At UPB, we proudly proclaim “All are welcome”! Sometimes we really live into that motto, but sometimes we struggle. However, it is something that we always strive for. It is something that the children, youth, and family committee has been talking about for a while. How can we make UPB more welcoming to both families and to our littlest disciples?
About a year ago, we began to discuss a small, but growing tend in churches, the “prayground”. A “prayground” is an area in the sanctuary that is designed for small children. There, they can quietly participate in the worship service in a way that is accessible to them. We read several different articles about churches that have experimented with having a “prayground” and what it might look like at UPB.
This fall, we are going to put a prayground in the sanctuary on a trial basis. It will be on the right hand side as you are facing the chancel in the front two or three rows. We hope to premier it on September 15th.
There are several reasons why we think this is worth a try. For years, we employed a nursery attendant. However, most weeks, they had nothing to do. Either our children stayed in worship or did not come to church. It didn’t make sense to continue employing a nursery attendant in case of a hypothetical family that may or may not visit and need a nursery.
There have been volumes of books, articles, and blog postings about why church membership is declining and younger generations aren’t in church. There are, no doubt, a myriad of reasons. One reason I think is that children don’t learn to be in worship. For years, it was standard for children to leave to go to the nursery, Sunday School, or “children’s church.” When they hit adolescence, they start would going to worship again. We would expect them to automatically integrate, without any experience. Because they weren’t involved in worship, they never learned how to worship! By introducing a prayground to the sanctuary, we are giving them a place to participate in worship on their level.
More importantly, we must remember that we are all God’s children, old and young alike! In Deuteronomy, the Jewish people are instructed to teach their children to love and worship God. Children play a large role in the Jewish Seder dinner. When Jesus was asked “who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven,” he took a child and put it among them. He said that unless we change and become like a child, we will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
When children were brought before Jesus to lay hands on and pray for, the disciples turned them away, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” People often say that children are important because “they are the future of the church.” I think this goes against what Jesus says and what we believe about the church. They may be the future, but they are the present, as well. The church belongs equally to our youngest member as our oldest member and everyone in between!
These are just a few of the reasons why we are going to have a prayground in our sanctuary on a trial basis. There will be a learning curve, there may be mistakes, there may be growing pains. It might be a wild success or we might decide it isn’t for us. If UPB values children like we say we do, it is worth a try! Our children our worth it! If you would like to see what some other churches have done with their praygrounds, click here. If you have any questions, ask any member of the CYF committee. If you have concerns, give us some time to try it and iron out any wrinkles.
Mark 10:14 “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.”