Sunday Worship for Children
Children Are Welcome
At WUUC, children aren’t meant to be “seen but not heard.” Children are energetic, curious, love to explore and interact with their world, and still learning how their emotions work. And we want to give them the grace, space, and patience to be who they are.
This means that we allow children to attend as much or as little of the main Sunday morning service in the sanctuary as they and their parents like/feel is appropriate. It’s not uncommon to see the parent of a baby pacing the back of the sanctuary during a service to soothe them–and we love that. While we do pipe the audio of the service out into the foyer and hallways, we want you to be able to enjoy as much of the community experience as possible, and our congregation is very committed to making this happen. You may even see this note in our hymnals (see right).
Some services, like those on holidays or special occasions (such as our recent visit from a Native American storyteller), are meant to include all ages. More often, we intentionally include younger children (preschool through elementary) to take part in the first part of the service, and then go to a more kid-friendly experience before the more adult portion of the service.
Children During the Service
During this first part of the service, children are invited to either sit with their parents or on the play-rug we have just in front of the pulpit. Many of the children like to come to the rug and quietly play as we do welcome activities, announcements, and then our Time for All Ages.
Then, after a play break and a snack, our preschoolers are in the nursery, while elementary age kids may have their own activities.
Once the main service is over, parents generally come pick up their children and return to the sanctuary for our after service coffee hour. The children usually see this as a social time for themselves as much as for the adults–because it is.
“What if my child is neurospicy?”
Well, then they are going to fit in very well. We have a bunch of neurospicy children and our RE program is run by neurospicy parents of neurospicy kids. Trust us, we get it. So feel free to reach out to us to talk about your child’s need or any other concerns you have.
Time for All Ages
Before the main service begins, parents and children will often decide to come to the playrug at the front of the sanctuary. The playrug is equipped with cushions and toys to keep the kids occupied while we are waiting for the service to being. We have a basket of fidget toys on the way into the sanctuary that children can also choose from, and they will often bring those to the playrug as well.
“I like the activities we do during Time for All Ages, and I love being able to share with the whole church!”
Some parents choose to join their children on the playrug, while others sit in the first row to be close enough to help their children if needed.
About 10 minutes into the service, one of our worship leaders moves to the rug with the children for our Time for All Ages. The leader interacts directly with the children, sometimes sharing a written or told story, sometimes a discussion or activity, usually about a topic closely related to that Sunday’s theme.
While it can appear that this portion of the service is just for the kids, that’s rarely the case. The ideas shared during TfAA are often relevant to everyone, regardless of age. And the format–storytelling and active participation–can be a very powerful way to begin to engage with the topics the rest of the service will focus on. And the insights our children share, along with the fun, make this one of the best parts of any service.
For a more in-depth explanation of a Time for All Ages, check out the video to the right.
After TfAA is over, parents then escort their children out of the sanctuary to the nursery or Religious Education activities, returning after their children are settled there. The rest of the congregation sing them on their way with the hymn “Blessing the Children.”
May your mind be open to new learning
May your lips bring truth into the world
May your heart know love
and your hands do the work of justice
As you go your way in peace
As you go your way in peace.
Our nursery opens at 9:45, and parents are welcome to drop their children off their before service if they wish. The nursery remains open throughout the entire service, so children up through elementary age are welcome to stay in the nursery for as much or little of the service as their family wishes, though generally most children prefer not to miss time on the rug and Time for All Ages.
If your child WILL be using the nursery, we do require that you sign them in, either before the service or when you bring them in after Time for All Ages.
The nursery is staffed by experienced adult volunteers and paid, qualified Youth (teen) members of our church. We keep our child-to-teacher very low, and run background checks to ensure that your children (and ours) are well cared for.
In the nursery, we split our time between free play and structured activities. When the children first arrive, we either take them out to the playground or let them do some indoor physical activity to burn off some pent-up energy from the time in the sanctuary. After that, we settle the children down, light out electric chalice, talk about what’s happened in our week away, and then have a savory snack.
During snack, we introduce the day’s topic and activity, which is generally tied to the adult Soul Matters curriculum. Our version is simplified, appropriate for younger children, and meant to lay the groundwork for a kind, just, compassionate, and involved relationship between themselves and the world around them. Lead teachers are always very happy to share what we are focusing on.
After we clean up snack, the children are given the opportunity for free play. Regular options include books and an art project related to our topic, lots of toys, and games.
Once the main service begins to finish up, the teachers and children clean up the nursery. Parents come pick up their children and sign them out.
Elementary Age Religion Education
Once the children come inside from the playground, often the elementary age children will break off for more age-appropriate instruction and activities. While their focus will generally be on the same topic as the younger children, the approach tends to be more Socratic, more focused on their real-world experiences, and more about how they can put what they are learning into action in their own lives.
Sometimes this takes the form of a discussion of how an idea plays out at school or with their friends. Other times, it’s about how they view themselves and who they want to be (or don’t want to be). It can also be an activity that helps them to make an abstract concept that might be difficult to grasp more concrete for themselves. Or it may be a small-scale service project that they work on over the course of weeks.
Regardless of the topic or activity, the lead teacher always makes certain to adjust it based on the children present so no one feels let out or bored.
Like many of the adults, children want to be a real part of the church, so we give them opportunities to actively participate as much as possible. Our elementary school age children (with the support of a parent, generally) have opened the main services by lighting the chalice, ringing the bell, working as greeters for new visitors, and other age-appropriate tasks.
Our older Youth have volunteered to handle more complex tasks, like running sound or video during services or working in the nursery,