“But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” -Luke 18:16
When I started ministry at my current congregation last summer, the youth director and I had a dream- a space in the sanctuary where kids and families, along with the older people in the church, could gather in worship and spend time together. On Easter Sunday, after removing (gasp!) a few pews, that dream became a reality: The Family Friendly Worship Space.
You may have seen different versions of this being done at churches- I’ve seen them called “Praygrounds,” among other things. Well, this is our version. Each week, our youth/children’s director puts out coloring and activity sheets that relate to the sermon I am preaching, along with the children’s bibles open to the scripture of the week. We also have activity bags filled with a variety of things for the children to do during worship, and we have other toys and quiet activities around the space as well. I think it has potential to evolve and include more in the future.
We have found that the kids and their families enjoy going to the space and are engaging in worship more because of it. We still offer children’s church following the children’s sermon, but some still choose to stay in the family friendly space instead. We have especially found that families with kids who are visiting family/parents for the weekend are excited to see that there is a place for their kids to go in the sanctuary where they feel comfortable and welcomed. I even had someone tell me that this space “softens” the sanctuary and makes it more warm and inviting. Success!
There has been some push back on this of course. It’s near the front of the church, off to the side, and some say it’s distracting. And it has to do with that scary word, CHANGE, again. I get it. But any church that wants more young families and children needs to be open to this kind of new way of thinking about how we invite children to worship. We need to be okay with a little noise, perhaps a little chaos from time to time if we are serious about making church an intergenerational and welcoming community. I think that the days of sending our kids off during the worship service may be nearing their end. This is an alternative for those who want children to engage in worship and to be a part of the worshiping community.
For me, this little space is a glimpse of the Kingdom. Would you try it at your church?
Family Friendly Worship Space Q & A
Where is the Family Friendly Worship Space?
-down by the piano in the sanctuary
What is there?
-tables for coloring, Bibles to read, and activities for children
-the Busy Bags
-toys for younger children
-places for children to sit with their parents
-other items for babies, moms and dads, and their needs
Who may use it?
-anyone from ages 0-100!
Why a family friendly worship space?
-We want children to be an active part of worship! This means that they will have the chance to read the Bible story that is being presented, do a coloring activity, and listen to the worship service, music, and preaching.
-We want to be welcoming to families with young children and give them a space of their own where parents and children can be in worship together
-We want to offer an alternative to children’s church, should the child not want to participate for any reason
-Would you rather our children color and reflect on a Bible story or play on their iPhone during church? This gives them a better alternative for our worship time together…
Won’t it be distracting?
-Maybe- but you may be surprised at how the children will learn and play quietly in church- they want to be active worship participants
-If you find yourself distracted, please feel free to sit somewhere else where you feel that you will not be!
-We say we are a church who wants young families and children- so we must adjust our mindset to welcome the sights and sounds of children in worship– Jesus says of the little children, “Let them come to me. Do not hinder them.”
We look forward to sharing the Family Friendly Worship space with you! Try it for yourself and invite children and families to participate!