Do you remember what it was like to be a child in church? For many of us, those days are long gone and the memories may be fuzzy, especially when it comes to early childhood. Some of us spent time in nurseries rather than in the sanctuary during church when we were little, but, for those of us who spent most or all of the service in the sanctuary, odds are we were bored for at least some of that time. Young children may not connect to worship practices without additional support for their developmental needs.
Enter worship activity bags! These bags may include things like toys, coloring materials, and books that help kids stay occupied during worship. However, when we assemble these bags with little thought—a few coloring books, a baggie of crayons, a board book or two—we miss the opportunity to help kids connect more deeply to worship. Dawn Rundman, Director of Development for Faith Formation Resources at 1517 Media, proposes that activity bags be assembled deliberately to include something to read, something to connect children to worship, something to color, something to touch, and something to play with.
Something to Read
When building worship activity bags, it is important to create pre-reader and reader versions. For pre-readers, activity bags should include board books for them to look through, while activity bags for older children can include picture books or story Bibles.
If you are interested in browsing great board books, picture books, and story Bibles, start with the Frolic Family resources!
Something for Connecting to Worship
Help kids connect to worship through kids’ bulletins, photo books, or mini-booklets. Kids’ bulletins engage children in worship with fun activities that connect them to worship practices, lectionary readings, and the people around them. Congregations can make photo books by taking photos of the worship space and creating a book of photos with a short text explaining what each photo is. Another option is creating a mini-booklet that asks questions about the church service, giving them an aid in tracking what is happening in the service.
Something for Coloring, Sketching, or Writing
Make sure to give children something they can draw on. You will have to decide what you want your children to color on and color with. Some ideas include colored pencils (especially for older children) and crayons (especially for younger children). Something to draw on could be a coloring sheet with a specific prompt relating to a part of the worship service. If you subscribe to Sundays and Seasons or Sparkhouse Digital – Children, you have access to some great coloring pages and children’s bulletins.
Something to Touch
Examples of something to touch include a holding cross or a prayer square. A holding cross is a small wooden cross, and a prayer square could be a small cloth that is knitted or crocheted. Both of these objects can come with instructions as something to hold while the congregation is praying and can be made by members of the congregation.
Something to Play With
Something to play with could include Legos, finger puppets, or a church furnishing set. It may also be wise to include some sort of play mat so that, if toys fall, they don’t make noise. A church furnishing set can be made with blocks from a local craft store to create an altar, pulpit, font, and whatever else you may want to include. (If you have any woodworkers in your congregation, this may be their time to shine!) Amazing things can happen when children are allowed to play pretend church.
What’s Next for You?
- Brainstorm what you want in your bags, such as photographs, books, colorings supplies, toys, etc.
- Collect specific supplies you need. Some ways to do so are registering at a store for what you need, sourcing your artisans to make things that can be made, and taking pictures, all of which can involve members of your congregation.
- Invite a group to assemble the activity bags and distribute them to the children. Take time to explain what is in the bags to children and parents.
Dawn Rundman explains all of these in more detail in a video on Facebook.