As your advocate for children in the life of the church, I continually encourage others to offer child-friendly worship services. Assembly 2014 worship planners offered a fine example of doing just that by inviting children to help out with the closing service on July 3, and making them feel at home. The elements were simple and may offer some ideas that you can incorporate into your congregational worship.
Children’s activity tables positioned at the front of the gathering place provided an area where they could comfortably observe the service and visuals, while keeping busy with thematically chosen picture books, activities and quiet board games. Crackers offered something to nibble on. Ribbon sticks, used for liturgical dance, were supplied by Irma Fast Dueck and used with increasing ease as children began to feel at home in the space.
During the children’s story, the stage was set so that the children faced the storyteller, rather than the audience. Doing so made them better able to focus on the story. Telling the story from Mark 4 through the eyes of a disciple prompted an awestruck three-year-old to repeat the phrase, “Peace, be still.” It touched my heart and moved me to invite all of the children to repeat it several times.
The children took a collection with their mission project buckets—and raised about $1,000 for the support of a sustainable agriculture ministry in the Global South—a project with which they could identify.
A children’s communion table was set up right next to their activity station, making it more comfortable for them to approach the table. The words of invitation were inviting and focussed on God’s abundance. Children whose attention span allowed them to hear the words felt verbally welcomed to the table of a loving, blessing God.
At the children’s communion station, Kathy Giesbrecht offered personal and affirming words of blessing. When I noticed how many children and youth approached, I feared they would run out of supplies, so, like the boy in John 6, I approached with a basket of fish (crackers) to supplement the alternative elements. As Giesbrecht accepted my crackers, she gave me an incredible gift; she invited me to help serve the children.My joy in serving and blessing these young members of our church family was almost too full to contain. Just before the service ended, children enjoyed the creative buzz that erupted as adults folded boats of Wild Hope from paper provided. It seemed almost as if the adults were entering into the holy work of play that is usually reserved for children. All of us were blessed and happy children of God that Sunday. Thanks be to God!
What ideas might these inspire to bring the same blessing into your home congregation?
Elsie Rempel is Mennonite Church Canada’s formation consultant.
--Posted August 28 2014