By: Rob Dyer Reverend Rob Dyer is Senior Pastor at First United Presbyterian Church of Belleville, IL. Rob has spent the last several years working in the areas of community missions and leadership development in southern Illinois. He lives in Belleville, IL with his brilliant and supportive wife, Sarah, and their four children.
As pastors and ministry leaders navigate what ministry looks like during a pandemic, many churches are finding that it is time to re-open their doors. Efforts are happening to make sure buildings are safe for church goers, but one area that is not as easy to manage in a time of social distancing is the children’s ministry. Many churches are making the choice to create a family friendly worship service rather than having children separate during the service. Churches are asking, how do we make our service accessible to children? Here are a few ideas to help make your ministry kid friendly.
5 Tips to Create Family Friendly Worship
1. Have a children’s time in your service where you focus on young children. Consider giving them an active thing to do as part of this time. So often kids are expected to sit still during children’s time in our sanctuaries or they are sent off to a separate worship experience where they can be active. What could it look like for them to be involved? Consider these ideas:
a. Give them a word or phrase to listen for and either respond to or count the number of times it’s used during the service.
b. Invite them to help you create a list of ideas for a prayer or brainstorm ways to serve others during these socially distanced circumstances.
2. Use songs the kids know. Choosing music that the kids have sung in their gatherings pulls them into the worship experience. It doesn’t have to be kid-familiar for all the songs, but the songs in the earlier portion of the service have the best chance of holding their attention. They will likely fade later in the service anyway. If all of the music is aimed at the traditions of the adults, you are missing an opportunity. Putting the words on the screen or in a handout will allow parents to sing-along with their kids too! This creates an inclusive family friendly worship atmosphere.
3. Insert kid-friendly portions into your sermon message. Think about using a story or example that you think young kids would find interesting. Maybe use a story about a kid or yourself when you were younger. Some churches encourage children to draw or color during the worship service. Having a coloring page that relates to your sermon and then inviting the families to post their children’s artwork over social media engages the kids and promotes the church!
4. Feature kids as worship leaders. There is something compelling about seeing someone like you in a leadership position. This is especially true for kids. Hearing a prayer or a scripture reading through the voice of a child can be a powerful worship experience. One church took coloring pages that featured the words of the Lord’s Prayer and distributed them to many kids in the congregation. Then families sent in pictures of their kids with their creations. The following week worship included a slideshow that was used to lead the online worship community in saying that prayer at home. This could also be done if you have a screen in your worship space. The same could be done with song lyrics or other worship elements.
5. Greet or recognize all ages. Take time throughout the service to give “shout-outs” and even recognize families whenever it fits into your flow. It is important that you give some attention to a variety of people when picking out folks to recognize, but kids especially get a thrill out of hearing the worship leader say their name or talk to them during worship. Another related idea is to greet or recognize the teachers and leaders that the kids know during worship. They will love seeing their teachers leading portions of the service.
You cannot expect that family worship will be 100% successful in keeping all ages engaged for the entire time. You are competing with a range of attention spans and children who may not be used to staying in the service. Being intentional and incorporating these ideas into your worship will help the children in your service feel seen and involved, ensuring that you truly are creating a family friendly worship environment.