Things to do during a baptism service

Some easy ideas for churches to try if they’re not sure what to do with all the kids in a baptism service.

  • Treasure hunt
    Give children a photo sheet of key places in the church that feature in the baptism service (ewer, font, candle, oil stock, shell, hands applauding, hymn book (or organ/piano/band) etc in roughly the order that they occur, and ask the children to keep watching to spot each one as it happens
  • Doodles
    Give all the children pencils, and ask them to doodle on their service sheet all the way through the service – encourage them to draw what they see, hear and feel.  You can ask them to focus on what they think are the best bits or the most important bits – and try and pick out some words that sound really important, and illustrate those.
  • Involve children in the liturgy as much as you can (lighting the paschal candle, carrying the water jug to the font, pouring the water into the font, holding the shell and the towel (if you use them), holding your service sheet while you say the prayer over the water etc).
  • Use movement if you can – start the service at the front of the
    church and move to the font for the baptism, and make sure the children get a really great view. Use big gestures, lots of oil, lots of water… make the service feel as multisensory and generous as you can.
  • If there are older siblings who are already baptised, encourage them to bring their own baptism candle and have it re-lit at the service.
  • Why not get the whole congregation to contribute towards something during the service? Perhaps hand out pens and small pieces of coloured paper to everyone and ask them to write a simple blessing on it. These could be collected (by the children) and stuck into a small scrapbook (the children might like to do the sticking) and presented to the family (rather like some families do at funerals to keep a record of who came and their messages of condolence!) or could be used to make a tag cloud after the service that you can send to the family for them to keep and share on social media.
  • Use all-age welcomers at baptism services – could a family from the regular congregation be there at the door to greet families and their guests? This would be a reassuring sign that the church is child-friendly, and that they are welcome as they are, and can enable baptism families who don’t usually come to church to get to know families who come regularly. Children who act as welcomers
    can also help with other aspects of the service, such as leading prayers, doing readings, etc.
  • Make sure people have something to take away – a prayer card, or some object to remind them of the experience and any pledges they may have made, etc. I know one priest who buys up baby socks from
    charity shops, uses them during the talk as a visual aid, and then gives everyone one to take home at the end as a reminder.
  • If you had a big banner-shaped piece of paper/card, you could write the baptism candidate’s name on it in big outline letters for the children to decorate (you could also write it, ‘St X’s Church welcomes N’)
  • Ask the children’s groups, if you have them, to make a dove-shaped card with words of blessing (suggested by the children) on one side, and ‘God says, N, you are my child, I love you, and I am pleased with you’ on the other side, adding the name of the baptism candidate. The children can decorate the dove using coloured pens, and present it to the family at the welcome.
  • If you are using the reading about the baptism of Jesus, why not print out enough stickers for each member of the congregation with a dove outline bearing the words, ‘God says, you are my child, I love you and I am pleased with you’ then get the children to take the stickers round and stick one to each person – you could link this to a talk about how the love of God comes first, and then we live it out (and that this can be true for each of us, every day, not just for people at the start of their life).
  • Parents may also appreciate something their children can do ‘in the pew’ with them.  To that end, here are two downloadable booklets that you may wish to use – they can be photocopied and given out to children along with a pack of crayons.Baptism Colouring Book
    Download it as a .pdf document here: Baptism colouring book
    This is something that younger children can do on their own, and uses colouring pictures to illustrate the baptism service – in our church we use the same images (smaller) to illustrate our order of service so that even if parents aren’t that great at engaging their children with the service, at least they can match up what they’re doing with what they’re children are doing…
    Print this out 2 pages per sheet, in the order 12,1,2,11,10,3,4,9,8,5,6,7 then copy it back to back to make a booklet.  Or you may have a clever printer that will do booklets for you!

    Baptism activity workbook for children
    Download it as a pdf here:  Baptism workbook
    This is based on the same illustrations as the colouring book, but has more questions, and is either for older children to do on their own or for younger children whose parents are willing to engage with them.  My 6-year-old is a good reader and can do it on his own, but I’d be interested to hear about how you end up using it in your own church, and what age group finds it most helpful.
    It is for use during or just before a baptism service:
    Print this out 2 pages per sheet, in the order 12,1,2,11,10,3,4,9,8,5,6,7 then copy it back to back to make a booklet.  Or your printer may have a clever printer that will do booklets for you!

