Sitting quietly in a pew week after week does not help children become engaged members of their faith. Involve children in worship when they are young to pave the way for deeper and more meaningful involvement as they get older. Traditional church services are often not appropriate for preschool- and kindergarten-age children, so plan special worship activities that appeal to kids while also communicating the desired message.
Musical worship activities are a good choice for particularly active youngsters, because they encourage singing, moving around and possibly interacting with other children. In addition to singing age-appropriate praise songs with the children, encourage the youngsters to make up songs about their faith and teach them to the rest of the group. If your faith permits dancing, play praise songs and let the children dance. Remind them that dancing is a way of worshiping, not just having fun. You can also use music to begin worship. Pick a time-for-worship song and explain to the children that when they hear the tune, they need to get quiet and prepare to pray.
Teach children about the importance of serving others and the community as a way of serving their faith. Even young children can help with many small but useful projects, such as picking up trash around the church or temple. Remind them that the purpose is to please their god or gods, so it is an act of worship. Some children can also serve in the adults' church services. For example, grade-school children -- ages 6 or 7 and up -- can help pass offering plates or hand out bulletins before the service begins. Remind the children that service should be performed every day, not just on worship day, and many activities are available that allow them to serve others.
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Faith-inspired art can serve as an outlet for children's creativity, but think beyond finger paint and construction paper. Encourage older children to create something to celebrate their faith in whatever way they feel is best -- a collage, drawing or poem. Have younger children create a short skit acting out part of a religious story; urge them to think about what their characters might have been feeling as they act. If you have a large group of children and enough wall space, a mural can be an excellent way for everyone to contribute to one big art project.
Prayer is part of many faiths, and it's important for children to learn how and why to pray. Have children share their thoughts on prayer and encourage them to ask questions. Allow them to work alone or in pairs to write their own prayers. For faiths that include a lot of ritual prayers or litanies, ask children to explain their meanings. Put the children into groups and have them write prayers in everyday language. Open or close every class with prayer and elect a daily prayer leader whose job is to begin and end prayers and call on others to contribute.
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