,
*knows to bow their head during prayers,
*sings some words to familiar hymns after locating them in the hymnbook, which they can now hold by themselves,
*discovers readable words in the bulletin, and
*is beginning to apply reading skills to matters of the faith.
The older child can:
*handle the bulletin with more agility, as well as folding the bulletin into a paper airplane (also has learned not to sail said plane over the heads of the congregation, but threatens to do so anyway),
*swing feet back and forth, creating a rocking sensation, often hitting legs or bumping the pew ahead,
*pretend to take money out of the offering plate instead of putting it in,
*lick lips and looks forward to the “snack” during Communion.
But there is another story – the eight year old:
*reads the bulletin and finds scripture lesson in the Bible, and follows along as the pastor reads,
*follows the hymns with a helping finger,
*listens to the sermon,
*mutters along during the Lord’s Prayer, and
*understands at a deep level that Jesus is the bread of life.