Children in Worship
Stories from the four churches
St Ann's has plenty of rooms and people, and so is
able to provide a teaching programme for the children whenever they
are not present in church for the whole of the service. At a recent
meeting of the PCC, it was felt that although the children
benefited from their own groups for teaching, they missed out on
experiencing the worship of the whole church. It was decided,
therefore, to have more services which were suitable for the whole
church community to worship together.The worship planning group
were sent off to come up with some ideas for involving the children
in the whole of the liturgy.They suggested these areas for
* Involving the
children in preparation for worship - choosing hymns, preparing the
holy table, giving out hymn books, joining in a procession, using
opening responses which the children can join in (with simple or
repetitive responses such as A28).
* Having a worship theme table (see page
41) reflecting the theme of the service at different points in the
church building in different seasons.
* Using more visuals in all parts of the
service, for example images on OHP or video projection, in the
Penitence or Prayer sections or as an accompaniment to one of the
readings (see page 41).
* Making sure that some of the Liturgy of
the Word actively involves children, either in the presentation of
the readings, or in taking part in or responding to the sermon; the
Gospel might be preceded or followed by a free adaptation,
transposing it to a modern setting, perhaps in dialogue form.
* Making more use of movement, letting the
children move around the spaces in the church at appropriate
moments, perhaps gathering under the big cross in the north aisle
for the Prayers of Penitence, or around the font for the
Affirmation of Faith.
They also suggested that some of the worship leaders and planners
might visit the church junior school, and find out how interactive
the lessons were, to gain more understanding of what the children
were used to.
St Bartholomew's has Sunday school two weeks in the month and an
all-age worship service once a month. On the fourth Sunday
worksheets and pens are provided for the children to complete
during the sermon. The worship leaders are working hard to find
ways of integrating the children's contributions into a service
which has to cater for everyone in the village. Some of the parents
involved in planning and leading also teach in the Sunday
school, so sometimes the children prepare something one week in
Sunday school for use in worship the following Sunday. This week
they have produced a collage of loaves and fishes for a temporary
altar frontal. The intercessions often involve the children, as
well as the rest of the congregation, in writing their own prayers
or suggesting topics for prayer.
Sometimes symbols are used to help people focus their prayers. A
group of mums and older children are willing to cut out paper
shapes for prayers to be written on, or to give a lead in preparing
items for prayer beforehand, e.g.bringing newspaper cuttings to
church as a starting point for the prayers.
There is a music group which sometimes leads the worship. It
usually consists of a couple of adults and several children of
differing musical abilities playing assorted instruments. Sometimes
this makes for interesting sounds, but the congregation are glad to
have the children's offerings. The children in turn are very
enthusiastic and have a wide range of favourite music encompassing
St Christopher's has few children, as there are
not many living in the parish. Activity sheets based on the
lectionary readings are provided for the children who come on
Sunday mornings.They refer to what the children will be doing later
in the service. People bring their concerns to the church for
prayer, and the children are encouraged to join in as well. Some of
the older children occasionally read the lessons, or take part with
adults in a dramatic reading for several voices. Sometimes a small
group of adults and some children meet together a few weeks before
a service to prepare banners, or a throw-over frontal for the
altar, to reflect the theme of a special service.
The alternative provisions from Common Worship are
often used, such as a responsive form of confession. The question
and answer form of the Creed is used at both all-age services and
communion services, so that the children and families who start to
come to communion after having come to all-age worship are familiar
with at least some of the liturgy. In the communion services where
children are present, the shorter Eucharistic Prayers are usually
used, and sometimes the children are invited to come and stand
around the altar, or help to serve.They regularly use the
responsive Prayer at the Preparation of the Table (Common
Worship, page 292, Prayer 8), as they bring the bread and
With this bread that we bring
we shall remember Jesus.
They have occasionally experimented with longer insertions at
this point (see page 42) and taken advantage of the provision for
varying the words of the Preface in some of the Eucharistic Prayers
(see Note on Thanksgivings in Resource Section G, page 222).
Today is the monthly all-age service at St Dodo's,
to which children and families have been invited, and there is a
baptism. The young people are taking part in a drama (the Good
Samaritan - again!) but once this is over they get restless, as the
remainder of the service is not especially geared to them. The
baptism sounds like a long monologue, and the music consists of
Victorian hymns that are all unfamiliar. The children in the Sunday
school have been asked to lead the prayers, so the Sunday school
teachers have written them on pieces of paper, and the children
have some difficulty reading them. It is also difficult to hear
what they are saying as the microphone is not adjusted to their
height. There are some Bible story books (given to the church ten
years ago) and colouring things at the back of the church, but most
of the children are now too old for them, and feel that they have
ratheroutgrown such entertainment.
Ideas for visual accompaniment to
* Puppets (shadow puppets are more easily
seen by large numbers).
* Projected slides or OHP transparencies
of the story drawn by the children.
* A procession of items referred to in the
reading, brought up and arranged in a suitable space near the
reader. (This has the advantage that it introduces movement without
requiring a great deal of rehearsal. It provides concrete visual
images and the people carrying the things up have to listen to the
reading so as not to miss their turn.)
