I grew up attending worship services. Obviously I liked it. I ended up making it my calling.
At 22 years, I joined a Unitarian Universalist congregation. I immediately wondered where the children were. Did they not have any? I soon discovered the babies, children and youth, along with their parents, were in another part of the building in peer groups. It seemed odd to me, but what did I know? It was just the way the UUs did it.
When I became a parent, I got why. While I wanted my children to have an experience of worship, I hated taking them to services. Even the quietest whispers felt like yelling to me. They couldn’t sit still; I received many a dirty look. And my kids complained relentlessly. Who wants to sit in a pew with your kids? Send them to peer groups, please!
Then, I read about the devastating consequences of this UU legacy. Over the course of almost 70 years, a majority of our UU children left our congregations and never returned. One of the primary reasons? Worship “with the adults” felt foreign to them. They had missed out on the power of ritual, meaning-making, and community formation that I had loved growing up.
I began reading a book called Parenting in the Pew by Robbie Castleman and blogging about my experiences with my toddler and kindergartener in service. It was a game-changer! It reminded me that teaching my children to worship was a vital way to pay attention to the truly important and life-changing moments of life.
Beginning November 11th, our children – ages 2nd grade and older – will be with us in worship for the whole service for the next two months–and some of those services are annual multigenerational holiday services, of course. (The Nursery and the Pre-K room are still open. Kindergarten/1st graders have the choice of where to go.) It’s a time of year when regular attendance in our children’s groups drops. Moreover, as we enter into the holidays which are so ripe with story and ritual, we want our children and youth to participate in our services. By 2nd grade, our children are developmentally able to enjoy worship.
Every week I’m going to share tools for making it a meaningful experience for them, and for you as you “parent in the 20th century shaker chair.” How to make it meaningful for you. How to practice showing up. How to adopt a grandparent. How Sunday morning starts Saturday night. How to have a meaningful conversation with your 10 year old about the sermon.
It’s an experiment! So, come talk to me! Share how it’s going. We’re going to be making adjustments as we go, and we plan to work side-by-side with families of all types to make our worship services meaningful for all ages.
And return to our Parenting in the Pew blog for reflections, tips, tools, and resources.