Become Like Little Children: Children’s Ministries at Saint John’s
What We Believe
We believe that any one who spends time thinking about God is a theologian. Startling and brilliant insights come from children when they’re encouraged to bring their wisdom, imagination, and experience to bear on scriptural stories and church traditions. Both Children’s Church and Sunday School are set-up to give us space and time to learn together We believe that different kids learn in different ways, so we use a variety of methods for teaching, although there are three main practices that define us as a community.
These are the three primary practices that we use in learning together:
We have found that singing together helps to focus our energies and build community. We are interested in continuing the ancient traditions of the church and investigating and establishing new traditions.
- We want children to fully participate in worship, so we teach them each season’s service music – the Sanctus, Fraction Anthem, and Agnes Dei. We also teach traditional hymns, and how to read hymns in the hymnal.
- We use techniques and practices developed by Music that Makes Community (MMC) to teach simple songs that focus our attention and invite our creativity. Children learn to sing rounds and canons, to harmonize, and to participate in call and response songs. Children also learn to lead these songs themselves.
- We want children to become comfortable as worship leaders in church. To that end, we have a children’s choir that sings the anthem once a quarter.
We’re lucky that we have several talented drama teachers at Saint John’s, who have been kind enough to teach us a variety of techniques. Drama helps to bring kids deeper into the stories we’re learning, and is especially good for kinesthetic learners who have trouble sitting still.
- We use improv techniques to help kids explore Christian spirituality, focus as a class, and explore scripture. We want kids to be spontaneous and free to explore their ideas and the ideas of others, and we find that improv techniques and games help cultivate that freedom and spontaneity.
- We use tableau to lead us into deeper encounter with stories. This technique helps us get at what characters are feeling and experiencing, which in turn helps us discover how scripture reflects our own experience.
We believe that art is a spiritual practice. Engaging in art brings us into contact with our deepest feelings, hopes, and fears. At Saint John’s, we use art techniques for community building, commenting and reflecting on scripture, and focusing our attention during worship.
- Some art techniques, such as circle painting, are highly social in nature. Kids contribute to each other’s paintings and learn that the things we make together are often more beautiful than the things we make in isolation. This is a way of practicing sharing, encouragement, and recognition of each other’s talents.
- Some art techniques are specific and individual. Drawing, painting, making mosaics and mandalas – all these techniques help children reflect on what they’ve learned and express their own theological insights. Sometimes when hearing a story for the first time we use Messy Church methods, allowing kids to draw and paint while the story is told and discussed. This relaxed, creative method of discussion allows kids to contribute either through what they say or what they create artistically.
- Our kids are encouraged to draw and color while in church. Kids draw pictures that go into a coloring book/prayer book that they use throughout the service. In this way, they contribute to our worship, and their attention is focused on what’s happening in the liturgy.
Children’s Church takes place during our 9:00 AM Service. Children are invited to join the procession into the sanctuary at the start of the service. They are then invited to follow the Crucifer to Kilbourne Hall for Children’s Church. During Children’s Church we follow this liturgy:
- We introduce the Song of the Day.
- We read the Gospel together.
- One of the leaders presents a lesson to accompany the Gospel. These lessons usually allow the children to move about and engage in what they’re learning with their whole persons.
- A child leads us in the Song of the Day.
- Sara Seidel, our Coordinator of Music, joins us to lead us in more songs.
- We pray.
- We line up to rejoin the grown-ups in the Sanctuary for the Liturgy of the Table.
Our kids take part in Coffee Hour in the Atrium. They have a special snack set out for them, and are welcome to all the other snacks and goodies that have been laid out on the main tables. At 10:20 AM we ring the bell and invite them to line-up for Sunday School.
Sunday School takes place in the Undercroft from 10:20 – 11:00 AM. We use various music, art, and drama practices to engage scripture, teach the traditions of the church, and learn how we should treat each other. We also plan and work on big projects in preparation for the major feasts of the year, particularly Christmas and Easter.
Every year we have a number of special events for children and families. These are times of joy, celebration, and learning (with the kids sometimes doing the teaching). Special events include:
- Lock-Ins: At least once a year we hold a lock-in for children and youth. Lock-ins start with dinner on Saturday night and end before church on Sunday morning. We eat together, play games, walk to Graeter’s for ice cream, watch movies and (hopefully) get a good night’s sleep.
- Halloween Party:Kids are welcome to wear appropriate costumes to church on the Sunday when we celebrate All Saints. After the 9:00 AM service kids are invited to participate in a scavenger hunt throughout the church.
- Christmas Pageant: The Christmas Eve Family Service is at 4:00 PM, and children prepare a pageant with full costumes and speaking parts.
- Mardi Gras Parade: Children build “floats” and design costumes during the Fat Tuesday pancake supper, which they then parade through the Undercroft as people are eating.
- Palm Sunday: Children teach adults about the Easter Story through craft projects and other activities during Sunday School time.
- Easter Egg Hunt: We hold a huge Easter Egg hunt after the 9:00 AM service on Easter morning.
- Pentecost Party: We end our Christian formation year with a party to celebrate the birthday of the Church on Pentecost.
- Vacation Bible School: Every year we have a different theme, and invite knowledgeable parishioners and friends of Saint John’s to teach different sessions for the kids. VBS takes place on Monday evenings over the course of entire month. We eat together, gather in large group for a story, go off to workshops, and come back together for music and dancing. It’s one of the highlights of our year!
- Family Concerts: Once a year Saint John’s offers a family-focused concert on a Sunday afternoon. This year’s concert will take place on September 24th at 3:00 PM and will feature UCelli. Following the concert kids will have a chance to meet the musicians and their instruments.