Our children are at the age where they’re staying in the worship service instead of going to children’s worship. Much of the service, though, including sermons, is way over their heads. How can we help them stay engaged?
In their efforts to create meaningful worship services, worship planners sometimes overlook the needs of children. In addition, parents often feel pressure to keep children still and quiet in worship. But we want children to engage so that they aren’t just learning to be still and quiet but are full, active, and conscious participants.
Preparation for worship can begin at home. Read the Bible passage the pastor will be preaching on and guess what the pastor might say. Talk about what words you could listen for. Ask your child to squeeze your hand when they hear those words. Create and design your own offering envelopes, insert the children’s offering, and bring them to church to put in the offering plate.
In the worship service, sit near the front so the children can see what is going on. Be a “church whisperer,” talking quietly with your children to help them identify what is happening in the service. During the congregational prayer, ask your child to write or draw one or two people or events that are prayed for. After church, talk about those people or events and use them to guide your family prayer during the coming week. Divide a sheet of paper into four sections and ask your child to draw something they see and hear during the sermon in each part. After church, talk about it together.
Worship planners can help by using repetition. Sentences that are repeated each week are predictable and encourage participation by people of all ages. Using language that is known only to those who have been in church for years can be like a code that children have to unlock. When a term or phrase in worship may be unfamiliar, the leader can restate it in simpler words to to make sure everyone understands.
You can download more ideas in Ten Ways to Engage Kids in Worship at crcna.org/FaithFormation.
About the Authors
Laura Keeley is a regional catalyzer for Faith Formation Ministries in the CRCNA and director of childrens ministries at 14th St. CRC in Holland, Mich.
Robert J. Keeley is Professor of Education Emeritus at Calvin University and a music leader at 14th St CRC in Holland, MI.