The Plan for Young Children’s & Informal Family Services in 2024

The Bryn Athyn Church pastoral team, in consultation with a number of different people and groups, has made the following plan for Informal Family Service (IFS) and Young Children’s Service (YCS) for the first part of 2024.

Short Version

  • Starting January 7th, the YCS (which meets in the Bryn Athyn Cathedral undercroft when it can’t happen outside) will move to 9:30am (instead of 10:00am).
  • The IFS will also meet in the undercroft (instead of Heilman Hall).
  • The IFS will be at 10:15am with warm up music starting at 10:05 (instead of the service being at 9:30am with warm up music at 9:20am).

Long Version


There are many factors that went into the formation of this plan. Here are some of the major aspects of the plan and the benefits that we see in them:

  • All of the Bryn Athyn Church worship services on one property.
    • This allows for overlapping social time between the people who attend our different services. (More about this under How it Might Go.)
    • This makes it easier for staff and volunteers to serve at multiple services on a given Sunday (ministers, musicians, people offering refreshments, etc.)
    • This makes it easier to communicate to new people where to come to find all of our worship services.
  • Keeping YCS and IFS as distinct services.
    • We considered trying to combine the YCS and IFS but it became clear that each of those services has unique features that might be lost in trying to combine the two services.
    • Keeping the services separate also allows room for growth in the undercroft space. If we combined the people who currently attend YCS and IFS, we would come pretty close to already filling the undercroft. Keeping the services separate gives each of them room to grow.
  • Rearranging the timing of YCS and IFS so that one minister could do both services.
    • One piece of feedback we have received numerous times is that people want the IFS to get back to being well-suited to children. One way to help ensure that is by having the minister who does the IFS also be the one who does the YCS on that same Sunday. Whatever props and interactive things he plans for the YCS can be reused at the beginning of the IFS.
    • This also means that the Bryn Athyn Church can staff all four services with just two ministers on a Sunday instead of three.

How it Might Go

Here’s a walk-through of how it might feel to attend these services. Many of these details might not be quite how it ends up going.

At around 8:30 people are setting up the space for YCS – props, chairs, refreshments. Musicians who might play for YCS and IFS are there to sound check and rehearse. At around 9am volunteers and greeters come and put signage out to help people find their way to the undercroft from the parking lots. At 9:20 YCS families are arriving and getting settled, greeted by friendly staff and volunteers at the doors. YCS goes till about 9:45/9:50am. Probably only one or a few of the musicians play the YCS songs to keep them simple and little-kid-friendly.

After that the YCS families hang out and eat pretzels and clementines in the undercroft. The staff and volunteers involved with IFS set the room up for IFS – moving a few chairs, resetting the props, getting a few people in costume, etc. At around 10am people starting arriving for IFS and the musicians start playing some songs as people are coming in and the livestreamer starts the IFS stream. The YCS families either stick around to sing a few songs before leaving, or they head up to the Council Chamber to hang out more, or they head through to the social hall to have refreshments with people who attended the Cathedral Family Service (which ends at about 10am).

At 10:15 the host minister welcomes people to the IFS with an opening prayer. Then the IFS proceeds as normal but starting with a kid-friendly portion. The first part of the service will reliably be over by 10:45 (after half an hour). Then there will be the discussion time. We haven’t yet figured out whether the children will go elsewhere during that time or have refreshments in the same room while the discussion is going on. After the discussion time the service will finish and then there will be social time in the undercroft until people are ready to leave. We will figure out whether the online Zoom discussion needs to move later (to 11:30 instead of 11:00) so that people who attended the service in person can join in. Or maybe people that want to join the Zoom will move upstairs to the council chamber and join the meeting from there.

Trying this Out

We’re going to try this plan out in the first part of 2024. There are challenges that come with this new plan and we will need your help in figuring out how best to navigate them. We welcome feedback along the way about how best to implement this plan and we’ll plan on having a bigger meeting about how it’s going in March/April.

The committee that helped us come up with this plan involved the following people: Rob Andrews, Danna Kistner, Rachel Martin, Anne Grace Glenn, Judy Hyatt, Ivy Synnestvedt, TJ Jackson, Jennica Nobre, Derek Elphick, and Malcolm Smith (and Tania Alden joined for the last meeting as another YCS representative). We met with the whole IFS community once, the weekly IFS planning team (including people from the Zoom discussion group) once, this committee three times, YCS families once, and the Bryn Athyn Church staff a couple of times. We are very grateful to those people for their time and wise input.

What Do We Need From You?

  • The biggest thing that we need from you is, if you like YCS or IFS and want these services to have a long and vibrant future, attend the services in person and invite your friends to come too.
  • Volunteers are critical to our worship services. If you are in a place in your life where you can help make either of these services happen, we would love to get you involved – in helping plan the services, greeting, being an actor in the service, bringing flowers or otherwise making the space more beautiful, bringing refreshments, helping with project for the kids, and in many other ways. If you can help regularly or only a few times a year, we would love to have you as part of the team. Email Nina ( to have a conversation about how you can get involved.
  • Spread the word about this new plan – both what is happening and why.

Thank you for taking the time to read this whole explanation and for caring about the YCS and IFS.
– Derek and Malcolm