While we have long said that we are welcoming to families with children, our Sanctuary did not reflect that – until now! Our Sanctuary now includes a welcoming space up front for families with young children. There are cozy seating options, child-sized furniture, soft toys, books, and plenty of coloring supplies – featuring a UU kids activity book and 7 Principles coloring cards. We will still have our classic options for all ages, including mandala coloring sheets and colorful pipe cleaners to keep hands busy while we listen to and watch the worship service. Unlike the cushions that we have used in the past, this new area is permanent and will always be there. We will still be offering Religious Explorations groups for children and youth at the same time as our Sunday morning worship service, but all children and youth are always welcome to attend the worship service with their families at any time. We will also continue to strive to offer an all-ages-friendly service at least once per month when we will not offer additional RE classes during the service.
Why are we doing this now? Our theme this month is Widening the Circle and as we shift to more Family Ministry-oriented programs, we realized that we were leaving kids out of a big piece of our faith–our weekly worship services. We have gone through and are still going through an era of change in our faith and in our congregation. We have adapted in so many ways during the last two years of fear and uncertainty regarding the global pandemic and as we begin to gather together in person again, this is another way that we can adapt and make our worship more accessible for everyone. We know that children need to be included and involved in worship in order to become adults who are involved with worship and seeking out faith communities.
We’ll be talking to our younger kids in the next few weeks about what makes a sacred space and how we might behave in ways that are appropriate for sacred spaces. As always, parents are expected to supervise their children in the worship space and to move to a different location if their kids are needing to express themselves in louder ways that folks might find disruptive. We are working on installing a new screen in Sandburg Hall so that space can also be utilized by anyone who feels the need to move around and process in their own way during the service. That being said, it is up to all of us to be welcoming to families with young children who may be coming back to church after a period away, and especially to new families who are seeking a faith community. Here are some tips for being welcoming to families and children:
- Learn and use the names of the children and youth who sit near you in worship.
- Help kids near you to navigate the order of service and learn how to find hymns in the hymnals.
- Invite kids to serve alongside you in worship as greeters, ushers, pew-tidiers, etc.
- Recognize that some certain conditions or neurodivergences may not present physically and that some kids (or adults!) may make noises or act in ways that seem strange to you, but are perfectly normal for them.
For lots more information on this model of worship, check out this link to Grace Lutheran Church and their “pray-ground” https://graceofav.org/prayground/