Worship with Children: Play and Practice

Friends Who Care For Youth

We can help to support children’s spiritual lives in our homes and First Day Schools through the introduction of diverse worship practices.  In our unprogrammed meetings, we practice expectant waiting on the Spirit in gathered silence, but in our work with children we might expand our ideas about worship to include other ways of being in community with God and one another.  Ideas include centering practices, finger labyrinths, mandala coloring, movement prayers, and storytelling. The ideas shared below are hardly a comprehensive list – there are as many ways to pray as there are to play, and we can encourage our children to develop tools for both entering into silent worship and finding new ways on their spiritual journey.

 

Some thoughts on Play . . . .

– Because of our own silent (if unprogrammed) worship practices, we often think of teaching children to worship as teaching them to sit still and listen inwardly.  But worship can be playful!  Children’s play is their work — it’s how they try on ideas and gain new skills and practices.

– When we worship with children, we can make space for them to experience the divine in themselves and the world around them.  Prayer and worship with children can provide ways to model for them the language and images that sustain our faith journeys, which might be what speaks to their needs, too.

 

Some thoughts on Practices . . . Worship practices with children might include:

  • finger labyrinths
  • mandalas
  • a miniature Zen garden to tend
  • finding ways to focus on Light (candles, etc.)
  • mantra or prayer cards for older children
  • songs
  • teaching children prayers — or making space for them to write their own
  • guided meditation or mindfulness exercises
  • experiencing stories together (Godly Play® and Faith & Play™ are worship-experiences)
  • body prayers and movement (dance!)
  • Quaker prayer beads (use multi-colored and shaped beads to create a string representing people, ideas and concerns you want to hold in the Light)
  • labyrinth walk outdoors
  • visit other faith communities and their worship services — talk about prayer and worship, and discuss what you take away from the visit!

Melinda Wenner Bradley is a member of West Chester Meeting and the clerk of the Children’s Religious Life Committee.