Ah, what a relief it is to visit a church like this. Almost all of these guidelines can be applied to toddlers, the exception being helping them find the pages in the prayer book since they can't read yet.
Why Children in Worship?
John Westerhoff, a leading educator in the Episcopal Church believes that children are necessary in worship.
Westerhoff believes that faith is "caught" not "taught" and what better way for children to know what faith is all about than to be a full part of the community.
When a child is baptized in our midst and made a member of the church of Christ, the adults of the congregation promise to be active in nurturing that child's faith. We need to work together to nurture our children in their faith and to be nurtured by them in return. Children give us the gift of trust and a fresh point of view; adults can share the gift of acceptance, experience and the wisdom of the church through the ages.
May we Suggest:
- Relax! God put the wiggle in children … don't feel you have to suppress it in God's house.
- Use a gentle touch: an arm around your child's shoulder, your hand in his/hers to give reassurance and appropriate attention.
- Explain quietly the parts of the service.
- Help your child find the pages in the prayer book. It is okay if they stand on the pew to see and sing.
- Do not be distressed if your child does not find the proper page.
- Sing the hymns, pray and voice the responses. Children learn good behavior in church by copying yours.
- Always remember that the way we welcome children in church directly affects the way they respond to church, God and Christ. Let them know that they are at home in this liturgy of praise and thanksgiving.
The part that struck me the most was the reminder that we ALL vow to be active in nourishing the candidate's faith during a baptism. This goes along with the last of the guidelines that reminds us that "the way we welcome children in church directly affects the way they respond to church."
Involving George in church is one of my biggest concerns right now with his development. Toddlerhood is the perfect age to introduce a child to the wonders of Christ and His church. This is the age where children begin to learn what is appropriate behavior and make associations. For example, just the other night I was reading George his board-book Bible at bedtime when he pointed to the crucifix hanging on his wall. This being Lent, I thought it was an appropriate time to introduce the basic concepts of the Cross, so I got the crucifix down and let him hold it and examine it. First he pointed out where Jesus' feet and hands were, then began to finger the nails. I explained to him that Jesus had a boo-boo where he was nailed to the cross, and George pointed to a scratch on his own leg and said "boo-boo?"
What a wonderful opportunity to explain that Jesus was hurt, nailed to the Cross....and then opening up his picture book to the Resurrection, I showed him that Jesus rose from the dead! Obviously the concept of the Resurrection is a bit much for a two-year old to handle, but a child that young can still begin to understand what I then explained to George...
When we do something bad, it makes Jesus sad. But He died on the Cross and rose from the dead so that when we tell him we're sorry, he forgives us. Just like when you misbehave, I'm sad. But when you tell me you're sorry, it makes me happy and I give you a kiss.
After this, George took the crucifix and rubbed it on his leg saying "no boo-boo." I had to hold my breath to keep from laughing. Hey, he's starting to understand, right?
*On a bit of a side note, St. Andrew's is carpeted which helps a great deal with the acoustic problem of George's naturally loud voice (a gift he inherited from me, I'm afraid).
**The picture is courtesy Fr. Timothy Matkin