Picture this: a small group of 2nd and 3rd grade children are seated in a circle on the floor and staring at their Sunday school leader with wide eyed wonder as she describes how Jael took a tent peg and drove it into a sleeping Sisera's head. Suddenly there’s a knock at the door. An usher appears and says, “Communion is starting, come on back in.” Looking slightly shell-shocked the children stumble out of the room, down the hall, and into the sanctuary where they’re whisked into line with their families and walk forward to participate in the Lord’s Supper. True story.
What’s wrong with that picture? There was no time for the children or their leader to pause and reflect together about the story. There was also no time for them to pause and reflect in preparation for their participation in the Lord’s Supper. Communion, in that scenario, seemed more like the next thing in a whirlwind schedule than a family celebration of remembrance and hope.
If your congregation welcomes children to the Lord’s Supper but also offers a children’s ministry program during the worship service you may have the same problem. And while it’s possible to have someone from the congregation leave the service to signal to the Sunday school leaders that it’s time to return for communion, a ‘stop, drop and roll’ system may not be the most faith nurturing approach for the kids or their leaders. Read on for some ideas you may find helpful to implement:
Establish an Early Warning System. Signal the Sunday school leaders 3-5 minutes before they need to return with the children to give them time to bring what they are doing to an appropriate conclusion. In addition to giving kids the chance to digest what they’ve learned, giving leaders time to complete a task demonstrates to the leaders that you value the learning that takes place during Sunday school.
Make Re-Arrangements. Let children’s ministry leaders know at least a week in advance that their session will be cut short so they can adjust their plans accordingly. Laura Keeley, Director of Children's Ministries at 14th Street CRC, suggests that leaders arrange that day’s session so that the parts which require uninterrupted attention—such as the story and prayer—can be completed and those which can be interrupted—such as a craft—appear at the end. She adds, “Invite the children to complete their projects or to pick up their materials from the classroom after the worship service."
Take Time for Transitions. Arrange the order of worship so that children re-enter the sanctuary during a song and note that transitional time in the bulletin or mention it from the pulpit. The use of a song also provides time for those parents who wish to retrieve their children from the nursery for the Lord’s Supper the opportunity to do so.
Include All from Start to Finish. If you offer the Lord’s Supper bi-monthly, consider making it an all ages celebration from beginning to end and cancel children’s classes on those days.
For more ideas, visit Ways to Enhance the Participation of Children/Young Teens in the Lord's Supper.
How about you? What does your congregation do to transition children from participating in their Sunday morning class to participating in the Lord’s Supper?