These are the highlights and detailed notes from a “Conversation about Families” at All Saints’ held on Sunday, June 29, 2014.
The conversation’s purpose was to solicit ideas to improve the Sunday experience for families with children with a focus on our growing family and youth ministries.
It was held at the behest of the Worship Commission, Maria Medina, Jennifer Suttie, and Father Rick.
- A friendly face outside the church, especially to welcome families and tell them their choices.
- Children’s Church instead of Godly Play or other classes. Children in grades five and younger would meet in an alternate location for age-appropriate worship, starting at 10:30. A team of adults and youth could rotate leadership, with high participation by children. Parents are welcome to remain with their children in this service.
- All ages meet in the church at the time of the Peace, and celebrate Holy Communion together. Nursery children may join their parents or remain in the nursery at this time.
- The 10:30 would remain oriented toward adults, since there would be a great option for children. However, some families will choose to remain in the church for the entire service. In this case, we could make the following changes:
- Simpler children’s bulletins for young members
- Sing fewer verses of longer hymns
- Chant parts of the communion prayers some of the time, not all the time.
- Continue creative elements, such as variety of ways of offering the prayers of the people and variations on sermon presentation.
- High participation by youth: not only serving as acolytes, but also as readers, intercessors, ushers, and musicians.
- Basket of books at back of church for children.
- Aim for a one-hour Eucharist.
- At coffee hour, have a specially designated place for the children. Ideally, this would be a play area, such as where the holly trees currently stand. The lower patio or even Grant Hall patio could work if there was someone designated to watch the children, and if there were treats for the children in that designated area.
- Parenting classes or series are most welcome.
- Monthly social gatherings for families, like the meal provided today.
Upon Arriving at Church
- Have a friendly person outside who actively approaches families when they arrive. This person hands them bulletins and tells them different options for the children.
- We need friendly faces to welcome families.
- When possible, someone can give the new family a tour of the facilities.
- Since the ushers sometimes fall into the role of welcoming families, they need to be trained.
- We need better signs, both permanent or temporary (sandwich board).
- Instructions and options listed in the bulletin need to be easier to see, such as putting them in bold type.
- Instead of different classes for various ages, offer a Children’s Church or Chapel during the first part of the service, as the Liturgy of the Word. This solution consolidates our resources, rather than causing us to seek more leaders because we are adding another class.
- At the Peace the children and leaders can join the congregation for Holy Communion.
- The chapel service can be appropriate to all ages from preschool to grade five, with adults and youth helping to lead.
- The children can be actively involved: reading, singing, moving, praying, etc. They can learn how to worship and how to lead worship.
- The children could repeat songs often enough that they become part of their repertoire.
- The same with the youth, they could lead songs that they know.
- Parents are always welcome to stay with their child(ren) for the children’s service.
- Provide written instructions or description of the theme or message of the day, so that parents will know and can follow through at home.
- A weekly e-mail could be sent with a theme or message to the parents. It could be after the chapel to tell the parents what went on today.
- There could also be a weekly email for the parents of the youth.
- One or more of the elementary curricula could serve as a resource for the chapel leader.
- At the time of the Peace children and chapel leaders would enter the church and join their families. The youth might want to sit together.
The Main Worship Service
- Some families will choose to remain in the main church. We don’t want to simplify the liturgy too much. We won’t be able to please all of the people with one service, and the children’s church does provide a simplified worship for those who want a child-oriented service.
- Aim for a one-hour liturgy, rather than longer than an hour.
- Children’s bulletins or papers need to be simpler. They’re too difficult and too small for the younger children.
- Have a basket of books in the back, maybe under the table, that kids can take to their pew, or even check out and take home.
After Worship/Coffee Hour
- Parents are currently nervous about the safety of their child(ren).
- Parents also drift to the edges so that they can watch their child(ren), which means that they are not engaging as much with other adults.
- A family-friendly area would be nice. Could we build a playground next to the upper courtyard under the holly trees, with a fence along the sidewalk?
- Provide adult supervision and treats for the children in the lower courtyard. The children could play below while the parents are visiting in the upper courtyard.
- When it is raining, we would all go into Seccombe Hall. The children could use the stage or a corner of the hall.
Classes to Support Families
- Classes we are considering:
– Family relationships or systems
– Mommy and Me
– Reducing stress
- Instead of looking for the “right” time to offer a series, find the people who are interested and then find a time when they are available.
- Offer fewer sessions. The longer the series, the less likely people will be to sign up.
- Make each session semi-independent, so that if people missed one or more sessions, they could still participate.
- Fewer, but longer sessions.
- 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. would work for some parents who would hire a babysitter
- The key is to offer childcare during the sessions. Either include a meal, or let parents bring a meal for their children
- The youth might babysit as a fundraising activity.
- Charge something for the classes, but have scholarships available for those who need it.
- Offer monthly picnic or lunch after church for families. The teens could care for the younger children, as they did today. This would build up a sense of community. The group could eat on campus, or go to the beach. We’ll repeat this in July.