My Sunday School kids love to be involved in worship. We do something called G.I.F.T. or Growing in Faith Together, parent and child classes to dig deeper into the churchy topics. (Check out this post for more information and thanks Rich Melheim for the acronym.)
In a couple weeks, the littlest ones will lead the the “Greeting of the Church.” The usual greeting goes like this “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Paul often used these words to open and close some of his letters.
What happens next is the congregational response with “And also with you.” It’s my favorite part! This response is not about returning a high-five to the pastor, but it brings us back full circle to the grace of God. Now, of course, the normal greeting is too difficult for 2-4 year old children to remember. So families and teachers play a game called “I Spy Church!” during the educational hour to learn a new greeting about God’s love. And then the families lead it in worship.
Here is a snapshot of what to do:
Starting in a classroom and finishing in the sanctuary, kids, parents and teachers move around the building exploring the various places where God’s love comes to life. To play, parents and kids answer what the teacher spies. Kids are encouraged to touch, feel and move around in the varying areas.
Classroom: I spy with my little eye a place to sit and learn about God’s love. Do you spy it, too? (It’s the table with chairs and Bibles.)
Entry way:I spy with my little eye the place I enter the church building with God’s love? (It’s the front doors.)
Reception area:I spy with my little eye a place where I can get a treat/coffee after church to talk with others about God’s love. Do you spy it, too? (It’s wherever you serve coffee and treats)
Stain glass windows: I spy with my little eye pretty pictures that tell the stories of God’s love? Do you spy it, too? (It’s the stain glass!)
Front row of pews or chairs: I spy with my little eye a place to sit, sing and listen about God’s love? Do you spy it, too? (It’s the pews/chairs!)
Altar: I spy with my little eye a place where the pastor speaks of God’s love through prayer and holy communion. Do you spy it, too? (It’s the altar!)
Pulpit: I spy with my little eye a place where the pastor preaches about God’s love. Do you spy it, too? (It’s the pulpit!)
Baptismal font:I spy with my little eye a place where the pastor baptizes children with God’s love and water. Do you spy it, too? (It’s the baptismal font!)
Before the last one, move kids to the front of the church, near the chancel area. (At Good Shepherd, where I serve, we use the steps.)
Front of church: I spy with my little eye a place I can stand to greet the people with God’s love? Do you spy it, too? It’s right where you are standing!
Explain: From the front door to the classroom, from the altar to the pew/chairs God’s love is everywhere in the church. God’s love is in the kids, in their parents, and in the teachers. God’s people can greet God and each other with love.
Teach the Greeting of the Church:
God’s love is in you (point to the people). God’s love is in me (point to self). God’s love is everywhere (hands make a circle).
Teaching the Greeting to the Congregation: Now, the families practice several times during the game. The new greeting is also printed in the bulletin or on the screen. Families, in worship, lead from the front of the church, right where they practiced. First, they teach the congregation the new greeting with hand gestures, and then everyone does it together. Families return to seats after the Prayer of the Day.
Why does it matter that little ones deliver the greeting of the church? It matters because of what Jesus said in Matthew 19:14 – but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” I am convinced, that if we really want the next generation of people to take ownership of the church, then we need to create ways for them to be involved. It means working our way out of a job so that they can own it.