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7 ways to transform children’s liturgy

7 ways to transform children’s liturgy

Children & families worker Kate McKenna shares seven tips for making children’s liturgy an experience your children will always look forward to.

I believe that children’s liturgy should be an experience that engages and excites children. They should enjoy it so much that they become the ones dragging you to church every Sunday.

Here are seven tips to make children’s liturgy an experience children love.

1.     Be interactive

The last place you want to make children’s liturgy feel like is school. Children spend Monday to Friday sitting in classrooms, sitting in assemblies.

Make children’s liturgy a different experience to that.

Make it something fun and exciting. The best way to do this is make it interactive, so that wherever possible the children are actively involved in what is happening, rather than passively sitting and listening.

Just simple things can be extremely effective: for example, at the start get the children to stand up, make the sign of the cross then sing out and clap a verse of this Gloria:

Bearing that in mind, tip number two is…

2.     Use music

You may be musically talented, you may not. It doesn’t matter. Even if you can’t play an instrument, do something with just hands and voices like above, or buy a CD (or download) of children’s worship music and get everyone to sing along. If you have percussion the children can use, then even better.

Children’s liturgy is a vital first step for their children in their faith journey, and a key part of it should be learning that we come to church to praise and worship the Lord.

Time constraints mean you will usually only have time for one song, so decide in advance whether you want to do it at the beginning or the end.

3.     Sorry stones

Another simple device I like to use some weeks is encouraging children to pick up “sorry stones”.

Simply decorate an old shoe box with some wrapping paper, and place a load of pebbles inside.

Then encourage each child to pick up a stone and take it back to their seats. Once every child has a stone, ask them to think about the things they have done during the week that they would like to say sorry to God.

Tell them that they can also let the stone represent anything that has upset them during the week or that is worrying them right now.

Tell them that they can now drop the stones back in the box, knowing that they are forgiven.

The stones may have felt heavy, but the weight of the things that they have done wrong or that have upset them is no longer theirs to hold.

Jesus will carry the weight of these things for them.

This device not only teaches the children about grace and forgiveness, but it also helpfully mirrors the Penitential Rite that their parents will be saying at the same time in Mass.

4.     Be concise

If you want to make children’s liturgy a different experience to school, then you need to consider how you convey the Mass’s readings to the children.

One piece of scripture should form the focus of the message of each children’s liturgy session.

This will usually be the Gospel, although don’t be afraid to use one of the other readings if you think the children will understand it easier and it lends itself better to the activity you have planned (see tips five and six below).

Don’t sit down in front of the children and read from a book. You will bore them and quickly lose the attention of the younger ones.

And don’t feel compelled to give a literal word-by-word reading of the scripture.

Summarise the story to its core message, and if possible enlist volunteers to act it out. If possible, use props as well.

5.     Use Pinterest

After you have conveyed the day’s scripture to the children, they should then begin an activity – and preferably not simply colouring in a picture of the day’s Gospel.

The internet is great for activity ideas, and in particular Pinterest.

This is a social media site where you can create virtual pin boards of all the great activity ideas you spot online.

You can follow my own Children’s Work Ideas pin board here.

6.     Paper plates

As you look around Pinterest, you’ll notice that many of the activities that I have liked, and used in children’s liturgies, involve paper plates.

A paper plate is a great cheap material that gives children something more substantial to take home with them than a flimsy piece of paper.

In recent weeks we have used paper plates as angels, doves, and, my personal favourite, a giant pair of paper plate ears to illustrate Samuel saying “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”(1 Samuel 3:1-21)

7.     Tell the congregation

After the children have had such a great time (and hopefully you have too), it is worth sharing this enthusiasm with the rest of the congregation. Ask your priest if, after the offertory gifts have been presented at the altar, you can spend just one minute briefly explaining what the children have done during their own liturgy. While you are speaking, have the children stand at the front of the sanctuary holding up their work for all of the congregation to see…or if it’s a crown or paper plate ears, they can just wear them, like so:

Big Ears

 

Kate McKenna is children and families worker at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire. She is also an experienced primary school teacher and mother of two young children.

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