We are so glad to have small children in worship with us! Even the littlest ones can absorb God’s love by listening to the various forms of music, by hearing the Gospel proclaimed from the center, and by feasting on the bread and wine at communion. Please don’t worry about them if they wiggle or make noise – we are very used to that around here!
Try to have them use the restroom before the service begins, but of course if the need arises, there is a door in the front to the right that leads to the Sunday School wing. There is a women’s restroom upstairs, and men’s and gender neutral restrooms downstairs.
Keeping their hands busy is a good idea. They can choose a soft toy, book, or coloring clipboard from that area at the top of the stairs, near the sanctuary entrance. Or you may bring soft toys with you. Please refrain from things that beep or clank or make loud noises when thrown down or dropped.
Point out what is happening in each part of the service. (Look! Here comes Rex with the Jesus storybook! I wonder what story it will be today?)
Speak to them in quiet whispers, so that they learn to whisper softly in response.
Teach them parts of the service that they can join in reciting, such as the Baptismal Covenant response, the prayers or readings or the Gospel. Anticipate when these parts are about to come up in the liturgy and encourage your child to say it with you.
During the peace help them move around and shake hands with members of the congregation. Teach them to say “Peace of the Lord be with you”.
Have them do the physical movements of our liturgy. Stand to sing or pray, turn to face the Gospel book, bow when the cross goes by, hold hands out for the holy bread, etc.
At the 9am, help us teach a sense of wonder and reverence for the holy table. At home, maybe before bed, teach them how to quiet their hearts and minds and bodies to connect with God.
Bringing food into the sanctuary for small children is fine. Please refrain from things that come in noisy wrappers though, and please clean up your area when the service if over. (Those cheerios could live under that pew for quite a while, as we don’t have a regular cleaning service for the sanctuary!)
If your child (3 or younger, preferably) prefers staying in the nursery during the service, that of course is fine. A greeter will go to the nurseries at the passing of the peace to bring in to the sanctuary any who want to celebrate the Eucharist with us.
Help make Eucharist be the highlight of the morning. You can teach them about ‘Jesus Bread’. You can help them create their own way of offering gratitude after receiving, such as ‘amen’ or ‘thank you God’.
At the 9am service we have a play rug and some soft toys and books. It’s ideal because they have an excellent view of all the action. It would be great if parents hung around the rug, teaching quiet play and quiet speaking.
Have them follow along in the bulletin, saying responses and singing the songs.
Encourage them to help an usher ush or a greeter greet – just speak with whomever is doing it that day, they will be eager for a child’s help.
Have them bring up the bread and wine at the offertory. Simply go to the back at the passing of the peace and a greeter will hand them vessels to carry to the altar.
Have them bake bread for Eucharist. Speak with Molly Driscoll about how to get involved with that. We would be happy to share the recipe with you, so you can make it at home together and bring it to church to become sacrament for the whole community.
Have them come to the sacristy after the service and become a junior altar guild member. They can wash dishes and fold linens and carry the remnants of the sacrament out for the birds to eat.
Speak with your child on the way to church to see what special needs they might like to remember in prayer that day, or who they might be especially happy to see, or wonder what the Jesus story of the day might be.
Encourage their attendance in our Godly Play program Sundays at 9:50am. This program teaches the flow of the liturgy, the rhythm of the church year, as well as great Bible stories.
Speak with your child on the way home. What did they see? Hear? Feel? Have questions about?
We believe children are a valuable part of the worship experience, and learning the rhythms of the Episcopal liturgy at a young age can remain ‘hardwired’, sustaining them their whole lives.