Many of the things we do in the church—rhythms of worship, liturgical movements, etc.—are naturally engaging for kids. Advent in particular presents a lot of opportunities for the engagement of children, even if you don’t consider your church to be “liturgical.” Advent is a natural time to engage families.
I often hear pastors and churches say something like, “We want to do intergenerational ministry, but we need help getting started.” Friend, you probably already have gotten started. Let’s name a few of the pieces and see how you can bring families of all ages and stages along this Advent season.
1. Readings and candle lightings. Each Sunday of Advent has a unique focus that helps live into the anticipation of a coming Messiah. Kids love anticipation. It’s fun. It’s fun to have something to look forward to, to discuss with your friends, to talk about all the best parts of once it finally arrives. Kids do this with vacations, holidays, summer break, birthdays, weekend playdates, and so much more. Engaging them in the anticipation of Advent makes so much sense!
For your candle lightings and Advent readings, choose various kinds of families to lead the congregation. Kids will look forward to the rhythm each week, the lighting of the next candle, or trying to remember the names of the candles that have already been lit as the congregation is reminded anew each week.
Use all different types of families to do these lightings. Use a family with a mom, dad, and a couple kids at home. Use a family with a older adults and their grown kids. Use a group of singles at your church who spend time together and support one another. Use some empty nesters and the college kids for whom they’ve chosen to be surrogate family. Use couples without any children. In your intentional scheduling of the candle lightings, you have the opportunity to send a positive message, both to children and to the whole congregation, about what “family” means at your church.
As always, take time to teach. Remind people every week what you’re doing and why. Maybe, a couple weeks in, ask a teenager or older child to do the teaching time, to simply remind people what the candles are and which one will be lit that week. Keep it simple, but let your kids lead! Candles and readings are naturally engaging!
2. Do something at home. Let’s be real. The Advent season is the only time in the Christian calendar each year during which people are just dying to get to their rituals. They can’t wait to start engaging in the season! Granted, rituals may include fake Christmas trees put up on November 1, $5 peppermint mochas five times a week, and thirty showings of a grown man who thinks he’s an elf having the world’s best cup of coffee—but at least the spirit is there. In other words, people want to engage in the season. Kids included! Don’t waste this opportunity to capitalize on your people’s enthusiasm, but help shape that enthusiasm by giving them ways to continue in the story at home each week. The Foundry has some specific resources that are all about families telling the story together every day, every week, during Advent. The Born the King storybook is available for families to engage in the Advent season.
Otherwise, you can do little things every day for families. Write five short Advent thoughts each week, record yourself in selfie mode on your phone, and upload them to your church’s Facebook page. Or send them out by text every morning for families to read together over breakfast. Or write them all down and send them home with people each Sunday.
List out the ten most popular Christmas hymns, and write a question or two for each one. Send them home with your families to keep in the car. Whenever that song comes on—because you know they’re listening to Christmas music—they can ask one of the questions and be reminded of the Advent season.
The same goes for movies. Create a couple questions to follow up the ten most popular Christmas movies. Then, when families watch them at home, they’ll have an Advent-y application. Most Christmas movies, even if they aren’t specifically Christian in content, have strong undertones of themes related to selflessness, family, slowing down, making space, acceptance, etc.
3. Finally, if your kids go to kids’ worship every week, Advent is a great time to make sure your children’s pastor/director/leader and your lead pastor are preaching the same sermon series! You might not do that often at your church, but Advent is the perfect opportunity to get on the same page. Four weeks. Four stories of preparation and anticipation. Four candles. Four themes—hope, love, joy, peace. When your kids and their parents go home, they can go home talking about the same stories and preparing for the same week of anticipation together!
Your people are already excited about Advent. Your kids are excited. It’s a perfect time for families to engage together. Don’t miss the opportunity! If you’re interested in exploring some of those at-home resources that are ready-made for you, check out the Born the King children’s ministry resource download here.