Being with Children in Worship

As we enter a period of multigenerational worship, it will be useful to consider some best practices for being together in a sacred space. People of all ages belong here and can be enriched by one another’s presence. We want every person to feel welcomed, comfortable, loved, and respected here. We are all growing together in faith.

We believe the following guidelines, borrowed largely from the Unitarian Universalist Community in Charlotte, can help us enter this time more thoughtfully.

Suggestions for children:

We are so glad you’re here!

Try Soul Work materials from the shelf at the back of the aisle. You may find that you feel calmer and can focus more on the service when your hands are busy.

Please return your unused materials and completed work to the shelf before you leave. We’ll incorporate your sewing into a quilt for the classroom wing when it reopens, and display your coloring in the “Artist of the Month” frame in the social hall! We’re excited to see what you create!

  • Try sitting where you can easily see what’s most interesting to you. Maybe it’s the speaker’s podium or the choir. Maybe it’s the tech team. What can you learn about being in community and helping out by watching people who are doing things that interest you? Probably a lot!
  • See if you can follow along in the order of service. That’s the folded paper that tells us what is coming up next in the service. You can compare the children’s order of service with the adult version. What’s the difference? Which do you prefer?
  • Please walk slowly and speak in a whisper when you are in this special, sacred room.
  • It’s okay if you need to get up and use the bathroom or get a new supply once in a while, but see how long you can remain in your seat and how few times you can get up. Learning to control our bodies and our attention is an important skill. It might help to make it a game and see how long you can stay in your spot without making a sound or try to get up fewer times this week than you did last week. Pretty soon it will be easy!

Tips for families:

  • Consistent attendance is the best way to increase your child’s comfort and participation in worship.
  • Explain what is going on during the service, and answer questions that your child may have with a whisper.
  • Consider sitting on the aisle so that if your child needs to go to the bathroom or get a supply from the Soul Work station, they can do so with minimal disruption. Encouraging your child to have plenty to keep them busy before you sit down will also help them minimize the ups and downs during the service. If you find that your child simply needs to get up more than a time or two during the service, consider sitting near the back or in the gallery that has been set up as a family zone.
  • You are welcome to step out into the social hall if your child needs a break but you wish to still hear the service. Keep in mind that parents have a higher capacity for tuning out child sounds than other adults, and try to step out before your child’s needs become an obstacle to community engagement in the service.
  • Ask for support from those around you. Many people here would love to carry a baby or take a child for a walk, but may be nervous about offering for fear of offending. Your willingness to speak what would feel supportive for you and your family helps those around you feel comfortable offering help.
  • If your child isn’t able to be in worship for long at first, please keep trying. As they have more experience, their capacity grows, and we find their presence a blessing to the congregation.

Suggestions for other adults:

  • Recognize your role as models for children in worship. Welcome children as you would others — learn their names, make a connection, smile and let them know you’re glad they are here. A little goes a long way in welcoming a child or family.
  • Share the experience of worship with children near you. You may find that you can share a hymnal or help them locate a passage in the order of service. Families are often thankful for the helping hand, and children enjoy the attention from nonparental adults.
  • While you may be eager to offer help to a child near you, you may be intimidating if you are a stranger to the child. Take time to get to know the children in our community by engaging with their whole family before services and in the social hall. If you’re a familiar face, your offers to assist will be more meaningful.
  • When children have a role in the service, treat them as worship participants rather than performers. If they make a mistake, even well-meant laughter can hurt and make it hard for them to want to try again.
  • Show patience and gratitude for the blessing of children in our midst. It means our faith is still growing! Keep your heart and mind open to what we can learn from each other as we work to be inclusive and loving as a congregation.