By Donna Olendorf
Director of Children and Youth Formation
Welcome! We’re very glad to share Sunday mornings with you and your children. To support you in your family’s faith formation, we offer these Sunday morning programs for our members from birth to eighteen. All are organized under the umbrella of Grace’s mission to Welcome, Worship, Study, Serve. It’s also important to us that you know your children are always welcome to worship with you in the Sanctuary, no matter their age.
We start with Welcome:
Beginning upstairs at 9:45, adults greet children individually, shake their hands, and help them sign in. Our three church school areas are: the Nursery, the Children’s Chapel, and Middlers. (For our youth group program, see below.) The Nursery is for anyone from birth to three years old. It’s situated in two rooms above the Parish Hall. We ask that these children are signed in by a parent or guardian. Everyone from preschool through fourth grade worships together in Children’s Chapel, right at the top of the stairs. Middlers (5th – 8th graders) sign in and meet in the Youth Room (LL4) at the bottom of the Parish Hall stairs.
Worship and Study are tailored to stages of spiritual development:
Nursery (Infants and Toddlers ~0-3 yrs.) meet for music, crafts, and play.
In the Children’s Chapel, everyone from pre-kindergarden to 4th grade is part of a chapel service that mirrors the Episcopal Liturgy, includes the great stories from our faith tradition told according to the Godly Play curriculum, and is designed to allow the older children to mentor the younger. After worship is complete, there’s a time of visual art or active response to the stories told.
Fifth, sixth, and seventh graders (Middlers) follow a curriculum that engages them deeply in the Old Testament in the fall and the New Testament in the spring. Their visual and service responses are more complex than the younger groups, and this class has the responsibility for leading the younger children in serving others in the name of Christ.
Service also includes our children’s participation as full members of Grace Church in our youth choir, Joyful Noise; our Healing Team once a month; as acolytes; as occasional readers of Old and New Testament lessons during worship in the Sanctuary; and many other things. Families are encouraged to join together in one of Grace Church’s many outreach, worship, and welcome ministries.
Older youth are invited to join Grace Church’s Journey to Adulthood youth programs which begin meeting in mid-September. The first two years of the program are called Rite 13 , a name that comes from a liturgical rite of passage we celebrate with young people around their 13th birthday. It is loosely based on the Jewish bar/bat mitzvah tradition and is a way for the entire congregation to celebrate the unique gifts and abilities of its young teens. The focus is on recognizing the gifts God has given us, celebrating our creative potential and learning to interact as a community of faith.
The second segment of the program, for teens aged 14 – 16, is called J2A, an acronym for Journey to Adulthood. It can be a little confusing since the name of this segment has the same name as the entire program, but the bulk of the work happens during these two years, building on the foundation of the Rite 13 experience. Teens learn and practice six basic skills of adulthood: active listening, negotiation, assertion, research and information management, partnership, and leadership. The end of the second year is marked by Confirmation for those who wish to participate and the group going on a pilgrimage or mission trip.
The last two years of the Journey to Adulthood program are referred to as YAC , which stands for Young Adults in Church. YAC students accept more adult responsibilities to contribute their time, talent and treasure to support the church. They often serve as volunteers in the Children’s Chapel and elementary classrooms.
All the activities of our youth groups enrich our mission to Welcome, Worship, Study, and Serve.
So that young people in middle school and high school can regularly participate in worship in the Sanctuary, youth groups meet after church (11:30 am) in the Youth Room (LL4) and Conference Room (LL5) on the lower level.