Worshiping with Children: Tips for Parents & the Congregation

Here at Incarnation children are valued and nurtured and we are committed to helping them learn how to worship. Worship can provide an excellent opportunity for parents to be involved in the spiritual development of their children. Perhaps they won’t always understand what is going on, or what is Backpack Sunday 2012 childbeing said, but children can understand that this is a place where they are loved and accepted. They can come to understand that we place great value on worshiping God as a community and begin learning this practice at a young age! At the same time, when children are young, it can sometimes feel challenging to bring them into worship.

Here are some tips for parents (or grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.) and for other worshipers on how to help children enter into worship.

Tips for Parents

  • Allow enough time to get settled and have bathroom visits before the service begins.
  • Sit towards the front of the worship space! While this may seem counter-intuitive, children who can see easily will be more engaged in what is going on. You can always sit on the end of the row so that you can make an easy exit if necessary.
  • Introduce your children to people nearby.
  • Make sure your child has a bulletin (especially if they are a reader). Help your child find and identify different parts of the service. Let your child underline words he or she can read. There are also children’s bulletins for pre-readers and readers.
  • Encourage children to participate by sharing their own financial resources.
  • Children learn worship etiquette by participation – feel free to whisper to children to teach – explain the meaning of difficult words in music or liturgy. Share your own positive feelings about the various parts of the worship service.
  • Use the SPARK Story Bible (in the pews in the Sanctuary or on a cart in Incarnation Hall) to connect for the Bible reading for the day.
  • spark bible kids bulletinRemember, it is hard for children to sit for a long time. Allow children to sit or kneel on the floor and use the pew or chairs as a desk if necessary. Feel free to pick up a Children’s bulletin or a Rainbow Bag as you enter the worship space; both will help keep your child occupied as you worship together.
  • Children who have received first communion instruction are invited forward to receive communion—but those who haven’t are still invited to come forward for a blessing—this can be a very meaningful part of the service for both of you.
  • Talk about worship at home during the week (“That’s like what the Pastor said during the sermon” or … “Do you remember the story we heard in church?”) This reinforces what they have learned.
  • Talk about the prayer concerns and pray for them during the week.
  • If young children get too disruptive, feel free to take them out of the service and try again next week—lengthening the amount of time in worship each week until they are ready for an entire service. The nursery is available for children ages 0 – 3 years.

Tips for the Congregation

  • Remember the commitment we have as a congregation to the children in our midst. As a part of the service of baptism, the congregation commits to helping each person grow in faith.
  • Greet the children around you before and after worship, not just their parents, make them feel like an important part of the worship service.
  • Hand offering baskets to children, not over their heads!
  • Invite a child you know to sit with you in worship on occasion.
  • Make it a goal to learn one child’s name in this congregation, and greet that child by name each time you see them in worship.
  • Understand when parents need to take younger children out of worship or to the nursery and then return to worship. Make them feel welcome when they return, not self-conscious!
  • Have patience with the learning process; sometimes children will be restless and active in worship. Remember, we are all children of God, and learning how to worship is important. As a congregation we should help support, not hinder, families in honoring the promises they made at baptism.
  • Compliment children (and their parents) when children have participated and listened attentively during the service.

Our children, who love so freely, need to be in worship, and they need to learn how to express their love to God. It’s important to God, it should be important to us, and it is important to the future of the church as we know it. Will it always be easy? Absolutely not, because just like everything else, our children are counting on us, their parents and their congregation, to teach them. It means that we can endure the goldfish in the pews, and the occasional loud comments with grace and the understanding that having them there is pleasing to God and part of our responsibility in fulfilling the promises we all made at their baptism.