A true parish community involves everyone, many people who bring a plethora of talents, unique personalities and wisdom. As a member, you may be able to point out which person is good at organizing events, which ones are the most musical, who serves on the parish counsel, and even who brings the most delicious treats to bake sales. In a community that is cohesive, you may also know who is struggling with helping a sick relative, who has lost a job, who is in need of a phone call or a ride to an appointment.
However, when we think of our parish community, we tend to omit one population of our parish communities, that of our preschoolers. Yet they also bring talents, unique personalities and wisdom—a wisdom Jesus recognized. In addition, they delight most adults, and this can be a unifying factor itself.
As their teacher, you can arrange for the children to play a more active and visible part in a parish community. Here are some suggestions:
• Arrange to have children decorate posters that announce upcoming bake sales and other fund raisers and events.
• Look over your curriculum. Is there a gospel story the children will learn that will soon be read at Mass? Turn it into a very simple play (you narrate and the children ‘act’). They can wear signs that name their character (Zacchaeus, Peter, etc.) Offer to have the children perform this at the end of Mass.
• Create art that reflects the liturgical season. For example, during Advent, have children give a visual meaning to the theme of ‘the people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light.’ Do this with large paper and plenty of purples and dark blues paints; when this is dry, give them yellows and whites to add to the ‘darkness’ (Is. 9:2). Hang these where adult parishioners can see them, with a note saying, “Advent” abstract created for your seasonal reflections by (children’s names). Just before Christmas, ask children to draw their renditions of the Nativity story and replace the Advent abstract with these drawings. Ask the person who makes announcements at Mass to point out these works of art and who created them.
• Place classroom news into the weekly church bulletin, short information such as: ‘our three-year-olds have learned the Guardian Angel prayer and can tell you that you too are protected by angels!’. Adults will enjoy these bits of news but it will also help them make connections with children. The next time an adult parishioner meets a three year old at the doughnut table, they will have something to talk about and a friendship may be formed.
• Invite parishioners who are grandparent age and high school or college age to join you in the classroom from time to time, creating a stronger inter-generational connection in your parish.
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