“Children do not want to be ‘consumers’ of liturgy, but co-creators… Children’s chapel allows children to learn the rhythm of worship.”
Children and Church
Children are part of the church, and most churches do their best to make them feel at home. There may be special worship bulletins available with crayons, a ‘quiet bag’ of books, papers, and materials to occupy their fingers, or a soft space within the sanctuary for crawling, wiggling and quietly playing.
Many churches also offer a Children’s Chapel program that occurs during the Liturgy of the Word, an alternative to the full set of Bible readings and adult sermon. Children are shepherded out of church to a space nearby where they hear the Gospel and worship God on their own level through song, story, prayer and perhaps an activity. They then reappear at the Peace so they can fully participate in the Holy Eucharist with their families and the whole congregation.
Celebrate: A Resource for Children’s Chapel
There are several resources for planning children’s chapel programs. One such resource is Celebrate the Good News: Children’s Chapel (a quarterly publication of Church Publishing, Inc). The philosophy of Celebrate encourages active participation. For example:
• Children’s liturgy includes children’s play (remember: it has been said that ‘play is the work of children’). So it is that children’s chapel should not simply be children listening to adult readings, adult homilies, and adult prayers.
• Even the best-phrased translations and carefully planned homilies offer no substitute for the actual participation of children in children’s liturgy.
• Children do not want to be “consumers” of liturgy, but co-creators.
What Happens in Children’s Chapel?
Children’s chapel allows children to learn the rhythm of worship. Environment is also very important. Children are sensitive in the way a place looks and feels. How often have we seen children’s attitudes and behavior change (either better or worse) because of their surroundings? Some churches can provide actual chapel space for children; others must make do with a large room or classroom.
As for the structure and outline of a children’s chapel, you may consider four basic parts. The following outline is what you will find in the Celebrate resource.
1. Gather together: An entrance rite involving movement, song
2. Proclaim God’s Word: The Gospel told in story form
3. Respond to God’s Word: An interactive reflection on the story
4. Pray: An opportunity for learning liturgical language as well as spontaneous prayer from the child
To see resource samples of the Celebrate the Good News Children’s Chapel program, check out the following link. Notice that this resource is continually published four times per year. Celebrate the Good News: Children’s Chapel for Fall 2016.
Sharon Ely Pearson is a 30+ year Christian formation veteran, currently serving as an editor and the Christian Formation Specialist for Church Publishing Incorporated. Wife, mother, grandmother, and author, she enjoys connecting people with each other and the resources they need for growing in the knowledge and love of Jesus.
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