How can we enrich a child's worship experience?
Pull out your memories. Turn on your imagination.
[This may be overkill. I wasn't expecting infants and toddlers to take 4 posts. But maybe flooding like this will help you see the little things, the little ways that you can include even the youngest children in your worship life and your church life.]
Infants & Toddlers in worship. Stop cringing!
Infants & toddlers awake- at least some of the time! (They could be asleep, yes.) Awake is better -taking in sensations and information. They are processing information. They are learning. Repeat after me: "We WANT them to process information and learn about faith. Awake is good!"
"Sensations" - Think 5 senses, (even 6 senses - that of spirit). We are thinking about ways that the five senses can work together to nurture the spirit even in the very youngest, non-verbal sensory thinking feeling members of your community.
Taste What do children taste during worship?
- A special treat that's just for worship during the sermon, pastoral prayer - the longest most boring part of the service for children.
- A special flavor on a pacifier saved just for worship. You could change it with the church season. You're laughing. Don't laugh. I'm not talking about a marketing gimmick.
-Crackers/Juice that you save for communion (as your children get older.) NOT purple grape juice.
-your turn! What tastes do you associate with faith and worship? Are there tastes you remember as a child? Goldfish? Cheerios?
Smell What do children smell in the sanctuary?
- A baby would smell the person holding him/her
- Seasonal smells - Evergreens during Advent, Lillies during Lent/Easter, flowers, candle smells, incense,
- Cleaning supplies
- After service coffee
- Food cooking for the after service dinner (at Artisan)
- your turn! What smells do you associate with faith and worship?
Sight What do children see in the sanctuary?
- your turn! Make yourself small, high, low, sideways and upside down - Think infant. Think toddler!
- Did you notice the feather on the rug? The penny? The piece of paper? The paper clip?'
- What do you see at eye level (24 inches off the ground) ?
- Stained glass windows - Curtains, stairs, alter
- Candles, Flowers, Cross
- Smiles? Frowns?
- Seriously what do you see? Ask a pre-schooler (they aren't that far removed from toddlerhood but they can talk!)
Touch What do children touch in the sanctuary
- People Relaxed hold? Tense hold? Joy? Frustration? - Not just people touch (This I've learned from my dogs)
- Objects: carpet on sock feet, smooth slippery wooden pews, fabric covered chairs, cloth bound hymnbooks
- A fan, a heater - Keep going . . . make your own list
- Infants and toddlers want to touch and put things in their mouths. They learn about their world by touching. What can they safely touch in your sanctuary? Maybe we should intentionally leave things that teach about worship where young children can touch them . Put a special sticker or tag on the objects if you must so children and parents know this is something they can touch.
Sounds What do children hear in the sanctuary?
- including silence!
- Music, bells, voices, instruments, loud, soft, fast, slow
- Happy "what a sweet baby" voices, cooing, attention
- Pastor's voice, the voices of others, the voices of children
- birds, the cricket who insists on coming that no one can ever find . . .
Imagine - this is your first year at church - your first year on the planet! Most of our sensory memories (especially the memories we have as children) were never intentional. Some are good, some are bad. These memories elicit feelings.
Is it possible to pay more attention to sensory opportunities as a way to express hospitality - to welcome- infants and toddlers?