Having served on staff at several local churches there are interesting stories attached to furniture, windows, and land. There is unique vocabulary attached to spaces and places on campus which most people have no idea what you’re talking about, especially those new to the church. This is why we offer I Love My Church, a faith milestone for 1st and 2nd graders and their families.
This age group are good readers, so they can follow signage inside and outside the buildings on campus to lead us (leaders and parents) to various locations. This age group can articulate and re-share a good story, too. The event covers all of 45 minutes.
I learned early on in family ministry that families will make certain faith training a priority because they are milestones like Confirmation. For this reason we chose very specific holy habits to teach and practice which are developmentally appropriate for each age level. To make it even stickier for our littles, they must attend with a big they love and who loves them. If they do not have a big, we will get them one and we do. The holy habit is important, but an intergenerational relationship with another follower of Jesus is even more important. A great by-product is that a little attending with a big who loves them will take care of Safe Sanctuary compliance and all class management issues.
We start in the Children’s Welcome Center with a resource for the parents and give a packet with stickers for each little person to keep track of where we’re going. We talk about the difference between a church year (liturgical) calendar (round) and at their home (rectangle). We talk about liturgical colors and names for spaces, then head out to explore.
Our first stop is the original chapel (celebrating 90 years open this upcoming Pentecost Sunday!) and compare what they see with what they’ve seen in the spaces they know: aisle, books, pews, altar rails, organ, piano, choir loft, etc. Then I tell stories I’ve gathered from the saints of the church who were more than happy to supply me with dramatic stories of that space oh so many years ago. Our chapel has been in several movies! We share how it’s used today: weekly prayer groups, bi-lingual worship on Sunday, weddings, funerals, and other remarkable moments of a follower’s life.
We moved on to see the pastor’s office and to my office. We took a fire escape downstairs (an element of surprise) to explore the current sanctuary/worship space. We travel and define words like narthex, vestibule, pew, pulpit, communion table, etc. We read a couple of the honor-plates on furniture and I tell stories. Lots of stories. Lots of exploring and touching and laughing and running about paraments, symbols, and how they all point us to Jesus engaging all five senses.
When we return to the Children’s Welcome Center I ask questions about new spaces, new vocabulary, and the new friends they met. I give out certificates, offer a take-home coloring book, and we take a ‘class photo.’
Bonus: While all the littles’ teaching is taking place, their parents are chatting to get to know each other and learning the stories of their church family all along the way. Relationships with their children and age-level in common!
How could you set aside a time to teach of the sacred spaces and places where you lead littles and tell the stories which invite them to belong?
“I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.” Psalm 89:1