Where were children when Jesus was teaching the multitudes? We find clues in the gospels when the disciples tell Jesus that “there is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish” (John 6.9a), and when we are told that “those who had eaten were four thousand men, besides women and children (Matthew 15.38).
So, what do we do with children in worship? Include them intentionally and appropriately as part of their overall faith formation. Children learn through experience and ritual, and effective ritual action done in community creates a sense of bonding that strengthens the bond within the community. And as The United Methodist Church recognizes two sacraments in which Christ himself participated, baptism and the Lord's Supper, we are called to make the sacraments accessible to our children.
Several resources are available to support leaders in meaningful inclusion of children in the gathered worshipping community.
Baptism: Understanding God's Gift
This booklet unpacks the biblical and theological meanings of the sacrament through the words and movements of the Baptismal Covenant of The United Methodist Church while offering initial guidance on this initiation into Christ's holy church. Ed and Sara Phillips have provided an indispensable resource for pastors, families, and others involved in preparing infants and small children for baptism. Its brief chapters provide an excellent foundation for the conversations needed both to understand our theology and ritual of baptism and to practice it with confidence and grace.
By Water and the Spirit: A United Methodist Understanding of Baptism
An official paper adopted by the 1996 General Conference to interpret the services of the baptismal covenant and related rites. You will find this paper in The United Methodist Book of Resolutions, 2008.
By Water and the Spirit: Making Connections for Identity and Ministry
This 6-session study guide by Gayle Felton was created for use in small groups, and contains the full text of the paper, "By Water and the Spirit," describing the United Methodist understanding of baptism approved by the 1996 General Conference. This booklet serves as a resource for congregational leaders who are helping members make connections between the baptismal covenant and discipleship in daily life.
I Belong to God
This six-session intergenerational study of baptism, written by Carolyn K. Tanner, explores concepts of God’s love and grace that we experience in baptism through Bible stories, music, crafts, puzzles, and mission education. It is based on “By Water and the Spirit.”
Come! Come! Everybody Worship!
A study guide for children by Carolyn K. Tanner on the United Methodist Basic Pattern of Worship. The volume includes reproducible student pages along with a detailed teacher's guide. Designed primarily for elementary-aged children, the resource can be adapted to a wide range of teaching situations.
Liturgy and Learning Through the Life Cycle
This book, written by John H. Westerhoff III and William H. Willimon, is for pastors, religious educators, members of liturgy/worship and religious education committees, and others interested in the renewal of individual and corporate life through worship. Chapter 2 offers guidance with the place of children in Holy Communion.
This Holy Mystery: A Study Guide for Children and Youth: A United Methodist Understanding of Holy Communion
Designed as a companion to Gayle Carlton Felton’s adult study guide, this resource by Carolyn K. Tanner offers the full text of “This Holy Mystery” along with lesson plans and student papers useful for a broad age-range of children and youth.
Touch the Water, Taste the Bread: Exploring the Sacraments with Children
This is a curriculum developed for children from 3 years old to third grade that offers three lessons on baptism and three lessons on the Lord’s Supper. The lessons on baptism introduce children to the sacraments and to the Bible story about Jesus' baptism. The lessons on Communion introduce children to the sacraments and to the Bible story about the Last Supper.
Read about the Sacraments of the United Methodist Church »