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Monday, May 1, 2017

PRAYGROUNDS NOT PLAYGROUNDS by Jill Kayser


When we share the "Kids Friendly" vision with leaders we invite them to walk through their facilities (metaphorically on their knees), to see them through the eyes of a child.

We ask them: “What do children see, feel, hear, experience in your church? What does your building and d├ęcor say to children?”

I was delighted when the minister of a church forced to move premises, contacted me to ask what he should consider to make their new worship space more inclusive of children.

Leaders of a church I visited recently proudly showed me a space (playground?) they had created especially for children by removing two back pews and installing a basket of toys. I gently pointed out that children sitting in that space would be completely disconnected and disengaged from the worshiping community. They would not be able to see anything and it would be impossible for the minister to communicate with them from the front of the church.

Children learn by observing and practising. 


"Children learn by watching and imitating adults and by projecting themselves into imaginary worlds. Clergy and worship committees must give serious thought to making the Sunday worship truly accessible to children and educating parents and other parishioners to see children as fellow-worshippers, not as intruders who have to be hushed or distracted so that adults are left free to pray!” says Gretchen Pritchard-Wolff in her book “Offering the Gospel to Children”. 

And from Ivy Beckwith, author of "Transformational Children’s Ministry""The act of becoming Christian is the actual practicing of being Christian over and over and over again.”

We need to create spaces in churches that promote Children's participation, nurture their spirits and recognise them as full and valued members of the worshiping community.

At an ordination service I preached at recently, the children were invited to sit upfront so that they could see everything that was happening and those officiating could address them when explaining proceedings. I loved the way they joined in all the singing with great enthusiasm (the band was only a metre away from them) and some danced to the music. When proceedings failed to capture their attention, they returned to lying on their tummies on the carpet working with the material in their “welcome packs”.

Children are not only more engaged upfront, they also more attentive and better behaved. I think it’s a misnomer that parents feel more comfortable at the back with their children. If we explain how important it is for children to be included in worship, I think they’ll respond.

This trend of creating a space at the front of the sanctuary for children during worship is being coined “praygrounds”. It’s a way of offering radical hospitality to children. Give it a go.