I’m a leader in our Sunday group called Sparklers. This is aimed at 4-7 year olds although we welcome 3 year olds with a parent, and we have one or two older children who do not yet feel ready to move on to our more discussion-based group for older children, ‘Rockets’.
Sparklers meet in the choir vestry at the back of church, where we have tables and chairs suitable for small people, and a cupboard full of crafty materials and other resources. There are regular children and often visiting ones, maybe staying with grandparents or attending a baptism. The children stay in church for the beginning of the service, and go to the group after a special children’s song with percussion instruments, and a prayer.
After welcoming the children and introducing ourselves, we usually start with a Bible story, often based on the reading that the adults are also hearing in the main service. Our story is sometimes acted out with puppets or toys, or illustrated with pictures. We might then have an activity based on the story. For example after hearing about ‘The Good Samaritan’ we would choose some ways in which the children could help other people in need. Sometimes we have a game. Often there is a craft activity – when it snowed a few weeks ago, we talked about how each snowflake is unique just like each person on earth – then we made some paper snowflakes. The week before Mothering Sunday we made cards, and we have also made posters to display in church. We take into account that some of our children can read and write quite well while others aren’t yet at school, so we try to cater for this in any activity sheets that we use. Often we end with a prayer, before tidying away, and going back into church. This is usually just in time for Communion, so that the children can go to the altar with their parents to receive a blessing.
On a Baptism Sunday we come out to watch the actual baptism bit at the font (and the children get the best view here as they watch from the top of the steps just above the font) then we go back to finish our activities. Sometimes the children show the congregation what they have done, just before the end of the service.
If children are a bit nervous about attending Sparklers the first few times, their parents are very welcome to stay. It is informal and friendly, and we hope it is fun for the children, as well as introducing them to Bible stories and the teachings of Jesus in a way that is suitable for their age. Any child aged 4-7 (or a bit older or younger!) is welcome to come and join in on a Sunday morning – we run every week in term time except for all-age services, which are more child-friendly and so the children stay in church. There is also usually something going on in school holidays, whether it’s activity packs with colouring sheets and pens, or a group artwork put together by children of various ages. And of course there are also activities for older and younger children – Crêche and Rockets.
Leaders and helpers run the sessions about once a month, and we are always happy to welcome new people. With a few exceptions we are not professional teachers, and there are plenty of resources in books and the internet to give us ideas for sessions. Please ask me or any of the team if you would like to find out more!