July 28, 2021

The Rev. Dr. Reed Carlson Shares Five Resources for Welcoming Families in Worship

Every month ECFVP offers resources on a theme. This month we've asked 2015 ECF Fellow the Rev. Dr. Reed Carlson to choose five resources from Vital Practices to highlight. Please share this email with new members of your vestry and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers and this monthly digest.

At what stage of life is it the hardest to go to church?

For my spouse and I, it was not our rambunctious teenage years or the seasons of identity exploration that we experienced in college; it was when our son was born. This was not just because we were new parents learning how to adjust to life with a third member of our family. We also found that the various churches to which we were connected did not always facilitate an atmosphere of hospitality for families—even though their rhetoric of welcome stated that they did. Repeatedly we found that unexamined structures in worship, unrealistic expectations for our child’s behavior, and chronic inflexibility to accommodating the needs of families created barriers that hindered our ability to participate in the community.

There are many successful models for welcoming children and parents into the life of a faith community. What distinguishes the churches that do this well is not any particular “magic bullet” strategy but a community-wide commitment to thinking theologically about who belongs in worship and what that means in practice. A church community does not become hospitable for families simply because we say it does.

Below I have gathered five articles that can help you begin to think theologically and practically about welcoming families in worship. As we continue in this season of the Coronavirus pandemic in which adults but not children can be safely vaccinated, discernment about how to keep families connected to their faith community is especially important.

In “Children ARE Welcome. Really,” Richelle Thompson tells the story of a little thing a church did to help a child and parent feel welcome.

Meredith Rogers in “An Open Letter to Vestry Members From a Youth Minister” speaks candidly about the challenges facing youth ministries today and the necessity to continue supporting them.

Can Children Understand Worship” by Heidi Clark reminds us of the rich spiritual lives of children. Speaking personally I can say that some of the most important experiences that I had with God happened before I turned twelve-years-old.

In a helpfully practical post, “Let the Children Come to Me,” Jamie Martin Currie shares concrete examples of how your church can be more welcoming of children in several different segments of a Sunday morning.

Child’s Eye View of Church” by Peter Strimer shares a hopeful theological vision of how a church community might be experienced by its youngest members.