"Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs."
Children are loved and nurtured here...and we have a commitment to help them learn to worship. Perhaps they won't understand what is going on or being said, but they can understand that this is a place where they are loved, accepted and needed. Formal worship can provide an excellent opportunity for parents to be involved in the spiritual nurture of their children. Talk with them about the service. Explain what is happening. Help them catch your enthusiasm and happiness about being in church. Let the suggestions contained herein help you relax and appreciate the children who are present. Truly, the kingdom of Heaven does belong to them.
Suggestions for Parents
The time we are around the altar is one of the most important times in our worship. To a child it says "something special happens at God's table." Therefore, we encourage ALL baptized persons, children and adults, to receive communion. If you prefer you and/or your children may come forward for a Blessing.
Children learn "worship etiquette" by participation. Please feel free to whisper to children to teach. Allow children to participate in the offering by sharing their own financial resources. Sit in the first rows of the church. Children who can see will feel a part of the activity. Share the bulletin with a child at her/his eye level. You may wish to underline words in the bulletin with your pen for for young readers or non-readers who pick up repetitive words. Talk at home about what people/events might need our prayers and encourage the children to pray in church.
Talk about worship at home during the week: "Do you remember the story we heard in church?"; "We can pray a part of the prayer we used in church last Sunday."
Relax! Your Family is Important Here!
Remember that it is hard for children to sit for long. Allow time to get settled. Take children to the bathroom before the service begins. It is sometimes helpful to seat a child next to an adult. Introduce your child to people nearby. A church building is a place that children love to explore, frankly this is why some children cry in pews. Most children explore quietly and we encourage parents to let their children explore. We want their earliest memories of church to be wonderful. We don't want them to feel trapped in a chair. Now if your child starts running circles around the Altar during communion please know that this has happened here before and the parents of children who have done this are feeling relieved that it is your child, not theirs, this time! If your child is so inclined we hope you will, for the sake of order, retrieve your wandering (and likely giggling child) before other children decide that sprinting around the Altar during communion looks fun.
Allow children to sit, move around or kneel on the floor and use the pew for a desk. Make some ground rules ahead of time: e.g., no flying paper airplanes, bopping their sibling on the head, tossing shoes across the church! Make sure all noisy toys are stowed away during the service. It isn't easy growing up in a family, but especially in this one, it is well worth the effort.
Our Children's Ministry team keeps a supply of child activity packs on a bench at the back of our worship space. The packs include crayons and coloring sheets. Help yourself to these if they are helpful. They are restocked weekly.
Still have a question? Please feel free to talk with our clergy or vestry.
Suggestions for Saint James Congregation
Remember the commitment we made as a parish community to the children in our midst:
"Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support these persons in their life in Christ?
During the peace, greet children as well as their parents. Hand offering plates to children, not over their heads. Children often feel invisible in a sea of big adults-take time to greet them before and after the service. Ensure children have a bulletin of their own. Invite a child you know to sit with you during the liturgy on occasion, even when the child's parent(s) are present. Understand when parents need to take younger children to the Nursery and then return to the service. Have patience with the learning process; we are all children of God. Remember we were all young once. Compliment parents and children who have participated during the liturgy.