Upcoming holidays often spark big plans in children’s ministry. Of course, we want to make sure that the kiddos in our care have the benefit of warm memories and connection to the spiritual significance of church celebrations. We plan pageants and projects, décor and activities. We choose songs and crafts and games and gifts. The church has a long history of rich traditions!
But sometimes seemingly wonderful traditions can leave children out or send covert messages of inequity. When celebrating holidays in the church, it's our job to watch for opportunities to include all children. If a celebration is not inclusive, it deserves a second look.
This is not to say that we should throw out our traditions completely or stop celebrating at all! It’s just a friendly reminder to take a moment to pray for God to help us to look through the lens of compassion to see if any modifications should be made to our plans. Have we considered the needs of children experiencing poverty or homelessness? Children from Indigenous families? Children whose families have recently immigrated? Children from non-nuclear families? Children with disabilities?
What does that look like practically? It might mean intentionally planning your Mother’s and Father’s Day celebrations in a way that honors parents but also honors children whose family doesn’t include a mother or a father, or who may be missing theirs. How can you make sure to serve them, too? Your group conversations might avoid topics like “What presents did you get for Christmas?” or “Where did you go on your Easter vacation?” or “What’s your favorite part of Thanksgiving feast?” You also can search long-standing traditions for outdated, inaccurate practices like dressing like “Pilgrims and Indians.” Ensure that there are provisions for children with physical, cognitive, and emotional differences to participate in your activities, too. Check out your displays, books, and decorations to make sure that children of diverse ethnicities are well represented. And if you receive feedback from parents or children that their identities or situations aren’t being represented or respected, listen with an open mind and be prepared to make adjustments.
Taking a quick look at our plans with a lens of compassion doesn't really take a lot of time, but it can go a long way toward helping children come know our wonderfully inclusive God. Making accommodations and being considerate sends a message that all of the children in your church are seen and valued and loved.