What we're having to do, in order to steward our volunteer time, is have something approaching Sunday School in the main service a couple of times a month. Here's how we've been doing it so far:
- We're providing activity sheets for the children...things to colour for the younger ones and word games and a crossword based on the Gospel reading for the older ones. I found these excellent Revised Common Lectionary resources here. At the end of the service we have the younger children go to the front to show off their colouring efforts and the congregation applauds wildly.
- We issue noise makers...rattles, maracas and the like...and invite the children to be the percussion section during the worship. We also invite them to use them during celebratory responses in the Eucharistic Prayer (especially #4 and #5, in place of the "Glory to You...," in the Canadian Book of Alternative Services.) Other good places for making a joyful noise are the Gospel acclamations and after the dismissal...whenever there's an "Alleluia!"
- I forget where I found this, but when the time comes for the peace I invite the children to join me at the front where I appoint them to be Peace-Angels. I exchange the peace with them and they are to spread it through the rest of the congregation.
- I bring my sock puppet, Hezekiah, the Righteous Rodent, out and have the children join us at the lectern for the readings inviting the children to listen carefully and having Hezekiah give a very simple one-point learning from each reading. Once the readings are done, Hezekiah leads them in a short prayer, they get to scratch his ears and they go back to their seats to work on their activity sheets while I preach to the adults (a somewhat shortened sermon).
- This morning we invited the children to go to the pipe-organ so they could watch the organist play for the opening hymn...something most of them have never had the chance to do. We won't necessarily do that every Sunday.
- We invite the older children to help with the Prayers of the People and to give the Dismissal.
- Have each section of the Prayers of the People written out on a card or piece of paper, the leader reads it and hands it to a little one to place in a basket in front of the altar as the prayers continue.
- One of these days I shall invite the children up to gather around the altar with their noise-makers during the Eucharist Prayer.
- We're hoping to set up a RugRatz area with cushions and quiet toys up in front of the pulpit...I got this idea from St Mary's, Regina, and St Clement's, Prague.
- Why not a little bribery? Random treats handed out...not every Sunday, but enough to keep them interested.
It's a work in progress. Any ideas?