Welcoming Children into Worship

Ed. Note:  The way we welcome children into worship can make a difference for families and parishioners. While some say that children are the future of the Church, we need to remember that children are the Church. The following article is reprinted from buildfaith.com

Fully welcoming children in worship, with their wiggles and super loud whispers, can be a starting point for welcoming other folks who do not look, sound, smell, or act like the stereotypical congregation. 

Making the Welcome Clear

Hoping to increase the participation of children in worship, to help young families feel more comfortable, to signal to newcomers that children are welcome, or to help members support young children in church? Consider a pew card to clearly communicate that your community wants children present and engaged during worship. Here are a few approaches to consider.

Pew Cards For Children

Pew cards designed for children communicate to young families, newcomers, members of the congregation, and children themselves that kids are welcome and encouraged to be present and participate in worship. These cards encourage children to create art related to the liturgy, to notice and name the sacred space, and to follow along in worship. Incorporating child-oriented objects throughout the sanctuary signals that this is a place for children. You might want to include a welcome note and tips for using the pew cards in the bulletin or with the cards. Here are a few examples of pew cards for children:

  • Children’s Guide to Holy Eucharist Pew Cards – A set of 17 illustrated cards illustrating each part of worship. The cards corresponds to an enrichment lesson from the Godly Play curriculum. 
  • Doodle Cards – Rachel Minick designed this pew card for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Wilkesboro, NC. We suggest using Canva to design a doodle card for your context.
  • The Holy Eucharist Illuminated – A set of 38 cards with images that correspond to parts of worship. Each card is two-sided, with a brief explanation of the part of the service illustrated.
  • View From the Pew – This infographic card names and explains objects common to many churches. Children (and adults!) can be encouraged to locate these items in their worship setting.

Pew Cards for Parents & Caregivers

Pew cards or bulletin notes designed for parents and caregivers communicate that the whole family is welcome in worship. These cards are designed to help adults relax, be more present, and support children in worship. Here are a few examples of pew cards for parents and caregivers:

  • To Families with Young Children – Downloadable pew card from PCUSA pastor Traci Smith with a warm welcome and five ideas to help make the most out of worship as a family. Another version is on the reverse of the above Doodle Card.
  • ABC’s Of Worship with Children – This pew card offers a more extensive welcome to families and tips for worshiping with young kids. It includes pertinent developmental information and what we hope children are learning as they participate in corporate worship. This card is originally from St. Columba’s in DC and was adapted by St. David’s in Austin.

Notes To Members Of The Congregation

Pew cards or bulletin notes for members of the congregation communicate that the whole body of the faithful is welcome in worship and we are all part of extending that welcome. These cards are designed to help adults worshiping near families offer support rather than the evil eye. Here are a few examples of pew cards for the whole congregation:

  • Parents and Members – This pew card, which offers a note to parents, a note to members, and space for children to doodle can be found in various forms online. This page provides the text that can be used to create a version for your context.
  • Reasonable Expectations – We can help educate congregations on reasonable expectations of children in worship. This Building Faith post is a good place to start. Consider adding a note in your bulletin affirming children’s engagement in worship, for example:
    • “Children grow – in love of God and love of other – when they feel truly affirmed as members of the worshipping community. While comments such as, “you were so good in church,” or “your child was so quiet today” may make children/parents feel good, it’s much better to use statements that honor a child’s personhood. For example: “I am so glad to see you today,” or, “It was wonderful to worship with you.” As for what parents and grandparents can say to their children: “Thank you for being with me in church” goes a long way.

Widening The Welcome

Fully welcoming children in worship, with their wiggles and super loud whispers, can be a starting point for welcoming other folks who do not look, sound, smell, or act like the stereotypical congregation. We designed this pew card* to communicate that children are welcome in worship and to encourage diversity more generally. We hope you will adapt this resource for your own context.