Tips for Worshiping with Children

At Shepherd of the Valley, children are valued and nurtured, and we are committed to helping them learn how to worship. Children are not just the future of the church, they are the church today! We are not complete without God’s children of all ages bringing their hearts, minds, bodies, and voices together. We warmly welcome and encourage young children to attend worship – and we welcome the sounds and activity that come with them.

Children learn best by doing – early and often – and by watching the adults they love. Research tells us that children who worship with their parents are more likely to grow into adults who have a life-giving faith in Jesus Christ and who are connected to a worshipping, serving, learning community of faith themselves. 

At baptism, we welcome children into God’s family and promise to journey with them. We want to support worship becoming a family habit, so below are practical tips for both young families and those who surround them, with love and faith, in our worship space.

  • Thank you for making the effort to bring your family to worship! Attend as regularly as you can. Children learn through repetition and reinforcement.
  • Try to arrive early, so you can use the bathroom, get settled in, answer questions, and point out important, interesting things about the sanctuary.
  • Pick up a Worship Bag as you enter the worship space (or bring your own special quiet activity, doll, or snack) to help keep your child occupied as you worship together.
  • Sit toward the front of the worship space. While this may feel risky, children who can see easily will be more engaged. You can always sit on the end of the row so that you can make an easy exit if necessary.
  • Make sure your child has a bulletin, especially if they can read. Help your child find and identify different parts of the service. Let your child underline words he or she can read. There are also children’s bulletins for pre-readers and readers.
  • Children learn worship etiquette from those around them. Model participation by responding with the congregation and singing the music. Feel free to speak in a whisper, close to your child’s ear to explain the meaning of words in music or liturgy.
  • Practice frequently-used parts of the service together at home, like the Lord’s Prayer; encourage your child to join in as they start to become familiar.
  • Help kids feel like they’re part of the action by finding places to volunteer in worship, individually or as a family.
  • Holy Communion is offered to all people at Shepherd of the Valley, regardless of age.
  • Children who do not receive communion are invited forward to receive a blessing.
  • Link parts of the service to a positive sensory experience for your little one:
    • Words about God’s love > hug baby close
    • Pastor makes the sign of the cross > trace a cross on baby’s forehead
    • Baptism (or reference to baptism) > “sprinkle” baby with your fingers like water drops
    • Music > encourage baby to sing, clap, dance (sway, bounce) in your arms, or “drum”
    • The “action” of musicians, pastors, other worship leaders > sit where baby can see it all
  • Remember, it is hard for children to sit for a long time. Allow your child to sit or kneel on the floor and use the seat as a desk.
  • If your child (or you) need a break, feel free to take them out of the service and come back in when ready. Or try again next week, lengthening the amount of time in worship each week until one day you may surprise yourselves by making it through the whole service!
  • Our staffed nursery is available for nursing mothers and children ages 1 – 3 years during all weekend services. Expanded ages are welcome when Shepherd’s Kids Sunday School is not in session.
  • Thank you for communicating the love and welcome of Jesus Christ to our littlest worshipers and their families, and for supporting parents in fulfilling their baptismal promise to bring their child “faithfully to the services of God’s house.”
  • Tell children you’re glad they’re in worship, and compliment parents for making the effort to get them there.
  • Greet the children, not just their parents, around you before and after worship to make them feel like an important part of the worship service.
  • Make it a goal to learn at least one child’s name in this congregation, and greet that child by name each time you see them in worship.
  • Catch the child’s interest, wonder, and enthusiasm. Answer their questions.
  • If you are distracted by a child’s activity, pray for that child.
  • Hand offering baskets to children, not over their heads!
  • Understand when parents need to take younger children out of worship or to the nursery and then return to worship. Make them feel welcome when they return, not self-conscious!
  • Have patience with the learning process; sometimes children will be restless and active in worship. It can be hard for people of all ages to sit for an hour! This is how a church family is supposed to look and sound.

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