I have heard many stories from parents about the churches they never went back to. Stories range from the lead pastors waiting to continue a sermon until a special needs child (who belched) was removed for the sanctuary to parents being asked to leave a church while quietly (and painfully) going through a divorce.
If you are committed to walking alongside families in all messy stages of life, here are some ways to do this and to communicate your philosophy as well.
5 Ways to Make Worship Family Friendly in Your Church
1. Create a “kids in worship” space
Give children a place to sit and allow for them to be a part of family worship. I hear from handful of families that they don’t want another program that pulls their family in different directions. Allow for a space that allows for kids to learn and engage, while doing it alongside the members of their family.
2. Communicate your acceptance.
We often spend a lot of time communicating our expectations to kids. Consider if it’s appropriate to communicate your acceptance of kids in worship to your congregation. Notes in a bulletin and on announcements slides can share that kids are welcome in worship and ways to connect with a child. Not only does this welcome new and hesitant parents but also sets the exceptions and reminds us that children are a the future of our church and not an inconvenience.
3. Involve kids in volunteer roles.
Using kids to read scripture, sing with the praise team, act out a prepared skit, serve as an usher or at a communion station are both great experiences for families and kids. It helps them to develop a culture of community and serving and shows children that they are an important part of the faith community. Partnerships with mentors and other volunteer leaders provide a unique relationship to help their faith foundation grow. It also gives responsibility, ownership and a great conversation and learning topic to discuss as a family.
4. Make a connection.
Connect with families and find out what their challenges are. Are they looking to meet people? Do they need help with a special needs child? Often families are overly involved but they have come to your church for a reason. Start a conversation to get to know them and how you can grow together and support their family.
5. Be inclusive.
I continue to be surprised at the expectations that people believe church to have for them. Often when I find myself surrounded by certain challenges, I find that is the best time to address it. There are abundant resources for divorce support groups, early parenting, special needs and more. If you find a handful of people that aren’t able to engaged in the mainstream programming that your church offers, accept that as opportunity to explore what alternatives you can embrace to support their life situation. Advertising and offering these support groups during your service shows that welcome and embrace these life challenges.
How do you engage children in worship to support families?
(please share in comments below)