Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Somerset Hills

Open minds, loving hearts, helping hands


Welcoming Children into Worship!

Author Sarah Ahrens, Written Jan 30, 2013

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Continuing my blog posts on some webinars I recently attended, today’s post is on the Welcoming Children into Worship webinar that was presented by Pat Infante, Faith Development Consultant for the Central East Regional Group.

First some terminology to define…
Intergenerational: 2 or more age groups
Multi-generational: 3 or more age groups

Some patterns of inter/multi-generational experiences…
In common: all are looking at the same thing
In parallel: all are looking at same topic but in age segregated groupings
Contributive: all are coming together to build a “whole” out of separate pieces from age groups
Interactive sharing: intentional sharing between and among age groups

When crafting any worship service where children are present- and especially a multi-generational worship service- it is important to consider what children need from the worship service experience. The following elements are important…

  • Ritual: providing consistency and order to the experience
  • Religious identity: what distinguishes Unitarian Universalism from other religions
  • Story: use of story helps children feel connected
  • Emotional connection: need to feel more than just intellectual engagement

Hmmm…those sound like things that all ages need!

Congregations are constantly asking themselves how can we do multi-generational worship services more effectively. Here are some suggestions that can make worship a more likely success…

  1. Consider multiple intelligences and learning styles and how to address them
  2. Provide appropriate “activity kits” for restless worshippers; include opportunities to move
  3. Include families and all ages in many aspects of the service: multi-gen choir, family chalice lighting, different voices taking turns telling the story/message
  4. “Layering”- make the message accessible at different levels- like an onion where different children, youth, and adults will peel back different layers as able

And some final questions Pat Infante left with the webinar participants to reflect on…

  • What do we communicate when children and youth are excluded from worship?
  • How will children learn to value the rituals and practices of UUism if they are not in worship?
  • What would change if we assumed children had same claim on worship space, ritual, style, and content as adults?