Some people swoon over kittens. Others catch their breath at the sight of a sunset. My heart skips a beat when I experience a child’s gifts and faith being nurtured as they are loved and encouraged by God’s big family, their church.
That’s what happened when I saw the bulletin covers created by the children at Pullman CRC in Chicago, Illinois. My friend Syd showed me the first one—an illustration of 7-year-old Amos Moes’ favorite Bible passage (Amos 2:2)—which he’d kept as a wonderful memento of the worship service he’d attended while visiting the city. Asking kids to draw illustrations for bulletin covers is one way Pullman keeps kids involved and engaged.
Church member and administrator Kathy Dykstra explained the practice to me this way: “We feel it is crucial for [children] to realize they are an important and contributing part of the congregation." After attending [the Inspire Conference] last summer in Detroit we were "inspired" to think of creative ideas to involve our kids. Late last summer, Pastor Foster preached a series on the Sermon on the Mount, so we had a theme to work with. We contacted a number of families with children ages 6-12 and offered a few guidelines and suggested texts. Parents enjoyed working with their kids to creatively represent the scriptures. The children were overjoyed seeing their artwork on display.”
This summer the children were invited to draw a picture representing their favorite Bible verse or Bible story, and when possible the covers are matched with the service theme. Some matches are done intentionally: on Disability Awareness Sunday the cover art was created by Sarah and Nasyah, the granddaughters of Pullman’s Disability Concerns Coordinator and on the Sunday that Aliyah’s grandfather came to preach, she illustrated the bulletin to go along with his sermon theme.
And, be still my heart, it gets better. Kathy told me that one of the senior members of the church has taken the time to complement each artist and have them autograph their bulletin cover.
Just let that scene sink in for a moment.
When a child is baptized we, God’s family, the church into which the child is welcomed, make a promise “. . . to love, encourage, and support these brothers and sisters by teaching the gospel of God’s love, by being an example of Christian faith and character, and by giving the strong support of God’s family in fellowship, prayer, and service.”
Pullman’s idea for engaging all ages in worship is simply profound. It’s rooted in a commitment to love, encourage, and support God’s children. It began with a question: “How can we include children in worship in ways that say to them ‘you belong to God and to God’s family, this church’”? What I love about the idea are the faith-forming ripple effects it’s having in their community:
- Children are encouraged to use their gifts.
- Adults are reminded of the gifts that children bring.
- Children see their gift to God’s people being used by God’s people.
- Children understand that they are equal participants in worship.
- Children reflect and think deeply about God’s story as they interpret it in their art.
- Families grow in faith through the conversations between parent (and grandparents!) and child as the passage is read and the art is drawn.
- Congregation members grow in faith as the bulletin illustration invites them to think about the passage or theme in a fresh way.
And it all started with a bulletin cover.
“Sometimes it is very easy to think of children only as a group. But children are individually gifted people of God. Every church has a valuable—and in many cases untapped—pool of talent in their children.” (Worship That is Friendly to Children - Part 2)
Kathy asked the kids if it would be okay if she shared the covers with me. And of course, they said, “Yes!” and “Awesome!” I’ve attached the file (along with the instructions Pullman provides) so that you too can be inspired by the work of Amos, Garrett, Phoebe, Aja, Frandy, Esther, Amina, Aydee, Priscilla, Molly, J.J., Aliyah, Sarah, and Nasyah.
What profoundly simple idea have you used in your context to assure children (and all ages) that “you belong to God and to God’s family this church”? What might you try?
For more ideas on how to include all ages in worship, visit the Intergenerational Church toolkit.
PS: In the fall of 2018, Faith Formation Ministries will be launching a free, online Family Faith Formation toolkit. We hope its contents will inspire you in the same way the folks at Pullman CRC have inspired us!