We all know that children often thrive doing more than one thing at a time – especially when one of those things is listening. So one way to draw them into worship is to provide things for them to do with their hands while they listen to readings and preaching. For years parents have handed children a pencil with which to draw in the margins of the bulletin. Some congregations provide doodle pads – maybe even labeled “Little Lutheran Doodle Pad” in the pews. Others provide paper on a clipboard and crayons. All good starters.
To take it to the next level, rather than let them draw simply to endure the talking what about asking them to draw things that connect them to what is being said? For example,
Before a scripture that you can easily visualize, ask the children to listen then draw what they hear. In some cases you can leave it general, e.g. draw a picture of the slaves walking to freedom through the sea. In other cases hone the task, e.g. ask the children to draw the faces of Mary and Martha during their spat about who did all the work.
At the beginning of the sermon pose a question asking the children to draw a picture of their answer to the question. Suggest they might listen to the sermon for ideas. “We are going to be thinking together about using money to help others. While you listen, draw pictures of ways you can use money to help another person.”
Early in the service give children a sheet of paper with the words of a prayer or one verse in a hymn that you will sing later in the service to decorate or illustrate and then use when singing or praying. Creation hymns are especially easy candidates for illustration.
Encourage children to draw their prayers. On a sheet of paper they can simply draw and write words of everything they want to talk with God about today talking to God as they do. Their drawings might be in the sections of a scribbled pattern or simply splashed all over the page.
To convince the children that their work is an important part of worship….
Invite them forward to show you their art and talk briefly about it.
Invite them to tape their art to a rail at the front of the chancel or tack it on a special bulletin board in the back. One preacher I know has a bulletin board on his office door especially for the children to leave him drawings and notes.
Invite children to drop their drawings into the offering plates as they are passed as a gift to God.
Take time to talk briefly with children about their drawings as they leave the sanctuary. Shake hands with the adults, talk art with the children.
With their permission, use children’s art as the cover of or in the margins of the printed order of worship. Or, display it as an illustration of a sermon point.
The children are drawn into worship in these ways. Being public about them also lets all the adults in the sanctuary know that drawing during worship is part of worship rather than undisciplined behavior.