Some of my earliest childhood memories are of church. The Episcopal church my family attended when I was a small child was full of children, and the way I remember it, friendly to children, too. Of course there were rules and boundaries. We had to be quiet. We had to sit and stand and kneel. We had to wear our Sunday best. Going into the area behind the altar rail was strictly verboten (we had to go inside the rail for the Christmas pageant one year, and it seemed sort of scary). But despite all this, I always felt at home there.
When my older kids were young we went to a church that was (from my perspective at least) child welcoming. The kids went to church--church school was beforehand--and they participated, even if they didn't pay attention ALL the time. They were part of what was going on.
I am puzzled and dismayed whenever I come across the attitude that kids shouldn't be in church, or can only be there when their behavior is perfect or very nearly so. I want children to be in church. And how on earth can we expect them to feel any connection to worship, to liturgy, to church when they are older if we don't welcome there from the beginning?
So how do we incorporate kids into the worship life of the congregation? It's something I've been thinking a great deal about lately. A few weeks ago I attended a workshop about children in worship, and I found myself disagreeing with some of the ideas presented there. This workshop started with the premise that we should "throw out the prayerbook." For me, a cradle Episcopalian, this is an automatic non-starter. Adapt the prayerbook--sure. Make the liturgy a bit more kid friendly--okay. But make it watered down, less authentic--um, no.
I'm thinking of how I might design a service that would be "child-friendly" or "family oriented" and I'll write more about it as time goes on. But for now, do you have ideas? Experienced good liturgies which welcomed children and youth? Share them with me.