Alison Wyld asked a key question about worship bags last week– what can you put in them that will truly help children connect to the content of that day’s worship? There are lots of answers to that question ranging from bookmarks for marking hymns and scripture readings to subscription children’s lectionary-based activity sheets. One of the most useful, interesting, and easy to do possibilities is to use the bags to equip children to create “worship art.” WORSHIP ART is anything children draw or write in response to whatever is happening in worship that day. It can include drawings, poems, stories, diary entries for people in the Bible story or sermon, scribble prayers, and more.
Worship leaders initiate worship art when they …
- Challenge children to draw what they hear as a specific scripture is read or an important story in the sermon is told,
- Highlight a phrase from the regular liturgy (e.g. a phrase from the Lord’s Prayer), discuss it, then ask children to draw or write what they think about it,
- Invite children to illustrate one verse of a hymn that has lots of concrete ideas (e.g. hymns praising all the things God created),
- Identify the key theme word for the day near the beginning of worship, helping children write it on a page, and urging them to draw or write ideas about that word they think about during worship, and
- Teach children how to draw a scribble and then turn it into a prayer by writing or drawing each of their prayer concerns into one space in the scribble and decorating it while they talk silently to God about it.
Obviously, you would do only one of these in any given service. At first children will do exactly what you direct for that day. As they catch the hang of it, they will surprise you by using instructions from another week to draw or write about what is important to them at the moment.
To enable this work, fill worship bags with artists’ tools: a small clipboard, several sheets of paper that fit the clipboard, and a grand collection of markers, crayons, or colored pencils and a pencil for the word artists. Be sure the materials are freshened each week.
Most children will quickly lose interest in WORSHIP ART if it ends up on the floor of the van to be trashed. But, if their work is respected and valued by worship leaders and parents as part of the morning’s worship, they will stick with it. To ensure this,
- (if you are the worship leader and greet people at the back door) watch, even ask for, children’s art as they leave. Briefly talk about what they drew or wrote.
- Make time to talk with children about their art during the service. This might look like a children’s time or could mean meeting children as the offering is collected to receive and speak briefly with them about their art offerings.
- Provide a place where their art can be displayed. Turn your office door into a child-height bulletin board on which you communicate with the children about worship. Or, set up a bulletin board close to the sanctuary especially for WORSHIP ART. Or, place a roll of tape in an established place where children can use it to tape their work to the communion rail.
- Save children’s WORSHIP ART to use as bulletin covers, to illustrate newsletters, to use as sermon illustrations, etc. Put all children’s worship art in a file folder for possible future use.
- Use the term WORSHIP ART frequently in worship and speak about what the children are doing with respect so that all the adults in the room know that all the children who are drawing and writing are worshiping in their own way.
- (if you are a parent) take an interest in your child’s art. Encourage him to draw during worship – even creating some of your own worship art. Talk with her about what was drawn in the car on the way home. If the art doesn’t get posted at church, post it on the refrigerator door at home.
When a worship leader becomes the curator of children’s WORSHIP ART, he/she gives the children a comfortable-to-them way to participate in the congregation’s worship and in so doing makes a place for them that they can value and claim.
And, Alyson, summer would be a great time to introduce both the worship bags and WORSHIP ART as experiments. I’ll bet they will rapidly become part of “how we do it” and you will have a new way to connect with the children of your congregation.