With so many of our regular children gone during the summer, we might be tempted to eliminate the time for children all together. But before you do, consider these things:
- Having fewer children actually means that you will have the opportunity to greet them and build much more personal relationships with them than you are able when large numbers are in attendance.
- While our regular attending children are often away, summer is a great time for families new to the area or families seeking a new church home to visit. If you eliminate the children’s time, and they do not see any children, they may decide that your church is not “child/young family friendly.”
- Summer is a great time for grandparents to bring their visiting grandchildren to church. For most of these children (according to the latest statistics about young families and their lack of church attendance) being at your church will be one of the only times in their lives that they will attend a church.
It is important to have the children’s time even if your numbers are lower than during the school year. That being said, the way you offer the children’s time can be simplified as you anticipate the lower numbers and prepare for visiting families. Here are four simple suggested formats:
1. A Simple Welcome and Blessing of Each Child
Instead of preparing a lesson that comes out of the weekly text, you might, instead, offer a very simple welcome and blessing of the children each week. Invite any children who are there to come forward and welcome them warmly. Then bless them: “We are blessed you are here in worship with us today. May you always know what a blessing you truly are. I ask God to bless you and keep you safe, now and always.”
You can bless them in traditional benediction style with your hands raised or individually.
2. The “I Saw God” Time of Sharing
Invite the children to share where during the past week they saw a sign of God’s presence. It could be a beautiful flower, an act of kindness, a fun event, or anywhere that they saw a sign of God. Be sure to share where you personally saw God during the week as well.
3. The Scripture Lesson as Story
We all know that long before Bible stories were written, they were passed down through the oral tradition. Consider using the children’s time as your scripture time. Invite the children to gather round the ancient fire (you can even have a pretend camp fire set up for summer) and hear the story. Remember that the art of storytelling is almost a lost art. Children and the congregation will love hearing the story told well and as it was shared long ago.
4. Help Children Listen to the Sermon
If your children stay in worship for the entire service you might simply pass out paper and crayons to them just prior to the sermon. Invite them to draw a picture during the sermon of anything they experience. They might draw a picture of you preaching, the story you are telling, a symbol from inside of the sanctuary, a portrait of God or Jesus, or something they are looking forward to doing later in the day.
After the sermon, during the offertory or closing hymn, depending on your order of worship, invite them to come forward and show you their drawing. This way, they will have a one-on-one experience with you even though the traditional children’s time is not happening during the summer. Plus, for visitors, it will be a nice way to begin a conversation with parents, grandparents and the child following the service.
Children love being close to and cared for by their pastor. Regardless of the number of children you have on any given Sunday, a summer children’s time can be a meaningful time for you, the children and your congregation.