  • Some of these ideas – and a few others, too – are archived here. Or you can search for ‘baptism’ on this website to find all related posts.

Easter things

Here are links to lots of random Easter things – help yourself if there’s something you like.

A hymn for the Easter Vigil (metrical version of the Song of Moses and Miriam – tune: Kingsfold)

A hymn for Easter Day (based on the John 20 gospel reading – tune: lauda anima / Praise my soul)

A hymn for Eastertide (based on the various resurrection appearances  – tune: Salzburg)

Easter Eggs all age talk (based on the transformative nature of the resurrection appearances)

Easter Sunday short thought (based on the idea of ‘spoilers’ and how the resurrection becomes real for each of us individually – same basic point as the Easter eggs all age talk)

Children’s activities

  • Use the craft card that has a black scratch-off surface with a colourful layer underneath – you can cut the card into cross shapes for younger children to scratch off, or simply give out whole sheets and invite the children to draw on it things that remind them of the new life of Easter.
  • You can also use wax resist to show how the darkness of Good Friday could’t destroy the light and love of Christ (drawing images that represent the love of God with wax on paper and then using a sponge to paint over them in a dark colour – the wax drawings Easter Garden 2014will show through).
  •  Easter Garden – invite your local school to make paper flowers and bring them to their end of term Easter service – use the flowers to create a wonderfully colourful Easter garden.  This one was made using a triptych display board, green paper for the hills, and a fabric-covered basket for the tomb.
  • photo (1)If you made a ‘Way of the cross’ from stones during Holy Week, decorate it with fresh flowers on Easter morning.  This one was made on Palm Sunday (when we reflected on the stones that would ‘shout out if the crowds were silent’ – it gained tea-lights for the tenebrae service, and then dandelions on Easter morning!

Finally, some clipart:

euch-easter dayemptytomb005daffodils005 - Copycross made of flowers

God’s House

A few things from yesterday’s children’s chapel made me smile. In response to the gospel reading (Jesus turning over the tables in the Temple – John 2.13-22) we talked about what it was like to come into God’s House (The Temple was God’s house, church is God’s house, Jesus is God’s house, etc).

Each child was given a piece of folded paper, and was asked to draw on it something that would represent God’s house – it was folded in case they wanted to depict an outside and an inside. Here are some of the responses:

1. One boy, age 8, refused to draw anything on the outside, because ‘It doesn’t matter what the outside is like, it’s what happens when you go in that matters.’

2. One girl, age 3, drew a huge smiley face inside, and then poked a hole through the paper ‘to make sure there is a back door too.’

3. One boy, age 10, drew flames inside his, because ‘when it’s cold outside, you come in and someone’s lit the fire and you gather around it and get warm, and you’re with the people you love – that’s what God’s house is like’.

4. One boy, age 8, drew trees and plants, because ‘I meet God everywhere I go. He made everything, so all of creation is his house.’

Yet again, the kids get it. They totally get it.

Easter Eggs

In my previous parish, which didn’t ‘do’ the Easter vigil,  I found myself slightly disturbed by the number of ‘Happy Eater’ and ‘Alleluia’ messages in my twitter feed from those returning from evening services on Holy Saturday, confident that the resurrection had already happened.  I kept wanting to reply ‘Spoiler-alert – I haven’t had my resurrection yet!’ It made me think about the timing of our Alleluias – if you were here yesterday for the 8.30pm service, was the resurrection then?  Or is it now, at the 10am service?  What about those churches that have their Eucharist at dawn? Are they the ones who are really getting it right? Is their resurrection the real one?

Let’s explore this idea a bit more, using the time-honoured medium of chocolate eggs.

(I would hold up a whole egg, at this point).

Jesus’ tomb was a little like this egg – inside it’s dark and cramped, but when the resurrection happened, and Jesus burst out of the tomb, Good Friday is smashed once and for all, and new life is set free. (At this point I dramatically smash the egg into a bowl or basket.)  There is no going back. This egg is smashed. This resurrection has undoubtedly happened.broken chocolate egg

But the trouble was, that nobody witnessed it!  The solders (in that account, anyway) passed out and didn’t see Jesus emerge, and the next thing we know, it’s the women arriving at the tomb still expecting to find a dead body, and instead finding it empty.  The actual moment of the resurrection happened in private. All that resurrection joy and nobody to share it.

