If you choose to keep your child with you during the main worship service, you might have a “church survival bag.” I know we do. Sometimes, in this age of electronics, it’s hard to find suitably quiet toys to bring into church. Even a toy car can be deafening when it’s dropped on St. John’s beautiful wood floors during a moment of contemplative silence! However, as your children get older, you may want them to start participating in parts of the service. Certainly no one expects her two-year-old to read along with the Prayers of the People, but what are some parts of the service that we can start getting our kids involved in?
I know one of my son’s favorite parts of the service is getting up to walk to the altar when it’s time to take Communion. He loves to follow his fellow parishioners up the aisle and take his turn getting a blessing. You might also take some of the many opportunities our liturgy offers to teach your little one how to fold his or her hands during prayer. Saying “Amen” at the end of a prayer is also a good learning opportunity. It not only teaches the proper form of praying, but it also engages the children in listening so they know when the “Amen” is coming.
One aspect of the service that is great for little ones is exchanging the Peace. Not only do they get to meet and greet their fellow worshipers, but there is also a chance to learn good manners through shaking hands and greeting politely. And at the very end of the service, offering a glad “Thanks be to God!” can be fun for our kids as well.
Packing a “survival kit” is almost essential for parents of young children who want their sons and daughters to make it through a whole service without too much disruption. Just keep in mind that if your survival kit fails you, your child might be ready and interested to take some of the many chances to participate in the service at a level he can understand and appreciate.