Supporting congregational planners for worship that is welcoming and inclusive for all, especially children
1. Opportunities for worship planning exist in the following areas:
- Themes of the day.
- Lay leadership.
- Content of prayers and sermons.
- Use of space, movement, visual arts.
- Rituals or occasional services.
- Music selection, accompaniment, and leadership.
- The time prior to and just after worship.
- Greetings and announcements.
- Bulletin layout and content.
- the people who are involved in the planning.
2. 0–3 years old – creating an atmosphere of acceptance:
- Space to spread out.
- Space to walk the baby.
- Take the baby out when needed without judgment.
- Encouragement or permission to take the baby out when needed.
- Friend/sponsor/grandparent assisting parents.
3. 4–12 years old – creating an atmosphere of involvement:
- Scheduling worship and learning times that are not in conflict.
- Planning for movement in the service.
- Getting to know kids by name and greet them.
- Using examples in prayers and sermons that kids can relate to.
- Using the gifts of children in worship leadership (e.g., musical instrument – simple melody line, readers, offering parade, poetry, decorating the worship space, dance or drama, etc)
- Including children on lists of ushers, greeters, etc.
- Considering seating and sight lines from a child's perspective.
- Providing paper and crayons for drawing.
- Bulletin notes or graphics (posture – sitting, standing, kneeling, which book, signals for prayers – hands, singing – eyes and mouth, listening – ears and eyes)
- Choosing a mix of music that includes songs appealing to children. (see With One Voice list)
- Encouraging rhythm instruments, shakers, etc when appropriate.
- Minimizing the performance aspect of children's choirs.
- Increasing regular involvement of choirs in worship life.
- Marking significant milestones through prayers or small ritual action.
- (E.g., beginning of school, achievements in sports or arts, anxiety about exam time, end of the school year, off to camp, graduation or moving up to a new school, getting offering envelopes of their own, getting a Bible of their own, beginning or completion of a service project, etc.)
- Planning and having enough lay leaders in worship so that everyone can say from time to time, "that leader is someone like me – woman, man, older person, young adult, youth, child, racial minority, differently–abled". Take a look at your membership and include all you can based on the gifts they can offer.
4. 13 and older – creating an atmosphere of acceptance and involvement:
- Continuing to greet kids by name and asking about their week.
- Using their gifts in worship leadership.
- Practicing tolerance of hair color, body piercing, style of dress.
- Using examples and illustrations in prayers and sermons that kids can.
- Relating to their daily life.
- Marking milestones for kids through prayers or ritual action. (getting a drivers license, having braces off, high school graduation, accomplishments in school, sports or arts, first job, starting post-secondary school, any tragic event in the youth community)
- Being sensitive to self–consciousness and still encouraging participation.
- Establishing a teen group for choir, band, drama, etc.
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