Wednesday, April 17, 2013


In the northern hemisphere, summer is coming.  We can almost feel it out there and are longing for the more laid back season – or at least hoping it will be a more laid back season J.  Summer is a great time for worship experiments.  People are more relaxed and ready to give something new a chance.  The 2 ½ to 3 months of summer is enough time to give something new a fair trial and still have a graceful out for everyone if it just does not work as you hoped.  So, as you think about summer worship this year, what about identifying one experiment that will make worship more child-friendly.  You might….

  • Commit to presenting the scripture reading for the day creatively every Sunday.  Invite folks of all ages to join a scripture reader’s team for the summer.  Meet every week to turn texts into several person readings, pantomimes, responsive readings between different parts of the congregation led by team members, or readings by the most appropriate person (reader of an age or gender that fits the text).  Not everyone will have a part every Sunday (which is good in the summer).  Still, because all will be in on the planning and rehearsing they will pay more attention to scripture as it is read each week.  And, other worshipers will pay attention to the changing readers and presentations.
  • Invite music readers of all ages to join a pick up choir for the summer.  Meet before worship to learn a piece for that morning and maybe to rehearse sung responses.  You may find new choir members or give those who can’t sing in the choir during the school year, a chance to sing in the summer.  Encourage parents to sing with children, older brothers or sisters to sing with younger ones, even grandparents to sing with visiting grandchildren.
  • Invite young musicians to play preludes and offertories.  Feature soloists and small groups.  Meet with each soloist or group shortly before “their” service to prepare them to play as a way of leading worship rather than just performing.
  • Invite children or families to serve as ushers and greeters.  It is easiest to start with experienced adult ushers and greeters bringing their own children.  But, older children also appreciate being paired with an adult beyond their own family for this service. 
  • Provide worship bags for children.  The bags can be small canvas bags or simply plastic zip top bags.  Fill each one with paper and markers, a printed puzzle related to the day’s worship, a small Bible picture card or book (check out church school curriculum leftovers), plastic clay to mold (unlike play dough or clay it does not leave a mess on pew cushions), even a single hard candy to enjoy with the sermon.  (Find more details at What Goes into Worship Bags.) Put the bags in clearly marked boxes or racks near each entrance and encourage ushers to direct families to them.  Be sure they are cleaned out and resupplied each week. 
Now is the time to get started on summer worship plans.  So, talk with the key people and groups.  Then, go for it!

And - if you have another experiment to add to the list, please leave the rest of us a comment.


  1. I am excited that we will be experimenting with children joining the adults in worship this summer. My pastor and I attended your webinar a month or so ago and found you sharing SO resourceful. I am in the midst of planning this transition for our families and helping to provide resources for them. One idea you suggest above is "plastic" clay. I have never heard of this before. Is there a particular brand that you use? I worry about having playdough in the sanctuary and having it get stuck in the pew cushions, but I think having an alternative would be great. Thank you!

    1. How good to hear what you are up to! The clay is polymer or Sculpy or Fimo or another brands. It is available in Michael's and Jo'an's Craft stores in my area. Even Amazon sells it. It is a little pricey compared to playdough but you put only a very small amount (about the size of a walnut in the shell) in a small plastic bag for each child and it lasts forever. Your question led me to realize that an old post "What Goes in A Worship Bag?" had disappeared from the blog. So, I just reposted it. It may have some good ideas for you. Go to .

    2. THANK you Carolyn. I will check this article out as well! I am so glad my pastor ran across an advertisement about your webinar as it has lead me to your site and your invaluable resources and experience. Thank you for sharing them with all of us as we work to lead our children to experience the fullness of God's love through worship as part of His family!

  2. Hi Carolyn,
    I am writing from New Zealand, so we are just entering ‘our summer’ right in the middle of Advent & Christmas. I work here with a number of Anglican parishes supporting our children and family’s ministry teams. We love your blog. I noticed you have webinairs too. How can I find out more about them and when they are coming up please?
    I have also been developing a ‘Sunday bag’ to help Parishes provide meaningful ways for children & their families to engage in Sunday worship times. I’d love to read you blog mentioned above about ‘worship bags’ but when I tried the link, it failed. Would you please re-post it.
    Thanks heaps


    1. I'm not sure what is wrong with the worship bags link. Rather than repost, I'll drop it here in hopes it gets directly to you.

      Yes, this was posted last year about this time on the Facebook page.  But somehow it did not make it to the blog.  Thanks to the person who asked Sculpey, it will now be here for future reference.

       Last week’s post about worship art seems to have triggered a list of “things that can go into worship bags.” Since we all seem to be thinking about that, let’s see what we can compile together. I’ll get it started including things mentioned last week and watch for you to add to it in the comments here. When the list seems as complete as any such list ever is I’ll post it on so we can all have it in a useable, shareable form.

      THE LIST

      Bookmarks for marking hymns and readings – see for one sample

      Colored pencils
      Black pencils with erasers

      Magic slate (erasable writing surface)
      Dry Erase Activity Mat – for preschoolers
      Something to write on (maybe on a small clipboard)
      White Paper (maybe with faint lines for writing)
      Construction paper (for coloring or folding)
      Black scratch off paper
           Neat idea Lynn Anne Turnage!– all sorts of worship connections
      Paper shapes, e.g. butterflies at Easter, hands for discipleship
      Blank greeting card & envelope on which to create a message

      Stickers – actually these are better distributed during worship as directions are given for their use

      Plasticene/ Polymer Clay/ Sculpey (if seats are upholstered)
      Small lump of playdough (if seats are not upholstered)
          (Note: In response to the person who raised sanitation
           concerns about this, my hospital infection control friend said
           that she was not too concerned. "If we worry about the clay,
           we also need to worry about everything in the bag and that
           may be too much concern.")

      Pipe-cleaners (chenille stems) – in liturgically correct colors?
      Clothespin people
            (old fashion clothespins with faces drawn on the knob)
      Small soft stuffed animals and people to be “church friends” for
            preschool bags

      Small Bible story books
      Copy of “Pockets” or other Christian magazine for children
      Small photo albums of things in the sanctuary to change seasonally
      Puzzles featuring worship words or the theme of the week
      Cross word puzzles
      Word Searches
      Codes to solve
      Pencil Mazes
      Children’s Worship Bulletins (more on those next week)

      Finger labyrinths
      Lord’s Prayer Tracing Cross
      Krista Lovell, several of us want to hear more about this

      Even a piece of hard candy for enjoying during the sermon

      Put it all in
            A zip-able plastic bag
            Small canvass sack
            A lap desk (Cheryl Hartman gets hers from Hobby Lobby for $7)
            A flat plastic box (the top serves as writing surface)

      WHAT ELSE????

      Posted by Carolyn

    2. AND there is one webinar available through Outlook. Go to . It is a broad look at how to include children in the congregation's worship. Hope it might be useful.


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