Posted on Friday December 14, 2012
The Church looks to the young; or rather the Church in a special way sees herself in the young.
—Blessed John Paul II
One of the major reasons young families choose not to attend Mass on a weekly basis is their children. Bringing toddlers to Mass can be an overwhelming and embarrassing experience, not to mention the dirty stares and under-the-breath comments from churchpeople. Without programs for children, families have a hard time coming to Mass.
Meet Lisa, Nativity’s director of children’s ministry, and let her give you the details about their kids environments.
“It’s the Kids Programs!”
In chapter 7 of Rebuilt, Fr. Michael and Tom write about the weekend experience (chapter 6) from the perspective of families and children. They have developed the following programs, described in detail in the book:
Kidzone: Children up to age three.
All Stars: Children ages three to six.
Time Travelers (Children’s Liturgy of the Word): Children in grades one through four.
You Can Do This: Create a Weekend Program for Kids
You are a DRE with a strained budget, limited space, and no weekend kids’ programs. Whatever the arrangement of your physical space, there is probably a room you could use as a nursery, at least on Sunday morning, at least for one Mass.
- Identify that space.
- Clean it.
- Childproof it.
- Supply it.
- Staff it.
You are aiming at establishing a clean, safe, inviting environment for kids. If you can make it colorful and attractive, all the better. Get some people who love to decorate to help you come up with a plan that is easy to assemble on Sunday and easy to store during the week.
Practically speaking, used toys and books in good condition are a great place to start in terms of supplies. You’ll have no trouble getting these donated. When it comes to staffing, don’t look to Moms (give them a break). Talk to empty nesters and high school students about taking care of the nursery. Of course, make sure your volunteers have the necessary background checks and child protection training before you begin.
Invest in your volunteer ministers, schedule in time to spend with them at least once a month for coffee and brainstorming about programming for your new nursery: worship music, videos, fun faith-based exercises and activities. There are great, free activities online too! Some of our favorite ideas have come from searches on Google.
Before the beginning of Mass, let people know about your nursery and how they can use it. Make it easy for them to find.
“It’s the Student Programs!”
How do you create excellent weekend experiences for teens and pre-teens?
Let Chris introduce himself and some of the lessons he’s learned in building and maintaining a great parish youth ministry.
Chris Speaks about Long-lasting Youth Ministry
You Can Do This: Starting a High School Youth Ministry Program
You’re a pastor or pastoral life director and you have no youth ministry beyond a middle school Confirmation program. Start talking to your eighth graders about staying involved next year, plan something in the spring that’s just for them, to introduce them to the idea of high school ministry.
Look for high school students who are already coming to Mass. Invite them to do things at Mass: greet at the door, serve as lector, altar server, or usher. If they play music maybe they can help out there once in a while, but take care that you’re not dropping them into a bad ministry culture.
Be on the lookout for an adult you know who has a heart for teens and can connect with them. Invite him or her to serve as a volunteer director, and to be available to the teens who are serving. Let your new director do the announcements after communion or before Mass. Give the people in your congregation a face and a name to connect with in the youth ministry. Above all else, make sure this is someone you can pour time and energy into, especially if he or she is a young adult. The most important thing you can give any youth minister is your attention, support, and love.