So, I’m going to look at two reasons that children might visit and give a few ideas about how we can add some interest and some awareness of the church as a place where Christians gather to worship God.
Firstly, children who arrive at a church during the week or at the weekend when there is no service going on. They have come, usually with adults to see what is inside and around the church. Perhaps because it is old, or picturesque, or just because it’s there. So how can you make this visit mean more? A very quick trawl through some information about Derbyshire churches showed references to a whip to drive out dogs, several Norman fonts, Viking crosses, a chapel on the site of a Roman fort, 4ft thick tower walls, a curfew bell, and so on. Perhaps these all seem rather unremarkable to us who know our church well, but for many visiting children it might be that they’ve never experienced some real history! For many the church building could be the oldest they’ve ever been in. In addition there is a wealth of connections with local families, some intriguing and old stained glass and some downright bizarre tomb stones (one church has a man buried who was apparently born three years after his mother died!) Even more modern church buildings have stories to tell and plenty to see.
- Nearly all children (and quite a few adults) love a treasure hunt! This can be very simple, for younger children or more challenging. For tots and their families how about hiding a small teddy in several places around the church? Take a photo in each location and put a copy of each on a sheet of laminated card for the children to take around the church as they hunt. For each location ask the children to talk to the adult they are with about what the bear (or what we) might do there.
Eg Hide this bear near to the font – what could happen here?
- For older children aim to pick out some interesting or intriguing facts. Large and colourful objects could be right, but many like to hunt out something small with a slightly hidden meaning. Try to use straightforward vocabulary – but it’s fine to introduce what could be a new word eg “buttress” as long as you explain what it means. (Mums and Dads might have no idea!)
How can you tell that this chest is for storing some very valuable things? There are three padlocks for a reason. Can you work out what the reason is? (Clue: Along with the Vicar there are usually two churchwardens who look after the church.)
Don’t forget that the visitors are likely to be in the church when you or members of your congregation are not there. So, it’s a great idea to have some kind of answer sheet (maybe with a small prize) and invitations to your Sunday service.
Secondly – what about children who arrive as visitors on a Sunday morning or at one of your services another time?
I’m sure that it goes without saying that a genuine, smiling, friendly welcome is extended to all – newcomers and regulars, old and young! But after a sidesperson or welcome has shown the visitors to a seat there might be more that you could do.
To an extent, this will depend on what your normal situation is with regard to children. If you have a regular children’s group, one of the people running that group ideally could take a moment to introduce themselves and to invite (but not insist on) any visiting children attending. Some parents will rightly be wary of their children being taking off so please do invite on of them to come to see what’s going on and to reassure the child. This is especially important if you are going to a different room or area. Easier perhaps, is to have the essential information on a hand out card like this. But a smiling face inviting the child/children along is still essential, however rushed everyone is feeling.
Welcome to St. Marigold’s Sunday Club!
We would love you to join us in the Tower Room! We go out after the Gospel reading and play games, do activities and quizzes and learn about Jesus while the adults stay in church.
For today, please inform us of any allergies or needs that your child has. We have a confidential form to fill in if you’re planning to come again!
Our leaders are:
Jill Pill 01333 123456
Sheila Wheeler 01333 654321
Henrietta Horse 013333 21654
We have a rota of parents and young people who help. All the adults who work with the children have been recruited and checked according to Derby Diocese Safeguarding Policy. Jill and Sheila are qualified First Aiders and Risk Assessments have been completed for all the areas we use.
You are welcome to stay with your child as he or she gets to know us.
IF YOUR CHILD WOULD PREFER TO STAY WITH YOU IN CHURCH THAT’S NO PROBLEM! THERE IS A PLASTIC BOX AT THE BACK OF CHURCH WITH SOME BOOKS AND TOYS IN IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO BORROW ANY.
What about if you have no children’s work and some visiting children arrive? Please don’t look stunned and gasp, “We never get any children here!”
Instead be prepared! At least have some toys, books, paper and pencils (good quality, not jumble!) for a range of ages. Have a number of adults ready with a Bible story planned in their head that they could share with some unexpected children. EVEN BETTER – find out about my Bible Boxes! The plans are on the web site. It will take you a day or do to prepare one of the boxes, but once it’s done it has everything in it to do ten stories from the Bible. Each story is fun, interactive, all-age, and for any size of group.
If you’d like to find out more, you can book me to come and deliver a course in your area. The full name of the course is “Keep Calm and Stop Colouring – An introduction to Bible Boxes” Just email me for details. You’re also welcome to contact me if you’d appreciate a few ideas for a Treasure Hunt!