Children are a blessing from the Lord. We don't just believe that; it drives everything we do as we engage children, support parents, and train our future leaders. At St. Mary's, we believe it's important that children and parents worship together both at home and when they come to church on Sundays. This is why we try to make our Sunday services accessible to youth of all ages. We hope that in doing so our children can build an emotional connection to the church.
One parishioner recalls, "When I came back to church as an adult, I found the service comforting because it was the same song, the same spirit, and the same ceremony." If children don't learn to enjoy church as youth, we can't expect them to stick with it as adults. It's this belief that motivates St. Mary's to be a place welcoming and fulfilling for children and adults alike.
Noisy Bucket Sunday. On the first Sunday of each month the children are invited to lead the parents in worship by voicing the prayers, conducting the readings, and filling other important roles as part of our morning services. Children also gather Offerings in the "Noisy Bucket" where we collect noisy change - as well as quiet dollar bills - all to be donated at the end of the year to a charity of the children's choosing.
Children's Sunday School. We offer a Children's Ministry gathering each Sunday, as able. We provide a hybrid program, of sorts. We offer Godly Play as well as Sparkhouse programs. Our goal is to provide our children and youth the innerworkings to define God and their relationship with God. We hope to create an atmosphere of meditation as well as fun to learn about scriptures and church history, and to engage in community service. These sometimes include learning how to make the Communion bread, or in arts and crafts lessons to learn about Advent or Easter season traditions the whole family can participate in.
As for Sunday's of the month where a separate Children's Ministry isn't held: don't be afraid to bring your kids! We care more about you being here than we do about your children bouncing around in the pews; and yes, we understand that crying babies, bathroom breaks, and other not so jovial interruptions are all part of parenthood.
Our ultimate hope is that our community will influence what type of person your child grows up to be; which is why each year we let our youth select one of the Episcopal Relief & Development programs for our congregation to sponsor. On the first Sunday of the month, Children collect funds for the "noisy bucket" which go directly to their chosen cause. Examples of past projects have included anti-malarial efforts, and the purchasing of livestock for families in developing countries. In being responsible for this effort, and other volunteer programs like it the youth at St. Mary's grow up to be exceptional individuals. We're proud to claim them as our own!
It's often easy to forget that our children's minds and bodies aren't the only things growing as they age. Though it's more difficult to notice, their hearts and spirits are also on the move. This is why we're committed to supporting parents in helping their children to understand the importance of tradition, faith, and service.