Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Where to Sit for a Children's Time

If you cannot get away with not doing a children’s time and want to do it as well as possible, two of the first questions that arise are “Where to do they/we sit for this time?” and “Which direction shall we face?”  There are no easy answers.  There are lots of things to consider.  And, there is no one answer that fits all situations in all congregations.  So ponder the following seating possibilities.

1.    Children stay in their seats and are spoken to from the front of the sanctuary (probably the worst option)
J Insists that children are part of the of the whole worshiping community during the children’s time and the whole service
J Avoids conversations that may get everyone into embarrassing situations
L L L L Hard to keep children’s attention across all that space even when you very clearly say “this is for you” as you start (All that space makes this the worst option if your goal is to speak to the children.)
JL No waiting for children to make their ways to the front but also no opportunity for children to stretch their legs and to move around the sanctuary
2.    Children up front facing the congregation (maybe sitting on the steps) and you facing them either standing or sitting on a low chair or the first pew
J It clearly says to the children “this is for you”
J It is a chance for the children to be close to and have the full attention of the worship leader which tells them they are important (unless this is the one task the worship leader delegatesL)
L Children are easily distracted from you to scanning the congregation
L Children know they are on display so shy ones are uncomfortable,  hams try to get the congregation’s attention, and any misbehavior is very public
L The congregation cannot see you and hearing may be an issue unless you use a microphone (lapel mic or headset is least intrusive and distracting for the children)

3.    Children up front with you in middle facing congregation not them (maybe the worst of the up-front options)
L Children can’t see you well, so their attention wanders and they miss your message
L Both the children and you are on display for the congregation. 
J the adults love it
L it feels uncomfortable for the children and for you because it feels like this is really not for the children but for the adults
L You and the children can’t feel close interacting naturally and so they lose all the benefits of getting close to the worship leader

4.    Children up front seated on the floor facing away from the congregation and toward you as you face them and the congregation (Sit on a step or a low chair)
J Feels more like the rest of worship with the worship leader up front and the worshippers gathered round 
J Says clearly, “This is for the children. You adults may listen in” and thus makes the children feel more special
J Children face you with few visual distractions making it easier for them to pay full attention
J Often technically easier and more natural to use a mic from this positon
J Allows for conversation in which you can monitor which responses go public and thus minimizes embarrassment for all
L Congregation misses being able to see the children – but who is this for anyway?!

Obviously, I lean toward the last.  But, I also realize each option has its plusses and minuses.  It is also possible to have one standard seating plan – AND to vary it when the situation calls for it.


  1. We use option 2 at our United Church of Canada congregation. It wouldn't be my preference but the children love sitting single file on the top step of the chancel. If they were willing to clump together and sit on all the steps, they wouldn't be 'on display' so much.

  2. I use the last option, though in the 17 years that I've been doing the "Time as Children" there have always been 1-4 children that prefer to sit next to me on the step and facing the congregation. Unless I am using a picture book and they need to be facing me to see the pictures, I've discovered that it doesn't make much difference in behavior so I let those who want to sit facing the congregation. Squirrely kids are going to be squirrely whether they are facing the congregation or not. I have found that the older children are the ones who sit facing me - possibly because they are more self-conscious or more able to focus on what I'm saying. And since it's usually the younger children who want to sit next to me, maybe that's more comforting to them (as is being able to see mom and dad).

  3. We have a circle of child-size chairs in the chancel of to one side of the central pulpit and across from the choir. This circle allows children to be seen and allows those children who need to see their adults the ability to do so. But the circle allows all of us better focus and a sacred space for our special time together.

  4. I like to use the whole sanctuary. If we are talking about Baptism, we all gather around the the Baptismal font. Some weeks we gather towards the back of the church, some weeks we gather near the choir some week we go for a walk around the sanctuary to look at different things. I pick my gathering spot based on the message and the activity. I always face the children and I try to be on their level. The camera man does not love this but it is about the kids not the TV audience (who I assume are not children).

  5. Our chancel steps have angles, so if the message-giver sits in the inside angle, the children gathered on the steps are mostly facing the speaker, but still on view. The challenge tends to be controlling the ones who want to crawl under the adjacent communion table.


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