There are many ways to involve children in worship leadership. Epiphany with all the emphasis on light, encourages us to consider calling them to be acolytes. Acolyte means simply “helper.” Being an acolyte in worship may involve a wide number of tasks such as carrying in Bibles, the bread and cup, pouring water into the baptismal font and lighting candles. Lighting the candles is a good starting place. It is simple. It is important. (Candles are lit in worship to remind us of God’s presence with us.) It puts the acolyte “up front” and identifies her or him as a worship leader, i.e. an important person in the church. While serving, acolytes have an opportunity to get to know and be known by the congregation’s most important leaders which makes them feel even more part of the community. And, it involves flames which most children, even most people, love.
The basic task is to walk up the central aisle carrying a candle lighter, to light the candles, and take the assigned seat. That seat may be with the choir or other leaders or may be on the front row with family. In some churches the acolyte snuffs all the candles after lighting his/her taper from one of them, then walks out the central aisle to “carry the light of Christ out into the world.”
The only equipment required is a candle lighter/snuffer which is available in church supply stores for between $80 and $200. (Do think carefully about matching the length of the lighter to the height of children and the candles to be lit.) It is also wise to place a small pocket lighter where an adult worship leader can easily relight the taper should it go out. If the choir and other worship leaders wear robes, provide similar robes for the acolyte.
By the time they are in the third or fourth grade most children are ready for this worship leadership. All they need is the invitation and training that helps them understand the meaning of what they do and develop the skills to do the task with calm competence. Many children who do not want to be in a choir will jump at a chance to serve as an acolyte.
Check out this 8 minute video that St. Paul’s Lutheran Church made to train its young acolytes and posted on YouTube. There are lots of other such videos out there. Google “acolyte training” and you might find one from your denomination. I chose this one because it is obviously homemade and includes both acolytes and their pastor. Any church could use this as a model to create one of their own.