As the pastor takes his place at the altar to spread the word of God and the crowd hushes, Messiah Lutheran Church invites children to play.

Last month, Messiah Lutheran implemented a “prayground,” an area placed in front of the sanctuary where children can sit and play during worship services.

“We started this with the intention of including our families more during worship,” said Erin Kampschnieder, director of congregational faith life.

All families, even those with young children, should always feel welcome instead of worrying about their child making noise, she said.

“A lot of the times, young families feel like they can’t be included in worship because their kids might be distracting and worry they will get some weird looks in church,” Kampschnieder said.

Messiah understands that church can seem intimidating and be difficult to sit though for children, Kampschnieder said, and this new addition is designed to help.

“They don’t have to sit and be quiet all the time. We want to encourage the play,” she said. “We want to create a place where your kids feel welcome every time they come through the door and they are encouraged to come back all the time.”

The prayground is equipped with a variety of activities including puzzles, foam blocks and baby dolls.

There are also activities that relate to the service such as coloring pages that reflect the week’s Bible verse, storybook Bibles and even streamers for children to wave around when music fills the church.

“Since we’ve put it in, we’ve noticed that families that sit in back usually have moved up to the front,” Kampschnieder said.

So far, Kampschnieder said, the response has been glowing. Parents are excited and children really enjoy being so close to the action.

“They want to be upfront and engaged and have a place that’s their own,” she said.

Kampschnieder said it is nice to see families take advantage of the prayground and feel at ease during services.

The more relaxed children feel at church, the more they will gain, she said.

“We really want to encourage kids and have them be active here,” Kampschnieder said. “We want to make them comfortable because that’s how you create future leaders.”

While children of different ages are welcome to participate in play, it is up to the parent to determine if the prayground is appropriate for their child.

With the prayground, Messiah Lutheran hopes to encourage family time while feeding their faith, Kampschnieder said.

“Our passion at Messiah has always been to include the whole family. We really value having our families in worship,” she said.

When children construct with foam blocks or piece together a puzzle, Kampschnieder is confident that they are fueling their spiritual journey.

“If they are here, faith is happening,” she said. “That’s what’s important.”

Messiah Lutheran Church is located at 5015 S. 80th St.

Email: Phone: 402-537-4849

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.