Worship theme table
Such a table, with items reflecting the theme or biblical
material to be heard in the service, provides a concrete object of
interest on arrival and throughout the service, both for children
and adults. For example, on the first Sunday in Lent the table is
below the pulpit. There is a large cloth covered with sand, in
which are strewn a few large pebbles and the odd withering plant.Or
on the fourth Sunday after Easter in Year A, there is a green felt
cloth, a few toy lambs, a shepherd's crook or a large walking
stick, a leather water bottle or perhaps a sheepskin. A group of
people is always responsible for the preparation of the theme table
and many people in the congregation are now used to contributing
suitable items. Sometimes one of the flower arrangers provides an
appropriate arrangement to complement the images and sometimes
items are used during the address and then replaced.
Preambles before the Eucharistic
This might be a set of biddings or reasons for giving thanks,
spoken by children or others, before the opening dialogue.
Jewish-style questions and answers such as the following might be
compiled, perhaps to echo the theme of the service. A child might
ask the questions, which the president or deacon might answer, and
not all questions need be attempted every time.
Q Why do we give thanks and praise to
A Because he has created all that is, and he has given us life. He
is Lord of all, and yet loves each of us.
Q Why do we remember Jesus?
A Because he was sent from God and he gave up his life for us on
the cross. God raised
him from the dead so that we might see that death is not the end,
but the beginning of a new life, the life Jesus showed us how to
Q Why do we use bread?
A Because Jesus took bread at the Last Supper. It is a sign of
Jesus feeding us as we hare with others around his table.
Q Why do we use wine?
A Because this wine is a sign of Jesus' saving love, poured out for
us when he died on the cross.
Q Who are we remembering and who is here with
A Jesus Christ the Lord who lives today.
Q Why do we take this bread?
A To show that his body was given up to death for us.
Q Why do we take this wine?
A To show that Jesus shed his blood for our sins.
Q Why is there one loaf and one cup?
A Because we are one family; we belong to each other like the parts
of a body.
Q Why do we come to his table?
A He invites us because he accepts us. We are his people and we
share in his
Q For how long will Christians celebrate like
A Until Jesus comes to take us to be with God in heaven.
Whatever happens, the actions, style and approach of the
president, while being accessible to children, should make clear
that the Eucharistic Prayer which follows is addressed to God, in
whose presence it is right to be filled with awe. The sense of
mystery should not lose out to a chatty educational or
Discussion starter: All-Age
If you have an all-age service in your church, compare it with
what is described here.
If you are considering starting an all-age service, these
questions and lists might help you compile a statement which begins
'Our all-age worship will be like this….' Try some brainstorming,
when people list answers to questions such as:
* What is our aim in starting an
* What are the arguments against it?
* What are the arguments in favour?
What is our aim in starting an all-age
* Who is the service for? Who might
come to all-age worship?
* Nuclear families with parents and young
* Children from the Sunday School or
regular children's activities.
* Single parent families.
* Single people.
* Older people.
* Those whose children have grown up and
* Visitors to the church or area.
* Younger married couples.
* Is the service basically the Eucharist
(Holy Communion) with a new title to emphasize that it is for the
whole church community, or that provision is made for children as
well as adults?
* Either for this or for a non-eucharistic
service, are 'All-Age Worship',' All-Age Service' or 'All-Age
Communion' better titles than the often-used' Family Service', to
stress that people of all ages can worship together? Would it be
better to invent a new, local name for the service?
* Is it just a way of giving children's
workers a monthly break?
What are the arguments against all-age
* Worship may seem 'childish'; the
focus is on children to such an extent that adults are forced to
deny their adulthood by joining in.
* If proper care is not taken it can focus
so strongly on the nuclear family that it makes those in other
styles of household - the single, bereaved, divorced and elderly -
feel less part of the church family.
* Both structure and content can be so
free and variable that people may see no links with traditional
* It can fail to act as a 'bridge' to more
main-line eucharistic or Morning Prayer worship: some worshippers
never move on from the monthly 'all-age service'. * Worship can become banal, superficial, focused
on learning rather than worship, dominated by a strong teaching aim
or a 'compere', and provide little God-centred worship.
* It can easily become all-age learning
rather than all-age worship, because it is much easier to find
resources for the former than the latter.
* Worship depends on the whim of the
worship leader because so much is new; and because some people
think it is not a 'statutory' service, there is sometimes little or
no consultation with the PCC.
What are the arguments in favour of all-age
* All-age worship can provide a place
where those unfamiliar with formal worship can begin to feel at
home. One reason for this is that it can be a bridge, in reflecting
local culture more easily than the rest of the Church's worship.
Another reason is that people sometimes welcome the excuse to
accompany their children, and then find that they understand
teaching which is simple and visual, and sometimes at a more
* It is a place where genuine
intergenerational activity can take place, with adults and children
learning from each other and worshipping together.
* It can help regular church attenders to
discover new dimensions in worship.
* It provides an opportunity for people to
grow and use their gifts by sharing in planning, leading and
contributing to worship.
* It provides a way of introducing new
elements into worship (in a congregation likely to be less critical
of them?) - drama, dance, audio-visuals, new hymns or methods of