Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Helping Parents Bring their Children to the Sanctuary for the First Time


“What do you mean there is no nursery for her!?!” the parent gasped with that deer in the headlights look in her eyes.  “What do you mean ‘take her with me to the sanctuary’?  She couldn’t….!  I couldn’t…..!  What ARE we going to do?!” she sputtered holding the hand of a new first grader who had been a regular in the preschool nurseries of their congregation. 

Most parents tumble to this reality before they get in the hall outside the nursery door.  But, many share this mother’s panicky sense of “what am I going to do now.”  Especially with an oldest child, they are facing a new often daunting to them experience.  And, the church often does little to help them.  We can do better.

Many congregations provide a worship readiness class for the children, for the parents, or for the parents and children together.  This is a chance to explore worship and give parents a vision for their new job as worship coach. 

But it also possible to send a one page letter a week or two before the anticipated change to prepare parents and children.  In such letters we can
           -  Alert parents to what is coming
           -  Give them a positive vision of what lies ahead
           -  Insist that their child is welcome and belongs in the
           -  Reassure parents that the church cares more about their
              child’s experience than about his or her behavior
           -  Point out worship bags, children’s sermons, book corners,
               etc. that are available for the congregation’s children
               during worship
           -  Give one or two practical pointers like
                 -  sit where children can see easily
                       – yes, that may be up front
                 -  help children learn to use hymnals and other worship
                 -  whisper quietly during worship to coach your young
                 -  talk about worship as a special activity you are happy
                    to share (not about worship behavior) in the car as
                    you come and go

When the letter is signed by the pastor with words of sincere welcome and an offer to help as the weeks go on, parents are encouraged to rise to the new challenge and privilege before them.

So, if you have children who will be coming to the sanctuary for the first time as school begins this fall, there is still time to write a letter. 

PS If younger children leave the sanctuary for children’s church before the sermon, their parents will need a similar alert and help when the children begin to stay for the sermon. 

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