Practical Ways to Welcome Kids to Church

When we talk about opening our corporate worship times to all ages, we need to take into consideration the substance and structure of our service.  Frankly, a traditional church service format is often difficult for kids to engage with.  Kids are relational; services tend to be focused on the individual.  Kids like to talk; services tend to encourage silent reflection.  Kids like to move; services tend to lend towards sitting still..for a long time…

Before we launch into ways that we can work towards making church more welcoming to kids, we must first acknowledge this simple fact: If kids aren’t truly welcome, no strategy in the world will make them feel welcome.  If they are just seen as a distraction that the parents and congregation has to put up with, then they will probably be just that, no matter how many cool things there are to do. 

But if a congregation truly has at their heart a desire to welcome kids as an integral and participatory part of their worship, that heart will shine through in each tip that is employed.  It really does have to start with the heart and go from there. (For more on this, check out this article – Do Not Hinder: Welcoming Kids into Worship)

Here are some practical tips for making your church service a welcoming place to kids as well as adults while keeping the focus on Christ.

1. Welcome the kids, every week, by name – This may sound redundant, but there is much to be said for a personal greeting from a friendly face and welcome to the service.

2. Have a kids bulletin – Many churches use a bulletin for the service.  A fun way to invite kids into the service is to have a bulletin just for them.

3. Create Kid’s Activity packets – Make life a little easier for mom and dad and have kids activity packets with coloring sheets, crayons and quiet activities for the kids to use during the quieter service times.

4.  Provide space for mothers with little ones – In the back of the sanctuary, consider putting some rocking chairs or space for moms to walk or bounce their littlest ones to sleep.

5. Engage the kids in worship – Kids love to be a part of something.  Give them the opportunity to help lead worship, hand out bulletins, take up the offering, participate in communion, help with the sound/lights, read Scripture, share a testimony – anything that let’s them know they are a vital part of the congregation.

6. Reaffirm your covenant – When children are baptized or dedicated in churches, often the church will recite or affirm a covenant with them to walk with them as a community of faith.  Every now and then, let the kids hear you re-affirm that out loud and with your actions.

7. Consider your traditional service line-up – Kids are used to things being pretty dynamic and fluid in their world.  The structure of service may be familiar to you, but maybe it’d be nice to change things up a bit.  Do the sermon earlier in the service or break it into chunks.  Do songs that have motions every now and then.  Collect the offering at the end instead of in the middle.

8. Give parents easy wins – The time in church is just the start of the conversation.  Help parents continue it at home by creating a “Faith Talk” insert for the bulletin with questions from the sermon.  Older kids can fill it out during church and parents/caregivers can use it to continue the conversation at home.

9. Engage the congregation – If having kids in service is new to your church, give the congregation fair warning, provide a time for them to meet the kids (put faces with names and parents with kids) and encourage a time of fellowship for all before adding the kids to the service.  Some churches start with once and month and grow from there.

10. Give kids a voice – You’d be surprised how much we can learn from children but often we still follow the “Kids should be seen and not heard” rule. Give kids an avenue to share what God is speaking to them by affirming to them that they can and do hear from God and giving them a space to share that.  A bulletin board where they can hang a picture they drew in service or a note they wrote about what they learned can create a space where the whole church can hear and affirm their hearts for God.

What are some things your church has done to welcome children?


For more information about practical discipleship in the home or transitioning to a more family-focused ministry at your church, go to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page.

About the author

familyChristina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partneringsmallbadge with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.

16 thoughts on “Practical Ways to Welcome Kids to Church

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  2. We are reaching out to families on Wednesday nights with what we call Family Church Night. We begin with a meal followed by a short lesson. Then we spend some time doing a craft, music, or other activity based on a theme for the evening. One of our main goals is to give families a chance to just be together and to learn how to talk about faith, and life. This has led into a very exciting new practice for Lent.
    We traditionally have Wednesday night worship during Lent. These services tend to be low key, quiet, … and poorly attended. This year we wanted to find a way to get families more interested and are doing something I call “Lent Through a Child’s Eyes”. Our Wednesday night worship has no sermon – only Kids’ Time. Each week I tell the kids a theme (dirt, water, love, etc) and encourage them to bring toys, pictures, stories – anything to do with that theme. Then I spend time talking with them about what they brought and talk about the theme as it pertains to Lent.
    The kids have taken it and run! Our midweek attendance has jumped from 5-10 to 40-50. All members have enjoyed the “children’s sermons” and are thrilled with the number of families in attendance (many who don’t come on Sundays).
    I think what we are learning is that it has to be more than welcoming the kids into “our” worship. They have to feel it is theirs too.

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    • This is so great!! We do Family Faith Formation nights on Wednesdays at our church too and have found it to be something the kids truly look forward to and enjoy. It is a blessing to see generations come together to learn and worship Thank you for sharing!!

