Starting soon at St Matthew’s
Diddy Disciples is a brand new programme of worship and Bible storytelling for babies, toddlers and young children starting soon at St Matthew’s during our Sunday morning worship. It has seven key principals.
Young children express themselves far more naturally and readily with their bodies than with words. This includes their internal thoughts and feelings. Babies can read facial expressions from a very young age. Many love copying other people’s expressions. Let’s encourage and celebrate babies & toddlers’ fluency in body language. Let’s use it in our worship!
People who learn to ‘sit still and be quiet’ in church when they are children may keep on doing this as adults! Let’s encourage God’s People to be active in worship and church life from the very beginning.
Repetition builds confidence: a familiar pattern can help children feel confident. No more standing by watching because they’re not sure what’s happening next! In time, they may even like to lead!
Repetition strengthens understanding: repeated words in songs can help children who aren’t fluent in English: young children, children with another first language, children with special needs.
Repetition deepens understanding: returning to the same words over time gives children the chance to build up layers of understanding.
Repetition helps adult leaders: it’s liberating to know that almost all of the next week’s worship will be familiar.
Repetition grows child leaders: familiarity means children can become experts and feel confident to take leading roles.
Repetition contributes to behaviour management: children respond well to clear expectations, and this can help with behaviour management. Diddy Disciples has periods of movement punctuated by (short) periods of silence and calm. Once children have learned the pattern, it’s much easier for them to stay quiet for a short time.
Diddy Disciples worship is designed to help the group find a rhythm.
Once a pattern of worship has been chosen, the structure stays the same for a whole unit (4-6 weeks).
3. OUR VOICES
Diddy Disciples includes lots of singing to well-known tunes.
Everyone can join in: Singing is something we do together: it gives the children an opportunity to feel what it’s like to be part of God’s family. Give us a clue! Singing uses words but also provides all sorts of clues to help with meanings: tune, rhymes, rhythm, pitch and volume, movement, actions. Young children can be really good at picking up on these clues even when they’re not fluent in speaking English. No reading required: Singing songs with repeated words gives children a chance to join in, without needing to read.
Singing helps with attention: Singing attracts and keeps children’s attention far more easily than words alone.
Singing is a spiritual experience: Singing encourages us to bring body and soul together. It can help us tune into our feelings before God. Singing can help to lift our focus beyond ourselves and opening us up to God.
Singing invites all children join in worshipping God in their own way: listening and swaying, moving and dancing, joining in with the actions, even singing some of the words.
The Bible talks about God knowing from children inside their mother’s womb. Research suggests that children have a sense of God and spirituality from the youngest age. Let’s try and make connections with and nurture children’sthat spirituality, rather than trying to build it from scratch.
Imagination is one place where we can witness, share, and nurture children spirituality, so there’s a strong ethos of fostering imagination throughout Diddy Disciples.
Diddy Disciples is strongly influenced by Rebecca Nye’s work on children’s spirituality. If you haven’t read it already, it’s really worth getting hold of a copy!
Diddy Disciples isn’t designed to help children learn about being a Christian or about the Bible or about the Church. Diddy Disciples is Church for babies, toddlers, and young children. It’s worship in the same way as the main Sunday service in any church is worship.
The materials can be used to to build a service that reflects the main Sunday service as closely as possible: but using bodies, and song, and movement, and symbols to encourage even the youngest children to join in.
Diddy Disciples aims to build up a People of God who naturally:
– bring their relationship with God into their home life and work
– bring their home life and work into their relationship with God.
The materials make lots of links with the kinds of things that babies and young children learn in their daily lives:
– counting out loud
– noticing different kinds of weather
– exploring different kinds of emotions
A rich range of Creative Response options encourage the children to make connections between their Bible storytelling and the kinds of things they may be learning about at home, nursery, or school: including science, geography, maths or reading.
Diddy Disciples includes lots of options to make connections with our church tradition and our rhythm of worship.
Some of this language can be poetic. Remember: babies and young children can appreciate and enjoy language as poetic and beautiful from the youngest age. Just think of the number of picture books in poetry that there are for young children.
In the Bible, the whole range of human emotions is explored openly.
– in the Psalms, singers bring feelings of anger, revenge, jealousy, hopelessness and self-hatred before God as well as joy, praise, love, hope and thankfulness.
– in countless Bible stories, emotions that can be seen as negative are brought before God and transformed.
To give just one example, Moses’ rage (that leads him to murder an overseer) is seen by God, transformed, and used as a catalyst to set God’s people free.
Diddy Disciples takes the example set by the Bible seriously. It aims to build a people of God who are comfortable in bringing all sorts of feelings before God, ready to see even negative emotions transformed by God into something beautiful, holy and life-giving.
Early childhood is a wonderful place to begin this way of life. Young children are exploring their emotions and can sometimes be startled by their depth and complexity.
Diddy Disciples provides lots of opportunities to explore all sorts of different emotions and feelings in a safe place.
It aims to create a space where children experience their negative emotions being seen, named, forgiven, and transformed by God.
A favourite moment at St Peter’s, Walworth (where Diddy Disciples was created), each year is when the story of Jesus cleansing the Temple in Lent is told. Here the children encounter holy anger in its proper place as we’re told, ‘Let’s all look angry like Jesus! . . . Now, really angry!’