Snapshots of a Child-Friendly Church

  325 views
At my little church, even the youngest kids usually join us in worship until after the singing. A few weeks ago, as one of the deacons was passing the offering plate, he came to the aisle where his family was sitting. His two year old son climbed out of his seat and reached for dad’s hand. Then his three year old daughter took hold of her brother’s hand, and they walked down the isle, linked together like a little train, each one trailing behind the other, until they reached the front. Then the two kids stood with their dad, next to the other deacons as they prayed for the morning offering.
 
It’s easy to notice the things that should change in a church. As the children’s education coordinator, I’m sensitive to the times when kids are overlooked, left out, or underestimated. When I see that happening, I try to influence change.
 
But lately I’ve notice that I’m not as vocal about times when kids are fully included and embraced. I might smile to myself and send up a prayer of gratitude, but I rarely seek people out to highlight the positive. We have a shared memory of two little ones walking down the isle with the deacons, but after church that day, I missed that chance to mention to anyone how special that moment was.
 
About a year ago I attended a workshop by Mark DeVries, author of Family Based Youth Ministry, and Sustainable Youth Ministry. He talked about motivating leaders and the entire congregation by broadcasting snapshots of the church at its best. He said that he looks for opportunities to hold up a mirror to the congregation and say, “look, this is who we are! This is what God is doing among us!” . . . He watches what is happening in ministry and the life of the church, and then shares stories with parents, leaders, the council, and the ministry leaders.
 
These might be big or small stories—the leader who showed up at a student’s athletic event to cheer her on and get to know her parents. The adult who noticed that one of the kids always comes to church alone, and invited him to sit with their family; the child who welcomed the newcomer with a friendly warm smile.
 
I think Mark was really on to something. No one likes to be nagged and scolded about changing their attitudes or behaviors. But we like to hear good stories and good news. By sharing stories of the best of what’s happening in our church, we call out the best in each other. We are inspired to become more like the stories we hear!
 
What snapshots do you have to share? How can you let people in your church know about the good things God is doing in your midst?  
Posted in:

The Network hosts user-submitted content.
Posts don't necessarily imply CRCNA endorsement, but must comply with our community guidelines.

Let's Discuss…

We love your comments! Thanks for your help upholding the Community Guidelines to make this an encouraging and respectful community for everyone.

What a great perspective. Thanks for this article. I, too, am very sensitive to the inclusion or exclusion of children in our worship services. There is so much potential. I am going to try harder to be vocal about the times when I see the church "at it's best" this way, and hope for more positive change to come.
One small change I've seen make a big difference, is the choice of songs prior to the children leaving. Including a few children's songs, or hymns with simpler words, allows children to participate instead of standing idly by, bored and/or confused. Also, for children who can't read, having appropriate images on the PowerPoint screen with the words still allows them to worship with us through visual means. Having the singing team demonstrate actions or interpretive dance helps them participate as well. I have been so blessed watching children worship with their hands and faces even when they don't know the words and can't read them. I believe this is how God is pleased in worship as well. Let's encourage more of this!!

Thanks for the great ideas! We don't often use images on PowerPoint. I've never thought of the importance that might have for children. Do you have any suggestions on where to find the images?

Jesus said, let the little children come to me. If you do not become as these little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. We often take these statements too lightly, and pass them off as fluff, when they are actually at the heart of the gospel.

In our church, we spend the first fifty minutes having Sunday school. Everyone is involved, from small children to adults. Adults who are not teaching can attend an adult bible study, while some simply drink coffee and fellowship. Then, after a ten minute break, we have a song service, maybe 3 or 4 songs, and then a special story for the children, which the adults also get to listen to. About ten or 14 kids go to the front to listen, answer questions, and suggest kids songs to sing. Another 2 or 3 kids songs then are sung, usually from memory.

Then the regular service starts, at which all children are welcome to stay, but a few go to nursery. Particularly infants. Making the worship service for children is important, but also the entire environment. We have a playground outside also, which gets used in summer after church, and a foosball game in one of the nurseries, which kids get to play while the adults have coffee after church. Anyway, just some ideas for paying attention to what Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them."

Thanks for passing along these ideas! During the song service, how is the story chosen for the children? Does it relate to the morning's sermon, or to Sunday school, or does it follow its own sequence? Are the stories read from a children's storybook, or shared by a storyteller?

Hi Jolanda,
In my limited experience of "visual worship", the pictures on the PowerPoint have been scenes of nature depicting God's glory, like beautiful mountains or trees in fall, or flowers, or people's faces, babies, etc. I think as long as the picture isn't so funny or strange to be distracting, and not so flashy as to be overwhelming, anything can work. In a song about God's love, there are numerous images that come to mind, like people hugging, an adult hand holding a baby hand, a heart, etc. That is very general, I know, but in my opinion it's ok to keep it simple, and most songs have very general themes anyways. To find pictures, one idea is to do a search in Google, then click on "images" so it only searches pictures that are related to the word or phrase you are searching. Another way to make it more personal, if you have people willing to volunteer, is to ask congregation members to submit photos to be used. Imagine how included a child would feel to see a picture of themself up on the screen at an appropriate time. As in all things, as long as this is done well, with respect and good taste, it can be effective. As this could very easily be a time-consuming thing, it might be somethign a high school student who is into computers or design or photography could take on as extra credit for school, or even as a hobby. This would have a dual effect as they would also feel included in the worship by helping create it!
I'm loving all the other ideas I'm reading on here as well! This is great!