As Michelle Liese writes, “worshiping as a family sounds great in theory, in practice, it can be tough to pull off”. There are ways, however, to pull this off. For toddlers through pre-schoolers this is best accomplished by helping them feel like an important part of the church community.
For those of you who go to “big church” (i.e. the 9am or 11 am services in the church building) this can be done by having your child help hold the hymnal or put money in the collection plate. Try to sit somewhere that your child can see what is going on- I realize the architecture at St. Peter’s makes that a little challenging, but you could consider starting in a pew near the reading desk and then moving at the peace or the offertory to a pew closer to the altar. It is fine to move around in this way during a service- no one will get upset with you!
The family service, held in the auditorium of St. Peter’s School at 9 am, is specifically geared towards children from age 2 through age 7 or so. It involves simple story telling, as well as a lot of singing and dancing, and is conducted quite literally at the children’s level, that is, sitting on the floor and around a child size table. Children are introduced to the language and symbols of the church, but in an age appropriate and user friendly way. It is always remarkable to watch the little ones follow along, well before they can read or understand the words, by lifting up their hands along with the priest during Communion or by trying to cross themselves during the Creed. Many parents have reported that their children repeat some of what they hear on Sunday morning later in the week, or that their children do “pretend communion” with their dolls. The essential message of this service is that each child is loved by God, welcome at God’s table, and an important and beloved part of the St. Peter’s community.
Children younger than age 1 1/2 are not likely to get much out of a church service at all- my suggestion would be to attend whatever service you, the parent, want to attend, and either take your child with you or let him or her play in the nursery while you worship. Children are always welcome at any service at St. Peter’s and we are happy to hear children’s voices as they participate in and comment on what they are experiencing. Of course, if your child is having one of “those” days and is protesting loudly enough to make it difficult for others to hear, you are welcome to walk with your child either outside in warm weather or in the choir vesting area in cold weather. Again, know that it is fine to move around in this way during a service.
If you have specific questions about church and your child, Claire or Ledlie would be happy to talk to you.