Children in Worship

How to Help Your Child During Communion

by jpserrano on April 10, 2014 · 0 comments

better view

I believe that all baptized children are welcome to the Altar. The following is a guide that will hopefully help parents with bringing their children forward to receive communion.  

First, for all children, it’s important to see what’s going on at the altar.  

There is a drama unfolding at the the table during the liturgy and like any good drama it should be seen and heard first hand.  Parents might sit in a pew closer to the front or during the meal bring your children to closer pew so they can get a better view of the altar.  If moving doesn’t sound like the right decision lift up your children so they can see from were they are in the church (like this awesome dad pictured).  If they can’t get a good view let them stand in the aisle. Basically, do whatever works for you so that the children can see what’s going on during the Eucharistic meal.

Children will need various reminders and help at varying stages of development. Here are some tips for each stage at a church that practices intinction (dipping the bread in the cup).

Infants

When a child attends worship after being baptized it’s appropriate for them to receive communion.  Here are some how to tips for giving communion to infants who are not yet eating solid foods.

  1. When walking to the altar hold your infant slightly upright with your non-dominant hand. 
  2. Receive the bread with your dominant hand.
  3. It’s proper to respond to the minister with an “amen.”  
  4. Dip the bread in either the grape juice or wine so it is slightly soaked.
  5. Carefully give your child some of the grape juice or wine from the bread.
  6. Eat the remainder of the bread and wine that you were given.
  7. Make the sign of the cross on yourselfand on your child.

Older Infants
When an infant can support their head, eat solid food, and crawl things may change slightly when receiving communion.

  1. When approaching the altar hold your infant with your non-dominant hand. Remember to keep your child at leg/arm distance from the Eucharistic Minsters so that they don’t accidentally grab/kick the plate or cup.
  2. Show them how hold out their hand to receive the bread if they’re able. 
    1. If not, receive the bread with your dominant hand. 
    2. Dip the bread in either the grape juice or wine.
    3. Carefully give your child some of the bread and grape juice or wine.
    4. Eat the remainder of the bread and wine that you were given.
  3. It’s proper to respond to the minister with an “amen.”
  4. Make the sign of the cross on yourself and on your child.

Toddlers/Preschoolers  
Toddlers and Preschoolers are walking, eating solid food, and able to receive communion with some assistance from you.  It’s at this stage that most instruction and communication happens. 

  1. If your toddler is willing to walk to the altar it is preferable to being held. While walking show your toddler how to extend their hands (one over the other) to receive the elements.
  2. Gently remind them to respond to the Eucharistic minister with an “amen” before you get to the front.  If your child forgets, you might remind them by saying “amen” for them in response to the minister. 
  3. If they’re still developing basic coordination, guide their hand when dipping either the grape juice or wine.  
  4. Gently remind them to be gentle when dipping.
  5. Encourage them to make the sign of the cross after they receive both bread and wine. You can do this by taking their hand and doing it with them or by modeling it yourself. 
  6. It is perfectly appropriate to quietly instruct your children in receiving communion reminding them they are receiving Jesus.Communion as you normally would

Older Children
By this time your child should be able to come to the Altar on their own.  You should continue to coach them on how to take communion when they forget or their habits become sloppy.

Here are some reminders:

 

  1. This is a holy time and they should be mindful of their actions. This means we are quiet and orderly.
  2. Hold your hands out one palm over the other with closed fingers. Receive, don’t grab.
  3. “Amen” is the appropriate response to the Eucharistic Minister’s statements. 
  4. Make the sign of the cross.
  5. Remind them they are meeting and receiving Jesus in the meal.

All Children
If your child suddenly wants to stop taking communion, won’t get in line, and throws a fit, don’t force them to come forward.  You can gently encourage them, but don’t make it an issue.

I hope these are helpful tips.  

Parents, what have you found to be helpful when bringing your children to communion?

Pastors, what have you found to be helpful from parents bringing their children to the Altar?

