Great minds are working together – again. Last Wednesday Jeanne Gay commented that she often takes the children on field trips in the sanctuary. I’d already been thinking about a post on just that option for this week. So, …
Instead of talking to the children in their seats or bringing them to the front for a “children’s time,” gather them somewhere else in the sanctuary. Just the change from “the usual” will focus their attention and moving around in the sanctuary will build their sense of comfort with the whole space rather than just where they sit. Below is a starter list of possible destinations and reasons for going there.
Visit furnishings and special places in the room
> Meet at the font to walk through your baptism rite or speak about a baptismal theme. Invite each child to dip a finger in the font, draw a cross on their forehead, and say “I belong to God.”
> Meet at the Table to explain the Eucharist or to discuss why the Table is always there, what is and is not placed on the Table and what it means.
> Gather near the pulpit or lectern to talk about why it is the shape and place it is and what is said from that place. If there are not too many children give each one a chance to stand in the pulpit to see the congregation from where the preacher sees them (and the congregation a chance to imagine future preachers).
> Pick up the offering plates and move them around the sanctuary demonstrating how they are used. If possible, send a child with each usher to pass the plates and bring them back to the Table for the sung and prayed dedication.
> Meet at the organ or other musical instruments. Talk about how that instrument is used in worship. Maybe interview the musician.
> Gather in the choir loft. Introduce the choir and what they do in worship. Let the children see what the choir sees every Sunday.
> If there are special Bibles in the sanctuary, go to them. Tell the children about them. Look up today’s text in it and read it from the Bible with the children close enough to read over your shoulders.
> Visit special windows, plaques, statues, banners, or other art displayed regularly or seasonally. Explain why it is in your worship space and what it means.
> Gather at the back door, even in the lobby to introduce the ushers and greeters and their work. If you are wearing a mic, the adults in the sanctuary can follow the conversation without being able to see the children.
> Or, go to the back door to discuss what happens as worshipers arrive. Stop to get bulletins. Suggest marking the hymns and scripture readings while waiting for the service to start.
> Or, gather at the back door to find the worship bags. Unpack one, pointing out ways to use it. Be sure that every child who does not already have one today, gets one for the rest of the service.
> If there is a robing space just off the sanctuary (and your mic will be picked up there) visit it to explain the robes and stoles that worship leaders wear.
Demonstrate, explain, and practice parts of worship such as
> Processionals and recessionals
> Seasonal rites such as lighting Advent wreathes
Match where you read one of the scripture readings for the day with the place you read it. For example, we will soon hear the story of the widow who put two coins in the offering. Note that the offering plates were not passed but placed by the back door in Jesus’ day. Give the offering plates to the children and go stand near the back door as a group. Read the gospel story from there. Then, reclaim the plates and send the children to their seats.
If you have a balcony, it is often the place young families sit. So, one Sunday instead of asking them to come down to you, go up to them. Lead them in a children’s time geared to the worship theme of the day. Or, after noting that when sitting in the balcony it can feel like “real worship” going on downstairs. Insist that they are fully part of the worshiping church and are as much a part of God’s worshiping family as the people sitting downstairs. (This is makes the downstairs worshipers more aware of the upstairs crowd.)
What destinations can you add?