“That was fun. Are we doing it again next week?”

This past Sunday the children of our congregation gathered toward the end of the worship service to bless the Sunday School teachers, who were being installed as part of our Rally Day celebrations. After the blessing, we gave the kids tambourines, shakers, and maracas, and they led us out of the church as the whole congregation sang, "We Are Marching in the Light of God." It was very nice way to start the Sunday School year, and a great way to celebrate the ministry of children in our congregation.

Later that evening, my 5 year-old daughter said to me, "Daddy, that was fun, playing with the maracas in church. Are we doing it again next week?" We were not planning on doing it again, of course, but her question got me thinking about consistency in worship. Kids get routine. In fact, they need routine. Preschool and elementary school teachers know that routine is essential in creating a learning and nurturing environment for children.

Many years ago I wrote about the importance of routine in worship, with a blogpost entited "Variable (or Vagarious?) Liturgical Texts." I do believe that we are formed in life and faith through repeated action. This is especially true for children. How can we offer a consistent, patterned, and participatory environment for children in worship? Children's sermons are good, but are often a passive experience for children. Assisting with communion might be appropriate for one or two children, as would be serving as a lay reader, but these are not ways to include most of the kids most of the time.

However it is done, I believe that weekly worship should include a regular element that actively includes children in doing something they are capable of doing, and which engages them in some sort of repeated, ritual action. It might be a song that is sung weekly, becoming familiar and allowing even non-reading children to fully participate. It might be a liturgical gesture or action, such as the procession we did this past Sunday, that kids can perform week after week. Whatever it is, a repeated action gives our kids something familiar to do, a chance to develop comfort and even expertise at performing an act of worship, and thus allows them to feel more "at home" and at ease with the worship life of the church.

About Chris Duckworth

Spouse. Parent. Lutheran Pastor. National Guardsman. Political Junkie. Baseball Fan.
This entry was posted in Faith & the Church, Family, Liturgy and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “That was fun. Are we doing it again next week?”

  1. Bob says:

    Hey – I really like this post. I grew up in a church where there was a children-oriented worship experience offered between the two traditional services. While I’m not sure I agree with separating children from the rest of the assembly, I like the idea of being able to hit pause and explain what we do in worship. It’s a tricky matter, especially since many adults don’t understand the importance of repeated liturgical action.

  2. The children’s sermon need not be passive, but that depends on the interaction and relationship between the children and the speaker. With one of our people, we get a whole lot of interaction and the children sometimes are better teachers than the leader (sort of by design.)
    Regarding the repetition of the liturgy: If the congregation changes which setting is used at various seasons, then the content is mostly the same, but the form is different. Our church has probably used about 6 different settings in recent years. We still love the one from the WOV best. The pastor’s part in the communion is like the heavenly angels are singing.
    A few pastors ago, we had some variety in the liturgy by having different things in the bulletins. While it did make me listen (and engage) with “new ears” I really didn’t care for totally new confessions of sins. Sometimes I thought to myself, “I DIDN’T commit THOSE sins.”
    I’ve wondered if explanations or dialogs about the form and whys of liturgy would help a congregation be more engaged during this part of the worship. I’m always amazed at the numbers of people who are in church week after week, but who don’t sing even one note. If this is “worship” then why not participate, even if the voice is a croaking noise?
    There is also the aspect of the repeated telling of the STORY, as someone explained to me, when a family gets together for a special dinner, some of the same stories are repeated over and over, by different people, in slightly different ways, but the result is that the family upholds their history and traditions and bonds with each other, and reveres that which came before. When I heard this analogy to liturgy, I opened to a new way of participating each week.

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