I'll hold my hands up and say that when I first began working as a children and families worker at a large city-centre church I had little to no experience of working with under 5s. Having been a junior school teacher, I kind of knew what I was doing with the 7-11s, but anyone younger stumped me slightly. In terms of the under 5s, I spent my first year in the job pretty much blagging my way through and learning on my feet, but it was in the flying by the seat of my pants scenarios that I truly started to make a connection with the amazing spiritual capacity of the youngest children in our churches.
If we’re going, to be honest, the under 5s in our churches can be something of a neglected group. In a lot of churches we often don’t have the volunteers to provide even a basic crèche facility and, when we do, there is sometimes very little spiritual input. As a church leader, I understand completely how hard it can be to know where to start to include our youngest members in a meaningful way. However, when I started to engage more with the under 5s, I realised that there is so much depth we don’t give them credit for and many easy ways of including them in what we do so that they can truly be part of the whole body of Christ. And that is the key. If we truly believe that children are part of God’s family and have as much of a place as adults do, then we can’t allow them to be excluded from our most important Christian rites. If we want our children, from the earliest age to be part of the story of our community, then we need to find more than token ways in which they can participate. It was believing this that got me started on the journey towards what eventually became' We All Share.'
As I learned more about play techniques and the spiritual journey of the under 5s and listened to the stories from churches across the denominations and across the world, I became more and more encouraged. There are so many examples out there of children being drawn into the symbols, actions, words and story of Holy Communion. As well as my own experiences of working with children, I heard stories from others of under 5s showing deep understanding of what the bread and wine represented, of families being taught some theological truths by their youngest members and of children acting out in detail what they had seen week by week from their own vantage point. I learned, most importantly, that Jesus belongs to all of us, irrespective of age!
So if you are used to working with under 5s, or you have no idea where you would even start; if you are a church leader, a children’s leader or a parent; if you have children’s groups or no volunteers whatsoever; if you want something you can use at home or something you can use on Sunday morning with very little preparation, there will be something here for you. Have fun, be inspired and let me know what you are doing!
Written by Mina Munns