By Fiona Hammond:
“If a child is named and intentionally included in the life of a church community…by five adults…there is a greater chance that they will feel at home.” (John Roberto, 2014, Generations Together)
“At home” is such a throwaway line.
How amazing would it be for a child to feel at home in a church community?
For a child to feel at home in a service of worship?
For a child to feel at home at a church coffee morning?
For a child to feel at home in a Bible study?
Research shows that when a child is named, intentionally included and encouraged by five adults in a church congregation, they will start to feel at home in their parish community.
Obviously there are all those other common sense things that help foster a feeling of genuine belonging…for instance, the child needs to feel physically and emotionally safe, they need to find some friends, and they need to hear a few key things in words they can understand. Still, it goes a LONG way to have five adults know about you and look out for you, and intentionally share some time and conversation with you.
Unfortunately, many adults feel they are not qualified to talk to children or teenagers at church. They have lived through the era of age-segregated activities, where we were led to believe that specialist knowledge was needed to engage with others of different generations. Or they may get the impression that talking to children will be frowned upon.
Here is a list of possible questions adults can ask children at church gatherings:
- What’s your favourite book?
- Which super hero do you like best? Why?
- What have you noticed that needs prayer in your world at the moment? I’d like to pray for you and your world this week.
- DC or Marvel? (Trust me, you don’t even have to know that these are the two main ‘staples’ of superhero characters…just ask the question…and you’ll soon be filled in with the rest!)
- Tell me about the last movie you saw.
- Hey, can you please explain ‘TikTokers’ (or ‘YouTubers’) to me?
- If you were a character in a film or a series, which would you be and why?
- What do you like to do in your spare time?
- Played any sport recently? What positions do you like best?
- Tell me about your sporting/dancing/acting/life heroes.
- Where do you want to visit most in the world?
- What are your dreams for next year?
- What did you like about the service this morning?
- Are you an iPhone or android person? (for teens!! ) What do you recommend about that choice?
- When I was your age, my hobbies were…do young people still do these? What hobbies do you enjoy the most?
- What was the most difficult physical challenge you’ve ever done? Would you want to try it again?
- Tell me about your team. (You don’t need to know what team it is…a child could be involved in a sport team, or a school team, or a school ‘house’, or follow a professional team. Just ask and they’ll fill you in!)
- Tell me about your best friend. What’s great about them?
- What songs do you like at the moment? (Even kindy kids have favourite songs!)
You can even open a discussion about what little things have changed…like lollies. We used to buy lollies one at a time, and you could get 10 different sorts in one bag if you liked and for just a few cents. That seems like magic to kids. You and another adult could remember your favourites, and draw kids into the conversation by opening up the floor to gather ideas for ‘best lolly award’!
Here is a list of possible questions children can ask adults at church gatherings:
- What was your favourite sweet/lolly as a kid?
- How did you get to school when you were my age?
- What was your favourite hobby? Do you still do it?
- What do you do when you have to give a talk in public and you’re nervous?
- How did you first choose to become a…?
- Have you always been a Christian?
- Tell me about how you found out about Church.
- What do you like about coming to church on a Sunday?
- If you could have any actor play you in a film of your life, who would it be?
- What was your first ever job?
- Tell me about your most exciting day ever.
- What dreams do you have for your family?
- What makes you smile?
- What was the first thing you smiled at today?
- How many countries have you travelled to?
- How many countries would you like to travel to?
- Why do you come to church?
The Anglican Church Southern Queensland has a Code of Conduct for Ministry to Children. Ask your parish priest for a copy. As long as this code is adhered to, we are encouraged to generate an authentic community within our parishes, and letting children know that they are welcome and belong is indeed central to the mission of Jesus.
Please let me know how you go with your conversations and what answers you received to your questions by emailing me via: email@example.com.
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First published on anglican focus on 13 May 2021.