“Times like these remind us that worship is not a performance, but a practice—lean into that practice, seeking opportunities for different members of your community to share their voices and unique gifts." (Lisle Gwynn Garrity, Reimagining Church in the Coronavirus)
As you lean into new ways of worshipping because of our need to be physically distant from one another, you may be finding it challenging to come up with ways to include children. (We're all figuring this out as we go, so that's okay!) I hope the suggestion below are helpful. As always, adapt the ideas to work in your context or simply use them to jumpstart your own thinking.
People haven’t seen each other in person for a long time, so provide time for everyone to greet each other. Some ideas:
If everyone can be seen on the screen, wave to each other. Or if kids are hiding in the background, encourage all the kids to wave so you can see them.
Use the chat feature or comment boxes to pass the peace to each other. Speaking of passing the peace, now may be the perfect time to learn how to do it together in sign language. Princeton Theological Seminary student Noah Buchholz demonstrates how to do so using American Sign Language in a wonderfully animated video which you can find by searching 'Princeton Theological Seminary Church Signs'. View it during worship and then try it together.
After the greeting, use breathing and simple movements to call people into a sacred space. Lisle Gwynn Garrity suggests doing it this way, “Lead a centering prayer with prompts for simple movements such as: take a deep breath, clench your fists, open your hands, shrug then relax your shoulders, wiggle your toes, etc.”
If you’ve invited people to have candles nearby, you might invite everyone to light their candle at the same time.
Select responsive readings with simple, repeated refrains that kids can read and remember. If everyone’s microphones are muted to reduce feedback from background noise, you might unmute two volunteers: one to read the “leader” parts and one to read the “all” parts, inviting everyone to join in on the “all” parts out loud even though they’re muted.
Use any pictures kids have created in advance as visuals while Scripture is read.
Invite kids to listen as the passage is read (perhaps twice if it’s short) and to then to create a picture to go with it which they can show and talk about with their families later.
Sing songs with simple refrains so that anyone who isn’t familiar with the song can easily sing along. Some ideas to get you started:
God Is So Good
Father/Jesus/Spirit I Adore You
Jesus Loves Me
Be Still and Know
He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands
Is there a song for which you could show a video recording that includes words and images that will appeal to all ages? Some examples from Rain for Roots:
Jesus Is Alive (Great for Easter!)
The Wedding Banquet (this could be a wonderful gathering song for your worship time)
Invite kids to use something from around the house as a musical instrument or as something to wave while you’re singing.
Encourage response through movement: nodding, a thumbs up, holding up hands and fluttering them for applause, etc. Typing an “Amen” into the chat feature or comment box is another interactive option for response.
Provide time for people to enter their prayer requests in the comment box. You might also provide time for people to enter a word or two about the things for which they are grateful (so that it becomes a streaming list). Encourage kids to name things that their parents can enter too.
For a prayer of confession, Lisle Gwynn Garrity suggests having people write (non-readers could draw) their prayer on a piece of paper and then tear it up as “a reminder that God’s grace releases us from all brokenness.”
End with a blessing, inviting everyone to extend their hands to receive it. Then wave good-bye!
How about you? What are you learning as you lean into the practice of worshiping online and from home? What ideas do you have to share for including all ages in meaningful way? Please share them in the comment box below so that we can continue learning together.
For a list of general ideas on how to include children in online worship, please see COVID-19 and Including Kids in Online Worship (Part 1). You may also find it helpful to check out the ideas being posted on the CRC Children’s Ministry Facebook page and the Worship and COVID-19 page on the Network. For support with questions you may have around technology and online worship, check out the resources offered by Church Juice.