We're looking forward to getting back into atrium this Sunday, September 15. On Sunday, kids will check in and begin the service in the sanctuary with everyone, so that the congregation can pray for us before we head down the hall. We'll start the year with a special procession. On subsequent Sundays, kids will check in and head straight to atrium at 5 o'clock; and also, we'll continue to have monthly Family Sundays, giving volunteers a break and giving kids and families the opportunity to be in church together.
Thanks for being a part of this small group of families building a culture of worship, welcome, and wonder in atrium . . . where new friends will be happy to join us! This year I hope to keep you updated more regularly about the themes we're exploring. Feedback and questions welcome. Read on for a little intro to the year including ideas for home, and a request for your favorite family songs.
Worship . . .
Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) sets up a special place at church for kids to have their own worship space, but also prepares them to join in corporate worship with the whole church. (Here's the text of my intro to CGS from one of our first evening prayer services.)
If you'd like to have some synergy :) with what we're doing in atrium, you might consider setting up a simple "prayer table" for the family at home. I recommend reading this short CGS handout on prayer with young children.
The author points to the simplicity of prayer with young children—6 and under respond with joy and Thank You's, 6+ might begin to add petitions—as well as the value of listening and quiet.
If you'd like to use prayer cards at home, some starting suggestions are one-word prayers like "Amen" and "Alleluia" and short Psalms like "The Lord is my light and my salvation." (Ps. 27:1) This post has more specific ideas and instructions for setting up a prayer table.
We have a "prayer table" at home that's actually a shelf of a cabinet in our dining room. While we don't always use it religiously (see what I did there?) it's helpful to me to have a focal point for what the family is up to seasonally: a place of honor for the Bible, the prayer book or praying the psalms booklet, a cross, other art, the nativity scene at Advent and Christmas time. It also often becomes a nature table to place treasures that the kids find outside, autumn leaves, etc. Importantly, it's accessible and at eye-level for the kids. (The indestructible nativity scene goes there, not the fragile Mexican pottery one!)
Welcome [as in, welcoming kids to pray in their own way] . . .
This CGS style of Sunday school is very different from others, from what I grew up with, and from most school settings. (We and our kids are still getting the hang of it!) The children will be able to select whatever material they'd like to work with, as long as they've seen a presentation on it. For example, our kids who were in atrium last year are free to work with and re-read the angel Gabriel's annunciation to Mary at any point throughout the year, not just in December. Don't be shocked when they can't report to you what the lesson of the day was!
We do follow along in the church calendar, like the adults, and there is a structure and schedule of presentations to guide us; however there's plenty of freedom within that.
Typically, after a time of individual "work", we'll end a session in atrium at the prayer table together. Particularly at the beginning of the year, we'll talk about and practice different ways we can pray: silently, out loud, together, individually, singing, listening in silence . . .
Singing is a really natural and joyful way that children love to pray. Please let me know if your family has any particular prayer songs that you enjoy, and we can add them to our repertoire. (E.g., our family sings a rousing version of the Johnny Appleseed table blessing, which I guess is very American!)
Wonder . . .
In atrium we try to foster wonder and awe by slowing down, simplifying our presentation of the gospel message (i.e., using words from the Bible and not drowning it with our own words!), and allowing plenty of space for contemplation. We hope this leads to gratitude and curiosity—in the kids and in ourselves. By approaching our relationship with God as a source of awe, we convey how valuable it is. It's not something to memorize or master by age 12, but this is the beginning of a life-long journey with Jesus.
Please hit me up with questions—practical or philosophical. Come visit us in atrium at any time, and let me know the specific ways we can support your child this year.