-jpserrano

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Children In Church (Building An Accepting Culture)

by jpserrano on November 12, 2012 · 8 comments

Bishop and familyMy brother Joshua Serrano wrote on the spiritual discipline of letting your children be noisy in church.  He was inspired by Wes who did a marvelous job explaining why children should be in the pews.  Both of these posts have led me to think, “How do we build a culture within our congregation that allows children to be children in the pews?”

First of all, I get it.  Having children in worship is a challenging thing because as a parent, I don’t want my children to be a distraction to others during the service.  Because of this, it’s often difficult to be as involved in worship as I would like to be.  Sometimes it’s nice to let my children go to Sunday School so I can worship without having to quiet them.

All of this would be unnecessary, however, if in congregations there was a culture of allowing kids to behave like kids–which includes noise, walking around, and even crying.

In 2008, I had the opportunity to go to El Salvador and worship with Bishop Gomez.  During worship the most amazing thing happened.  The little children would get up, walk around, talk to each other, and play (most of the time quietly).  Even during the sermon the Bishop’s children would come up to him, hang on his alb, and then just walk away.  Never once was a beat missed during worship.  The culture of the congregation allowed kids to be kids during worship.  The parents’ only distraction was making sure the kids hadn’t gone out the door, but noise was never an issue because everyone just talked and sung louder.  It was GREAT!

I think we should do the same thing in our churches.

Here is how I think we can build a culture of allowing children to be in church.

1.  Write it in every worship bulletin.

I think including something like the following in the church bulletin would be appropriate.

Welcome to Marty’s Lutheran Church.  All are welcome.  No really, we take this pretty seriously; we want everyone here, including the children.  We understand that children are children: they make noise; they run around; they like to play games; they even on occasion cry.  This bothers the parents of the crying child more than it does us as a community.  So please feel free to stay in worship with your children, noise and all.  We have activities for them to do in worship. You can even have them color and play in our play area behind the last pews.  I told you we take this seriously.  All are welcome.  We’re glad you’re here!

2. During the announcement remind the congregation about the church’s stance toward children in worship every Sunday.

Writing something in the bulletin is a first step, but often stuff written down every week eventually goes unnoticed by regular worshippers.  It’s important to make a verbal announcement about it as a regular part of your announcement time.  Try to say something very similar every week.  By doing this you are reminding people of the appropriate attitude toward children in worship and giving the adults words to use to explain to others why church may be boisterous.

3. Plant People in the Pews.

This hardest part as a parent is surviving church with your little ones.  Train a small group of people to re-assure parents that the congregation wants all children to be children during worship.  These people should be very friendly and know when it is appropriate to tell parents about the church’s culture.  Encourage parents they’re doing a good job, especially when their little ones make noise.

4. Put in an activity space where children can play in the Nave (the place where the congregation sits).

I had a chance to walk around many churches in Germany, and I noticed that a significant number of them had small children activity areas (usually a table, some quieter toys, and activities for kids) near the pews.  I then experienced how this actually works in an Episcopal church in San Diego.  I liked it.  The kids could get a little boisterous, but it was not a free-for-all.  The kids seemed to still have a reverence that was appropriate for their age.

5. Worship Bags

Some parent don’t want to let their kids get up and go to a play spot.  For these families having a worship activity bag for children is helpful.  It should be stocked with paper, crayons, puzzles, activity books, Bible story books and the like.  I like to hang them in the narthex on hooks so the kids can grab them and return them without the aide of their parent.  I found that supplies need to be restocked on a monthly basis.

6. Teach the culture in new members classes.

I think this is self explanatory.

In order to build a new culture within a congregation you will need lots of buy-in from the people.  It will also take a lot of time (probably 3-5 years).  But, the benefits of having children in worship are worth it.  If you haven’t read Kids in the Pews… and The Spiritual Discipline of Parenting: Children in Church I suggest you do so now.

What are your thoughts on creating an accepting culture within church?

-jpserrano

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