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  4. Good thoughts. I was raised in the UMC. We live in a small town in Wisconsin. Our local UMC is in a bad place. We have decided to leave. Part of our reason for leaving was a complete lack of interest and energy surrounding youth programs. After switching from one church with a very weak youth program (UMC) to a church with a vibrant one (Moravian), I can tell you some things I’ve observed:
    1. Having youth as a core value must be visible to outsiders. In this new church, there are swings and games outside in the front yard. In our old congregation, swings were seen as an insurance liability. I tried acquiring some—we put in our time trying to be the change… it never happened. In our new church, youth group is fun, kids want to attend. Kids play outside during youth group when it is nice. Pastors and congregants put a lot of time into making it as such. A good part of the budget is set aside for that. Youth as a core value is not a line on a webpage… it is lived. In our former congregation, youth were given lip service, but no one really wanted to invest time or space into giving a vibrancy to that aspect of church. They hire a part time youth coordinator and make it that person’s responsibility alone to build a program… lip service.
    2. Give a space for parents to have fellowship, so church is not just a tick on a list of things to do. Fellowship is a big part of that. And it doesn’t always have to be ‘churchy’. Sometimes just fun things can be OK. Have service opportunities available in a laid back relaxed way. For example, in our new church, a bunch of moms help serve the meal at the youth group. Mind you, this is purchased by the church, and budgeted for. So moms aren’t having to put together something on their own (how it was in our old church). It’s planned for and ready to go. We just put in a pan of chicken tenders and cut up some fruit. It’s done. We get to talk and hang out while the kids have fun. It’s an important part of my week. This is service, easily executable, and really a good time. We are going to attend a family camp with a bunch of other families from church. This is a church coordinated event. Never would have happened in our old church.
    3. Make Sunday School an easily executable, parent or congregation administered thing, on a rotation basis. Finding people to commit to a whole year in a Sunday school room is a big task. But if people can commit to a month or a couple of weeks at a time, and then rotate to someone else, it’s a lot more doable. Put time into this. In our new church, the program was developed by a lead pastor and tweaked over time—executed by parents, but developed over time by a dedicated and smart clergyperson. I’ve seen this done very well in 2 churches. At our last congregation, it was poorly administered.
    4. Be down to earth, for both parents and kids. My experience in the UMC is that it is a cerebral church. We like to be smart. We like to talk about theology and talk about all the smart ways we’ve worked it out. That, I’ll admit, was an appeal for a while. I appreciated it when I was questioning things in college. But as a parent, I want my kids to be able to relate to their pastor. If they are speaking on a professorial level to everyone and not truly down to earth, kids find him/her boring and out-of-touch, quite frankly. We need people-people in the front lines, not just theology-wonks. Theology is important, but relating to people is more important.

    These are just a few thoughts so far. Thanks for your input. I found you blog on facebook under “The Center for Progressive Renewal.” I lament the decline of the UMC, but I am tired trying to fix a people and a system that doesn’t want to make real changes.

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    • Thank you so much for your thoughts. I can see that you have put a great deal of time and thought into how churches welcome kids. I am part of a UMC church that I feel is very welcoming to kids so I am careful to give each individual church its own space to define themselves, regardless of denomination. I get what you are saying about have “people-people” in the pulpit, but honestly, I think having a person with a strong theological base is very important. What changes everything though is the welcoming heart of the congregation – if children and youth are seen as a welcome part of the larger community and are given a place of participation and corporate worship, then the whole congregation is a part of the teaching and discipling the youth and kids, filling that relational need. Thanks for commenting and sharing a heart for seeing youth engaged. And thanks also for telling me how you found my blog – I often wonder how people end up here and it’s nice to know! Blessings!!

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      • Thanks for your reply. I appreciate your enthusiam and wish you well in what you are creating.

        Yes, theology is important. I have to be careful not to make it an either-or dichotomy. It can be both-and. At our local UMC, we’ve had a string of very cerebral pastors, good in their own ways, but not a great comfort level in their own skin, just hanging out with people. That can be felt. Uncomortalbe peeople make people feel uncomfortable. Pastoring is a people-profession. I’d hope anyone considering being one comfortalbe with people. I say these things not to pick on the UMC. As I was raised in it, I would like to see it thrive. It saddens me deeply to see it deteriorate. However, it’s filled with people who will not hear these messages. In all the churches I’ve been involved with as an adult, there are either lay people in power positions or clergy people who are absolutely resistant to new ideas. As a layperson, wanting to be part of change, I can’t tell you how frustrating that is. I told a friend at our old church, it felt like talking to a wall and hearing the wall talk to everyone else but you.

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      • I definitely hear where you are coming from and have experienced some of that myself. Whether UMC or another denomination, my prayer is for the church at large to recognize our needs for putting Christ at the center of our focus by, as my church repeats each Sunday, “loving God and each other in the heart of the community.”

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