5 Things to Know if You’re Attending Church with Children or Youth
1. All are welcome in this place. That’s not lip service. That’s not a lie. That’s not something that we say just so that more young families will attend. That’s something that we actually believe and live by at Bethesda-by-the-Sea. All means crying ones, squirming ones, talkative ones, shy ones, neurodivergent ones, hyperactive ones, differently-abled ones, and any other ones you can think of. No one will ever ask you to leave because of your child’s behavior. No one will give you a dirty look or talk about your family behind your back. You and your child will be loved, supported, and respected in this house of God.
2. Busy bags are available to help. Every Sunday we offer activity bags that are geared towards children ages 10 or younger. These bags contain activity books, slide puzzles, notepads, crayons, and a prayer partner stuffy. Busy bags aren’t just distractions though. Each one has an activity sheet that engages the Gospel reading for that Sunday and can be a fun jumping off point to have spiritual discussions with your family. Think of it as an easy-to-use Sunday School in a bag for when you’re kid just isn’t feeling like going all the way upstairs during our education time.
3. Church goes faster when you participate in the service. I can’t explain it, but it’s actually true. There’s probably some scientific formula for it, but when your child participates as an acolyte, lay reader, or junior usher, you’ll be shocked to learn from them that the church service seemed to go much quicker than normal. They also feel much more engaged in what’s happening during the service when they actively participate. So, I would encourage all parents to sign their child up for liturgical ministry as soon as possible. Children as young as 7 years old are welcome to begin acolyting. Or if they’re not comfortable being in front of others, signing up as a family to usher together is a great way to share a ministry all together and welcome other new families to our church.
4. Everyone can take communion. The Episcopal Church officially believes that all baptized members can take communion. Of course, we’re also not going to ask for proof of your baptism when you come to the altar. What that also means is that all those babies that you see get baptized at Bethesda periodically are just as welcome at the table of God as anyone else. There’s no need for a “first communion” class or any other instruction in order for your child to receive the Eucharistic elements. That being said, we frequently cover what baptism means and why we do it during Sunday School and our Wednesday Little Way classes, so if you would like for your child to learn more about the sacrament then you should definitely take advantage of participating in those programs.
5. Come as you are. God has made us all different for a reason and that’s because it’s our differences that give us unique skills in the body of Christ’s holy church. There are no expectations at Bethesda that you need to conform to a certain way of dressing or behaving. As Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew, “Why do you worry about clothing?…Do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’…Strive first for the kingdom of God…and all these things will be given to you as well.” You are what matters at Bethesda, not your clothing or status. We want you to experience the welcome and joy of our community and what your life could be, and leave the fear and anxiety of worldly concerns about who you and your child should be at the door.
Associate for Christian Formation