Dear Friendly Church,
Many churches struggle to welcome children and their families into worship, but not you! You are flexible and kind when kids get crazy and noisy. You understand the importance of regular worship in the lives and faith of children, and you embrace the gifts they bring to your community.
But I notice that while you smile and nod from your pew, you keep a wide berth around those lively worshiping kids. If you have a special worship space for families, it’s often full of kids with nary a (non-staff) adult in sight. That’s okay. I’m guessing you aren’t excited about praying with crayons and play dough (although if you are you NEED to check it out because it’s for anyone who wants to try a hands-on worship experience.) Smiling is a great first step! But it’s time for us all to do more.
I encourage you do more than watch from a safe distance and try to interact with the kids during worship. I understand why you hesitate. Maybe it’s been a long time since you’ve talked to a five year old and you don’t know what to say. Maybe you have trouble hearing children’s voices or getting down to their level. Maybe you worry they will be afraid or that they won’t want to talk to you. Or maybe it just never occurred to you to have a conversation with a kid!
Let me assure you now, a child may be nervous or shy – he might hide when you try to say hello, she might giggle and run away when you make eye contact – but they DO want to talk to you! You are interesting and kind. You are fun and engaging. You are wise and thoughtful. You care about children and want to teach them about Christ and worship. You are EXACTLY who kids want to meet when they come to church.
Sure, it’s fun to play with peers – but most kids spend plenty of time with friends of the same age. Yes, it’s important that the children engage with the pastors and children’s ministry folks. But you have the light of Christ in your heart too, and it’s time to let it shine!
We need more adults in the pews with the kids – coloring, singing, praying and listening. This will help the kids engage and learn even more about worship. But you don’t have to change the way you worship to build relationships with kids in your church. When you pass the peace, make sure to talk to at least one child. You might try to join them in for one hymn or for the prayer. Connect with families and kids before or after church. Or one of these ideas for interacting with kids in worship.
Our children need to know your name, and you need to know their names. They need to know what you love, whom you love and how you love – and vice versa! You’ve been worshiping alongside one another and it is fabulous! Now it’s time to worship TOGETHER - to pray with each other, to love another, to build the Body of Christ together.
So start with “Hi! I’m ___________. What’s your name?” And don’t stop. Keep showing interest and watch the relationships grow!
PS - Try replacing all references to “children,” “kids,” or “families” with VISITORS for encouragement to welcome new folks into your community.
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