Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Infant Nurseries and the Worshiping Child

FREE to download and use! (c)
(Baby and Toddler): father and son newborn eye to eye 1 JR.jpg
D= [Jan 18, 2009]; S=3MB, 3072x2304; T=JPEG image [MIME:image/jpeg].

I don’t want to start another round on the never ending debate about whether very young children belong in the sanctuary.  Instead, I want to suggest that when we DO provide worship nurseries for infants and toddlers they can be more than healthy, clean child care – though they MUST be that for starters.  People who study how very young children learn and grow are increasingly finding that the youngest infants absorb everything around them.  So, what if we knit into our nurseries an introduction to worship?  For even the youngest we could…

Pipe the sound of the worship service in progress into the room as a background soundtrack.  Invite volunteers to listen to the sermon with one ear, but be clear that adult sermon listening is not the goal.  Instead, encourage them to sing along with bits of songs as they hear them and to say bits of prayers and creeds quietly to any child near them.  And, to play with the children all the time.  This weekly soundtrack introduces children to the sounds of worship.

If you cannot pipe in the whole service, play the music that is played in your worship so that children become familiar with its sound, rhythm and feel.  Get the choirs to record some of what they sing.  Play recordings of cantatas and instrumental music.  Include the repeated choral responses.  Change the music seasonally.  Again, encourage volunteers to sing along with familiar pieces with a child near them.

Post changing pictures of Jesus in simple scenes from familiar stories.  Encourage volunteers to talk about Jesus in that picture or tell the story behind the picture with children one on one.

On high holidays add one or two seasonal objects like an Easter lily displayed where it can be seen only or a Christmas crèche with which infants can play.

If you have a chapel or worship space that is available, take children to visit it one or two at the time.  Talk quietly about what the space is or sing some worship music.  Stop by the open Bible and read a snippet of whatever is there.  Walk near a baptismal font, organ or other worship object talking about it.  Let the child hear how different sound is there.  This can be a good walk for a fussy child or an excursion for a happy child.  Frequent walks mean frequent exposure to these special rooms.

Visit seasonal displays (Lenten cross in the yard, a hallway crèche etc.) one on one talking briefly about it.

Note how often I say “encourage the volunteers to talk about…”  That requires a little vision-raising and training.  Most sports loving parents will admit (a little sheepishly) to explaining the finer points of man on man defense to infants sitting in their laps watching a game on TV.  They know the baby is not getting the details, but they can’t stop themselves from sharing with their child something they love.  We also know how quickly the love and knowledge of a sport shared that way takes root in a child.  We can do the same thing with worship.  With the sounds and sights of worship around us we can talk about what is going on, sing and pray along with what is recorded and simply share a bit of worship with the child in our lap or at our feet on the floor.  In the process the child begins to experience worship and the adult reaffirms his or her own commitment to worship.  Not bad.  To make this happen repeated reminders are needed and a few volunteers who will demonstrate it - probably in action in a worship nursery.  The challenge to do this can even be included in printed calls for nursery volunteers and thus raise the entire congregation’s vision of what might go on in a worship nursery. 

Any other ideas about how to make infant nurseries entries to the sanctuary???

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