Rev Peter Gador-Whyte is the minister at the Geelong City Parish. He said he has been struggling for some time with the important issue of nurturing children in faith.
“When I was young, the latest practice was having crying rooms where parents could take their children out of worship and not disturb the rest of the congregation,” Mr Gador-Whyte said.
“Also, children often attended the early part of worship before being sent off into Sunday school, and in those days Sunday Schools were huge. But where are all those people now? How many have remained engaged and committed to practicing the faith and participating in the gathered community of faith on a regular basis?”
Some churches include a table for children to colour-in the weekly worship sheet and hope they pick up some of what is going on in the service. But Mr Gador-Whyte questions how effective this is.
“My observation is that mostly they are in a little world of their own and do not attend to what is happening in worship,” he said. “I began to wonder – how do we help children to attend to what is happening and so learn to worship?”
Early in July, his church launched The Church Book. Designed by Peter and his wife Sarah, it has been created by quilter Jenny Harris.
“It is a cloth book that allows toddlers to explore the different key moments in the service of worship, from the time the doors of the church open and gather as God’s people, to the time when we go out of those doors to share God’s love in the wider community.”
Mr Gador-Whyte said he hopes The Church Book will be useful as parents learn to guide their children to a deeper understanding of worship.
“We encourage parents to use it to engage their children to attend to what is happening as we give voice to our praise of God and listen for God’s voice to us,” he said.