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Welcoming Kids in Church

July 16, 2010

Sunday School is important but so is incorporating kids into the worshipping community.  In fact, Sunday School can become a problem if it serves only to separate kids from the rest of the  Body of Christ – de-corporating the worshipping community, if you will.

Incorporation is a relational process.  Children should not be expected to behave even better than the adults who are more able to sit in near silence in a pew for an hour.  At the same time, however, the congregation needn’t turn its worship service into a Sesame Street episode or a music video – but it may well need to adjust some of its expectations and assumptions.  What follows are my suggestions for baby steps towards a more whole, and holy, expression of the  Body of Christ.

First and foremost, kids should be seated where they can see what’s going on.  The front of a church actually has quite a lot to look at and quite a few people move around over the course of a service.  Children who can see are more apt to pay attention because there is something to pay attention to. Invite families to sit near the front.

In spite of rule one, above, many parents want to hide their potentially disruptive children in the back or off to the side, near an escape route.  Try to satisfy both needs by showing parents how to most smoothly get out from the front and assure them that no one will mind if they need to step out.  Then make sure that no one does.

Small children, in particular, like to wander.  Rejoice if you have a wanderer in your midst – it’s a sign that she/he feels safe in your community.  And remember – a wandering child is almost always quieter than an uncomfortable and restless child.  Help parents feel comfortable with their child’s wandering.

New families should be told where the bathrooms and nursery are upon their arrival.  Invite them to join Sunday School and briefed on how and when  kids get there from the church.  Assure them that their kids are also very welcome to stay in the service.  All families should be offered paper, crayons, and storybooks or, at the very least, shown where they can help themselves to such things.

Finally, be helpful and sympathetic when kids are disruptive.  Because kids will be disruptive from time to time – it’s one of the gifts they bring to the church.

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