When we talk about including all ages in corporate worship times or discipleship spaces, we need to take into consideration the substance and structure of the church service or class. Frankly, a traditional church service format is often difficult for kids to engage with. Kids and youth are relational; church services tend to be focused on the individual. Kids like to talk; church services tend to encourage silent reflection. Young children like to move; church services tend to lean towards sitting still…for a long time.
Before we launch into ways that we can work towards making church more welcoming to all generations, we must first acknowledge this simple fact: Being present in a space and being welcome in a space are not the same thing. There are many places where we might be physically present and at the same time feel like an outsider, like we don’t belong. Being welcomed into a space creates a sense of invited presence, the feeling that we are not only able to be present but that our presence is desired and anticipated.
Here are some practical tips for making your church service a welcoming place to kids as well as adults while keeping the focus on Christ.
1. Welcome the Kids, Every Week, by Name
This may sound redundant, but there is much to be said for a personal greeting from a friendly face and welcome to the service.
2. Have a Kid’s Bulletin or Pew Card
Many churches use a bulletin for the service. A fun way to invite kids into the service is to have a bulletin just for them. A pew card (see example) in the back of the pew where the hymnals or prayer books are kept can help everyone welcome children and their parents to the space and provide kids a place to color or draw during the service.
3. Create Kid’s Activity Packets
Make life a little easier for mom and dad and have kids activity packets with coloring sheets, crayons and quiet activities for the kids to use during the quieter service times.
4. Provide Space for Parents With Little Ones
In the back of the sanctuary, consider putting some rocking chairs or space for parents to walk or bounce their littlest ones to sleep. Some churches also use a cry room where parents can be with their child and still see or hear the service.
5. Engage the Kids in Worship
Kids love to be a part of something. Give them the opportunity to help lead worship, hand out bulletins, take up the offering, participate in communion, help with the sound/lights, read Scripture, share a testimony—anything that lets them know they are a vital part of the congregation. Create some jobs if need be; think creatively about finding ways to promote active engagement rather than passive observation.
6. Reaffirm Your Covenant
When children are baptized or dedicated in churches, often the church will recite or affirm a covenant with them to walk with them as a community of faith. Every now and then, let the kids hear you re-affirm that out loud and with your actions.
7. Consider Your Traditional Service Line-Up
Kids are used to things being pretty dynamic and fluid in their world. The structure of service may be familiar to you, but maybe it’d be nice to change things up a bit. Do the sermon earlier in the service or break it into chunks. Do songs that have motions every now and then. Collect the offering at the end instead of in the middle.