This Sunday marks our first week of ‘summer vacation’ for our Children’s Worship programming. For the next two months (until mid-August), children over three years of age will sit with us in the service. (Nursery care will still be available for children ages three and under.) You may recall that this is similar to what we did last summer, but I thought I’d take a few minutes to explain why we take a summer break, and to also give suggestions for engaging our children in the worship service this summer.
Why Do We Take a Summer Break from Children’s Programming?
Like many, many churches across the country, we take a two-month break from children’s programming over the summer. Here are a few of the reasons why:
· Our volunteers need rest. In order to give our volunteers a break from teaching, and to prevent teacher burn-out, we take time off from programming in the summer.
· I, Jane, use the summer to plan for the upcoming curricular year. Reducing our Sunday programming in the summer gives me extra hours in the work week to prepare for the fall. (We’re bringing some exciting changes to children’s programming in the fall—more details to come!)
· The weeks we take off are historically the lowest-attended weeks of the year. During the summer, it can be a struggle to find enough volunteers to staff just our nurseries—especially on holiday weekends. Reducing children’s programming allows us to concentrate fewer volunteers in the spaces where they are needed.
· Having our children worship with us in the summer allows us to teach them how to engage in worship. Children learn by doing. Consider the summer as an apprenticeship, where children learn the norms of adult behavior by doing it alongside adults. As much as I obviously believe in providing developmentally appropriate worship experiences for our kids, I also believe that when we model worship behaviors to our kids, they learn what it means to worship.
How Can I Help My Children Worship this Summer?
· Set expectations. Before the service, explain to your children your expectations for their behavior. Tell your children that there are times when they will need to be quiet and still (i.e. prayer, sermon) and explain why they will need to be quiet. You can say, “These are times when people—and me too!—are talking to God and listening to God. And we don’t want to interrupt them.”
· Narrate the action of the service. Explain to your children what’s happening in the service and why it is happening. Ask your children to participate with you in the actions of the service. Here are a few examples of what you can say:
· “We stand to sing because we want to use our whole bodies to praise God. Some people like to raise their hands. Some people like to sway or dance. And some people like to stand still and feel the music in their hearts.”
· “We kneel to pray because we want to say sorry with our whole body, not just with our words.”
· “We stand up and turn our bodies to face the Gospel, because these words are precious—we want our whole body to show attention and respect.”
· Have your child sit in a seat. Do not let children sit or lay in the aisles. First, this is a safety issue. The aisles need to be clear for emergencies/bathroom trips/processionals etc. Second, there is a domino effect that takes place when one child leaves a seat and starts roaming through the congregation. It can encourage other children to leave their seats.
Ok, Fine. But How Do I Keep My Kid Quiet???
Without a doubt, the most challenging time for young children is sitting quietly during the sermon. Here are few ideas for engaging your child during this time:
· Make a quiet bag. Pack a small bag with quiet activities to do, such as coloring books, Legos, brain teaser puzzles, dolls/action figures, etc.
· Borrow an activity book from us! Throughout the summer, activity books and crayons will be available for children to borrow during the service. Brookland parents can find them at the check in table; Columbia Heights parents can get one from the greeters.
· For older children: give them a notebook to use for ‘sermon notes.’ Ask them to write down questions they have, words they want explained later, ideas they had, etc. Make time to talk about what they wrote after the service.
· Model appropriate behavior. Avoid looking at your cell phone during the sermon, or other activities that show disengagement with the service. If children see that adults don’t have to pay attention, they won’t either!
· Try to keep your sense of humor. We all know that every parent is trying his/her best, and that kids have bad days and good days. Extend grace to yourself, your children, and other children in the church. We’re all in this together!
What is Advent Doing to Help Families this Summer?
· During the summer, we will have a shortened liturgy.
· We have asked guest preachers to preach shorter sermons and to use child-appropriate illustrations.
· We are providing activity books to borrow during the service, as described above.
Brookland—One More Note!
This Sunday, we get to witness the baptism of Rhodes Hofer and the promotion of Worthy Beilman to the 9th grade. Our children will be invited to sit up front on the carpet below the stage in order to get a good view.
Thanks so much for your support of children’s ministries at Advent. If you have any questions or concerns about the summer, feel free to email me.
Looking forward to worshiping with you—and our kids—this summer!