Kathy Bozzuti-Jones is Associate Director for Faith Formation at Trinity Wall Street. This article first appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of “Trinity News: The Magazine for Trinity Wall Street.” Used with permission.
Planning Family Worship
It’s not difficult to create worship services with children, youth and families in mind. It just involves intentional planning.
1. Start by being clear about your purpose
The formation of hearts and minds and souls in community. From this will follow intentionality about the content of the service. For me, the “stuff” of Christian family liturgy is hospitality, compassionate loving, mystery, inclusivity, social justice and servant leadership.
2. Involve the whole community
Especially involve parents and children in service-planning. Together, think through the many points of contact (before, during and after a Eucharistic celebration) where a subtle gesture of welcome can be incorporated.
3. Invite families to greet at the church doors
Or better yet, just outside the church doors.
4. Consider the service bulletin
When compiling the order of service and leaflet, make it easy to follow and include something for non-readers.
5. Place the children’s choir in the pews
Done strategically, this helps to keep the singing hearty and welcomes choristers to participate freely and informally.
6. Circle the altar
Invite children and youth to encircle the altar at the consecration in order to witness the liturgical action up close. This says, “You are a vital part of what is happening here. Christ’s life and sacrifice are at the center of our communal life. Be present to this intimate moment of passion and beauty.”
7. Involve youth and children in the distribution of the Eucharistic bread
Can you imagine the power of inviting children and youth to move from the circle at the altar out into the congregation with pieces of bread to share, first with their families, and then to their neighbors? The lesson is that you are trusted, you are called to serve, and we are one family.
8. Make every moment a teaching moment
I have used a large, brightly-colored El Salvadoran cross in an interactive object lesson on Good Friday. On it are painted multiple roads leading to the central figure of Jesus. After the lesson, Sunday School teachers gave out similar, small cross necklaces to each child seated around me. They were surprised and delighted to learn that the cross necklaces in their hands were meant not for themselves, but for the person beside them. The simple gesture of donning necklaces on each other becomes a lesson about noticing the person next to you, giving and receiving, and putting the other first – deepening the imagery of cross and community.
9. Lose the phrase “for children” in all liturgical settings.
What we are doing is the work of the people – together. Let the “Good Friday Service for Children” become “Good Friday with Children, Youth and Families.” In swapping out the preposition “for,” you include and honor all participants, while suggesting that this is a shared project to which we are called by virtue of our Baptism.