On Easter Sunday we focus on Mary’s story – we just heard it as our gospel reading.  There in the garden, the resurrection had already happened, but she was trapped in her own Good Friday – her grief and sadness kept her in the dark (hold up another, whole egg, at this point).

And we can tell the exact moment when the resurrection happened for her – it’s when Jesus calls her name. Suddenly grief is turned to joy.  Mary’s Good Friday is smashed once and for all, the new life is set free in her (smash the second egg and handing it round).

That’s all very well for Mary but what about everyone else?  At this point she’s still the only real witness. What about all the others?  If you come back to church over the next few weeks you’ll hear more stories of how the resurrection became real to all of Jesus’ friends. But here’s a sneak preview.

– Thomas = doubt to faith when he sees Jesus’ wounds.
– Disciples = fear to peace of mind/joy when Jesus says ‘Peace be with you’
– Emmaus Road = confusion to recognition when Jesus breaks the bread
– Peter = guilt to new purpose when Jesus gives him the chance to say ‘I love you’ three times to make up for his threefold denial.
(For each one you can hold up and break a new egg)

You can also ask people to think in their own minds about what other sorts of things keep us trapped in our own Good Friday’s, and let that lead into prayer that all may experience the resurrection in a way that’s personal to them, but absolutely connected with Jesus’ defeat of sin and death.

Note:

  • For very small children, it can be good to act this process out – making ourselves small and sad, scrunched up with our arms wrapped round us, and then jumping up for joy.

I also wrote a hymn that goes well with the resurrection stories. Here it is.

Baptism doves – children’s church craft activity

This could be a useful activity if you’re using Mark 1.9-11 for any other reason, or if you want your children’s group to make something as a gift for babies or children being baptised in your church (which is a nice thing to do!)

You will need two paper plates per dove, scissors, pens, hole punch, double sided sticky tape (or glue, if you prefer), small bits of paper, some lengths of wool (about 12-18 inches if fine), and a plain piece of card to make the template.  You might also like to pre-print some pieces of paper (or stickers) with the wording taken from the scripture passage – see photo. Leave a dotted line for the name of the child to be written in by hand.

paper plate dove1. Draw on a paper plate the outline of a dove, so that the tips of the wings and the tail benefit from the crimping round the edge of the plate, but the head and the belly are entirely on the flat bit of the plate.  You can cut this out and use this to make a template on your flat piece of card – this can make it easier to replicate the dove shape on the other plates.

2. Use your template to cut out as many doves as you think you need.

3. Now, make another set of doves, but this time using the template the other way round (or, if you want to look at it that way, by drawing on the back of the plate rather than on the front).  Either way, you want to end up being able to stick pairs of doves back to back, with the wings and tail fanning out, as in the picture. Try it, and you’ll hopefully see what I mean.

4. Use double sided tape to stick each pair of doves together. You will need one small strip at the bottom of the belly, one between the body and tail, and one at the neck. Don’t stick the back or the wings together.

5. Gently bend the wings apart.  Use the hole punch to make a hole at the top of the wing, as close as you can to the balance point (the balance point on mine was towards the back of the top of the wing).  Tie each end of the wool through one of the holes, so you have a loop to hang up the dove.

7. Stick on the sticker of piece of paper with the wording on it, and ask the children to write their own name on the dotted line.  Talk about how God also loves us, not as a reward for what we have done, but because we are his children.

6. You should end up with a sort of ‘pocket’ between the wings of the dove. This is where your small pieces of paper come in. Children may write or draw something (as many as they like) to remind them of blessings, encouragements, and gifts they have received without earning them – remembering that the words that God the Father spoke to Jesus weren’t a reward for what he’d done (because he hadn’t done anything yet!) but were spoken out of pure love, and to give Jesus strength and encouragement for all that he would go on to do.  Post the bits of paper into the pocket in the back of the dove – you can pray a thank you prayer as you do this.

7. If the dove is being made as a gift for a baptism candidate, write their name on the dotted line, and on the small pieces of paper write some ‘blessings’ or gifts that the children suggest God might want to give them.  Things like love, wisdom, happiness, family, health etc may be suggested. These words can be made into a prayer for the child being baptised as the dove is presented to them.