Next year we will have nine 3-year-old children joining our Children’s Worship group. We wonder how to have a meaningful worship time with so many young children. Any suggestions?
What a blessing! Children this age are exciting but also challenging and tiring. They are old enough to do some structured activities, and they can listen to a short story. But they can have rigid expectations that established patterns will continue and may have trouble adjusting to transitions and changes in their routines.
One way to think about your question is to remember the purpose of Children's Worship for 3-year-olds. Kids—as well as their parents and worship leaders—need to hear God’s stories; they need to know there is a place for them in your church; and they need to build relationships with the church community as they worship.
Our first suggestion is to consider putting this group into two worship centers instead of one. You will have to deal with logistics: an extra room, extra materials, and extra volunteers, for example.
Practically speaking, whether you keep the children in one room or make two rooms, consider introducing the children to the classroom one or two at a time, by age or readiness, giving those children a chance to acclimate before adding more children. Having children join on their 3-year birthday or when their parents think they are ready is one way to help this transition go smoothly.
Take time to connect with each child. Facilitate this by adding adult leaders or teen helpers to lower the child-to-adult ratio. Schedule times to split the group up: Some children could have a leader read a book while others gather to listen to the Bible story. One group could play with Play-doh while the other responds to music.
It’s easy to get caught up in the details, but worshiping with children is a wonderful experience. You get a front-row seat to seeing children experience the stories of God for the first time.
About the Author
Laura Keeley is a regional catalyzer in faith formation with Thrive, the ministry agency of the Christian Reformed Church. Robert Keeley is a professor emeritus of education at Calvin University. The Keeleys recently retired after 31 years as directors of children’s ministries at 14th St. CRC in Holland, Mich.