How to Communicate Our Faith to Our Children
Part Two: Engaging Children in Church
In Part One, suggestions were given that could help prepare children for the Church experience. In this second part, ideas to help children participate in the service will be presented.
· Children need an established routine upon entering Church to provide them with a sense of “beginning” of the Church service. This might be a reminder to enter God’s House quietly, a bow to the altar, a prayer when first seated, or pointing out the flowers or windows…something to help the children to focus on where they are.
· Children like to sing. Help them find the hymn in the hymnal or songbook. Point to the words as you sing.
· Children listen better if they are hearing a story. Tell them that when someone reads from the lectern or from the aisle that a story is being read. Have them listen for God’s name or Jesus and let them tap your hand when they hear it.
· Children like to have something to do. Color sheets, children’s bulletins, and books are available from the ushers. Older children can do a word search in the bulletin, seeing how many times they can find the word Jesus or God.
· Children like to pray for people. Take them to light a votive candle for someone they love. Take them to the back of the Church during Communion to receive healing prayers for someone they love.
· Children feel more comfortable when they know what to expect. Much of what goes on during Church may be confusing to them. Our services are long and there is a lot of quiet time, but there are moments in the service that can be of particular interest to the children. Tell them, “Now we’re going to sing,” or “Now we’re going to pray,” or “Now we’re going to Communion.” Bring certain moments of the service to their attention, for example when the bread is broken or the cup is lifted. Verbal reminders help children follow the service.
· When responses are given (Amen, Thanks be to God, and also with you), say them to your children so that they understand and will try to mimic your words.
· Have your children notice the acolytes and the duties they perform. Tell them when they are older they can also have that important job.
· Children love to teach. Let them bring a stuffed animal to Church to teach it how to have appropriate Church behavior (this worked particularly well with my grandchildren).
Most importantly, talk to your children about what they are seeing and hearing in Church. Give them the language of faith and be their role models. Remember they are children, but they want to know about this place called Church.
In Part Three, I will talk about our responsibility, as a congregation, to our children.