Education for children at Westminster
Christian Educator and theologian, John Westerhof, has pointed out that regardless of age, people who are a part of a faith community need to do three things together:
“We need to praise and worship God. We need to have time to study—to enter into the stories of our faith and wonder about how they intersect with our own lives. We need to engage in faithful acts of service with other people.”
Children are an important part of the life of the Westminster community of faith and we take seriously the role of all three of these areas in their experience, planning for them in developmentally appropriate ways.
A Time to Study—and Sing
Education classes for our children meet during our weekly Education Hour, 9:30-10:45a each Sunday. Preschoolers (ages 3, 4, and 5) use a standard curriculum and format. Children in 1st–5th grades take part in a Workshops format. We study one story or set of events per month, rotating through several workshops in drama, art, games, Bible skills, etc. over the course of that time, approaching the story from a slightly different perspective in each venue. We invite the children to interact creatively with the story, exploring ways in which it may inform their daily lives.
We understand music to be a strong avenue in children’s experience for learning the faith story as well as the ethos of a life anchored in that story. We weave together education time and music time on Sunday mornings, choosing anthems and songs that help to enrich and extend the stories we are working with and that also reflect the rhythm of the church year. All children attend both an education class and a music class each Sunday morning, according to age-range guidelines. Periodically those children who wish to do so take part as choristers in the leadership of worship. They study and sing as a preschool group (Cantus Choir), an early-elementary group (Cherub Choir) and an older-elementary group (Carol Choir).
A Time to Worship—and Learn about Worshiping
Children are enriched by the opportunity to praise and pray together just as grown-ups are! While children of all ages are welcome in the sanctuary at Westminster we do recognize the need that younger children have to move about and to learn and praise in active ways. Responding to those needs, we invite children preschool through second grade to begin their time of worship in the sanctuary and then leave after about 15 minutes to finish their worship in the Centers downstairs.
The Nurturing Center welcomes children ages 3-5 years of age. Children hear a short story, pray together and then take part in supervised play and response time. Arts and crafts activities related to the story are available—but so are blocks, puzzles, trains, and Nerf bowling balls!
The Worship Centers welcome children age 4 through 2nd grade. The point of readiness for shifting to the more formal format is flexible. In these centers the children essentially follow the order of worship that we use in the sanctuary but the scripture is presented through the use of manipulative story materials. This interactive approach emphasizes the language, space, and order of worship.
*These Centers are offered each Sunday morning during the worship services. They meet all year long, with some variation in format during the summer months.
When they reach 3rd grade the children of our congregation remain with the gathered community throughout the worship service. Families are supported all through the 3rd grade year as they learn to worship together by workshops on worship, the Bible and the sacraments designed for parents and children together. Worship Notebooks are available for children to use during the service. A large-print, annotated version of the weekly bulletin makes it easier for children to follow and participate in the service. Older elementary children also occasionally take roles as worship leaders.
Times for Faithful Acts of Service
It is important for children to develop the habit and experience the discipline and joy of serving others. They grow in awareness of both stewardship and mission in several ways. Our weekly offering in the Worship Centers goes to our Westminster Food Pantry and the children visit the Pantry occasionally so that they have a sense of how it is set up and how it serves our neighbors in the Heartside community. Special projects related to Habitat for Humanity, Heifer Project, PCUSA disaster relief, etc. are a regular part of the Church School curriculum. During Lent we collect money for One Great Hour of Sharing, providing families with a daily calendar and resources to help focus that effort. Our World Wide Missions Committee intentionally seeks and supports opportunities for families to engage in mission trips and activities.
Infants and Toddlers – the Westminster Nursery
Very small children are cared for in our Nursery while their parents and siblings attend classes and worship. The Nursery is open 8:15a-12:15p and is staffed by a Supervisor and two to three paid care-givers. They provide a safe, welcoming environment where babies and toddlers can play, be rocked and read to. Each week one or two parents or other congregational members take turns volunteering as “extra hands” under the supervision of the staff.
Please click the following link to view an example of one of our lesson plans.