The church I attend gives first graders their very own canvas worship bags when they begin attending worship full time at the beginning of the school year. Their name is drawn on it in large decorated letters by some creative youth and adults. One item in it is a lined spiral bound notebook. It was first added as a pad that was easy to write or draw on. Over the years several children have developed those spiral notebooks into worship journals. First they scribbled. Next they began drawing what they were hearing. Then, they began writing what they were thinking. Sometimes they wrote down what they were thinking about what was going on around them in worship. Sometimes they wrote about important things in their lives at the moment. At times the writing was just notes or paragraphs. Other times they wrote carefully thought out and crafted prayers, even poems. The artistic ones continued to illustrate worship or worship themes. When the first notebooks were filled, they were replaced with new ones with covers that pleased the maturing owners. As the children became teenagers, they let go of the bags and selected cooler notebooks they could tuck into a purse or pocket. Several save their worship journals.
How can congregations can encourage such worshipful writing?
! Give children notebooks when they are young. Encourage parents to pay some attention to what the children are drawing or writing in them and to let the children know that writing or drawing can be as much a part of worship as singing along or listening.
! Worship leaders can occasionally suggest writing or drawing projects related to the sermon or some part of worship, i.e. draw a picture of what happened in this scripture story, make a list of people you know who need this kind of loving attention, etc.
! Parents (and all the adults in the congregation) can be taught to encourage rather than discourage worshiping with a pencil in hand.
! Parents can initiate or respond to child-initiated written conversations about worship or something important. This can be done on the margins of a bulletin or in the child’s worship journal. It is up to the parent to keep the conversation “on track.”
! Occasionally set up a situation in which a teenager can show some children his or her journal/s and talk about how they use them. (Teenage role models are powerful.)
AND IT IS ALSO TRUE THAT…
for some children these notebooks will never become more than paper for scribbled art about whatever comes to mind whether it is related to worship or not. For them something to do with their hands is a survival tool. Survival tools are appreciated!! In fact used as survival tools, journals can enable children to listen. Stories abound of children who seemed lost in drawing pictures of monsters fighting surprising their parents with comments that indicated they heard what was going on it the room. Who knows!!!