families

Young Families in Worship

Joe Willmann Teaching the Faith at Home Leave a Comment

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It has been an exciting few months in my household. We welcomed our son into the world in October and brought him into God’s kingdom through the waters of Holy Baptism. My daughter turned four in November and has been an awesome big sister.

But there is one thing that is a little nerve-racking for us: having a newborn in church again.

When we only had our daughter, it was not as big of a deal. There was two of us and one of her; if she got fussy, we could go back to the narthex and walk around a bit until she calmed down. We are in a similar situation now. There are still two of us, and now there are two of them. Our daughter is a little bit older now, and we aren’t outnumbered. I am always amazed how my friends who have three or more kids under the age of four survive during the Divine Service.

Thinking about my fears causes me to reflect. What does it mean to be a family-friendly parish? Is it really any different than any other parish? Aren’t all parishes family friendly?

The obvious answer is of course they are! Any time we gather to receive the Means of Grace, we are in a family-friendly environment because we are in an environment for sinners to receive those gifts.

Understanding that, here a few ideas to consider to help young families in your church:

Consider having two bulletins for the Divine Service.

Now, I appreciate going through the Divine Service out of the hymnal just as much as the next person does. Lutheran Service Book did an excellent job of printing the liturgy in a very usable and friendly format for congregational use. Many churches have bulletins that only have the propers for the day printed in them, and I really appreciate this! It encourages the use of the hymnal, which is an awesome model for little children. I value that my congregation has the option to have the service completely printed out (which was designed using Lutheran Service Builder) or just the propers for the day. My wife and I each grab a different version of the bulletin. That way whoever has a child in their arms can use the printed bulletin, and whoever doesn’t have a child can use the hymnal.

Use the same Divine Service Setting several weeks in a row.

For families with young children, there is nothing like repetition. When little ears hear the same words and the same canticles every week, they learn them and memorize them. This immediately helps a young family as their children now become active participants in the Divine Service because they know the words! By sticking with the same service for a prolonged period of time (as an example, let’s say eight weeks), the little ears in your congregation will learn the setting quickly and then participate, which helps Mom and Dad out. It also gives your congregation the opportunity to use all of the settings that LSB provides.

Befriend a young family.

In today’s world, it is normal for young families to move away from home and be on their own. Finding “family” away from home is such a blessing to these families. When you form these friendships and get to know their kids, sit with them during service. An extra pair of hands is always welcome.

Pray for them.

This goes without saying, right? Keep these young families in your prayers. Pray for them to faithfully catechize their children and bring them to the Divine Service. Pray for them to joyfully receive the Lord’s gifts every week, even if it is with a screaming child.

Now, none of these things are “Thus sayeth the Lord” statements. These are just ideas and not commands. I’d love to hear your ideas in the comment section below. What are things that your parish does to help out young families as they come together to receive God’s gifts?

 

 

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About the Author

Joe Willmann

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Joe Willmann is the Senior Instructional Designer for Concordia Publishing House in St. Louis, MO. A former teacher and administrator, Joe has a passion for education and learning theory. He earned his Bachelor's Degree from Ball State University and his Master's Degree from Concordia University - Ann Arbor. He lives with his wife, Nicole, his daughter Ava, and his son Carter. You can read his latest posts here.

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