In mid-March, I am leading a mini-seminar on children's spirituality and worship with children; the participants predominantly will be seminarians preparing for ordination as deacons or priests. I will have three 2-hour blocks of time available. I've asked them what they'd particularly like to know, but oftentimes we aren't aware of what we don't know until we're in the midst of it. I would be delighted to hear from the Matriarchs and Friends about what they wish they'd known on these topics, as well as what they'd still like to learn.
I am enriched in my own learning and service with children by Carolyn Brown’s Let the Children Come resources, which are lectionary-based. She also has a blog that’s easily reached through The Text This Week website. Lib Caldwell’s books on nurturing the faith of children and youth (Come Unto Me, Making a Home for Faith, and Leaving Home with Faith are her three wonderful books.) Forgive me for not providing links. It’s been a busy week with kids for me!
And Terri writes:
When working with children I have found the following helpful: engage all their senses and invite them into the worship experience by teaching them ahead of time what all the components are, what they mean, and why we do them: altar, lectern, pulpit, paraments and vestment, chalice and paten, tabernacle or ambry, baptismal font, chancel steps, as well as the elements of worship – prayer, scripture, sermon, holy communion, singing, kneeling, crossing, and so on. Kids are more invested in worship when they understand how the things we do and say are intended to help us be more connected to God.
I like to walk the kids around the worship space at the beginning of each liturgical season and invite them to notice what colors we are using and what is different from the previous season, and why? We talk about the life of Jesus and how that is reflected in what we do as we celebrate the seasons of the church year from Advent to Pentecost and Ordinary time. In particular I like to involve the kids in Ash Wednesday, Lent, Holy Week (especially Maundy Thursday foot washing and Good Friday stations of the cross). So for example on Ash Wednesday I gather the kids and their at a time that works for them (usually after school around 4pm). I talk about the ways we human beings tend to hurt one another (bullying, etc) and how we can even be mean to ourselves (by diminishing our worth). I connect this to Ash Wednesday as a day when we remember what we have done to hurt others and hurt ourselves. Then I talk about how the ashes are a reminder that we are just human, just simple, like dirt, like ashes, but in that simpleness is God, who loves us and forgives us. Lent is a season for us to think about all the ways we are broken and hurt and cause hurt, and to remember all the ways that God loves us and wants us to be the best people we can be. Celebrating the ways God loves us is what happens on Easter. I try to do similar things with Easter and Christmas – invite kids into the mystery of the season in ways that will appeal to their imagination and senses.
The specific way each congregation and the kids engage in this will vary even as some things you do will be transferable from one congregation to the next. Also there are all kinds of resources to help fill out ideas we have and develop them more fully, such as ideas from Godly Play or Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, and ideas from Leader Resources. Most of all – have fun and help the kids have fun too!
What rich responses from our Matriarchs. Thank you! What about the rest of you? What do you wish you have known about children's spirituality and worship as you entered ministry? What has worked for you in your current congregation and in the past? And what do you still wish you knew more about? Please join the conversation in the comments section.
We are low on questions in the queue, so if you have an issue you'd like the matriarchs to discuss, now would be a great time to send it in to askthematriarch[at]gmail[com].