Children's participation at Mass

Are there any guidelines for children serving as lectors and/or cantors during Mass?

Try contacting your diocesan office of divine worship, perhaps they can tell you if there is a local resource for you to you. When we do Children’s liturgies, it is usually when predominantly children are present, usually a kids’ school mass. The kids should be fully able to read and practice with a responsible adult, organist, teacher etc, their role in the mass.

I would recommend that children learn to participate fully, consciously, and actually in the liturgy before they participate by taking on liturgical roles like lector or cantor. Make sure they know what the Mass is before offering them roles they don’t understand.

I have attended Mass at my Parish with my 3yr old since she was a baby. She has constantly shown greater interest in our faith as she’s grown.

I have wanted to get further involved in my parishes youth ministry. I have volenteered for the Childrens’ Liturgy of the Word program, where children 4yrs to 2nd graders exit the church at start of Sunday Mass, and spend most of the mass (until the Offerings) in the rectory, going over a reading plus Q&A and then coloring. We all return for the blessing of the gifts and remaining Mass.

I went along with my daughter this week, since shes a bit young, to ‘monitor’ her and learn about the program. She did wonderful and made me very proud of her enthusiasm and participation.

my question is: Would I be truly fullfilling my weekly obligation of Mass, if I continued to ‘miss’ the beginning of Mass including readings and Homily, every week?

I do actually read the readings the day before Sunday Mass. It just feels kinda strange not being in the church for the Holy Mass…though I love being with the children…

Get the involved. Did not Jesus say, “let the children come to me”. Yes he did.
I have my son help me Usher with me. He is eight. And I think it is awsome how much he enjoys helping in Mass. Every Sunday he helps me was the Chalices and Patens and he is proud of helping.


I’ve seen the really bad results of getting children to do these things simply to get them involved. I saw it at Mass this afternoon when they split the first reading between two children so that two of the first communicants could be involved. The second child couldn’t even be heard – how did that benefit the community gathered for Sunday Mass?

My experience has been that many of those who promote this see the Liturgy at the service of the kids rather than seeing those ministries at the service of the Liturgy.

I guess I’ve now officially entered my crotchety old lady phase.

At my church, you are not allowed to become a lector until you’ve received your Confirmation. I don’t know if that is an official rule or what?

I know at most parishes they accept high school aged children to become cantors.

It may be a diocesan rule or it may be simply your parish’s rule. Considering some parishes have Confirmation and First Communion together that would still leave children of 7 as readers.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard some who were only 8 or 9 proclaim beautifully, but they were the exception.

In my experience, and I’ll admit that may not be most people’s, if children volunteered they got to do whatever they volunteered for, whether or not they were qualified to do it. And they never had to follow the rules, rule like ‘you read from the Lectionary, not a piece of paper.’ If an adult had volunteered, he/she would have been trained but because they were kids, no such training was required. Mom & Dad were expected to prepare them.

The final straw was the Sunday when a boy went up to read and he couldn’t read. Someone had to go up and stand with him and whisper each word as he stumbled to sound it out. After that disaster the pastor put an end to children reading unless it was specifically a children’s Mass – and we rarely, if ever, had those.

In the last couple of years children have begun reading again, usually at Masses like the Christmas ‘Family Mass’ on Christmas Eve. They are usually a bit older, screened first, and then trained within an inch of their lives by the new liturgy coordinator. They are not simply thrown into that ministry because they happened to volunteer.

If the purpose of the ministry is kept firmly in mind and a child can adequately serve in that capacity, great! I do not agree with bringing children into a ministry simply to get them involved, something I hear too frequently. They are already ‘involved’, they are part of the congregation participating in the Mass.

I don’t know what kind of preparation they had, but at my parish, during a regular mass, but with the children’s choir, they had two young girls 8-10 I would guess, cantoring. Although it was obvious to anyone listening, that they were hearing the voices of children, it was absolutely beautiful! The kids did a great job, and it was warmed my heart that they had the opportunity to take on a role that had always been handled by an adult. If they’re ready, regardless of age, let them do it!

Yes and No. Children come to Christ with a childlike faith. I don’t see any problem with them being involved in the liturgy before they fully understand the liturgy. How many adults who receive the Eucharist fully understand?

Ever hear the Vienna Boys Choir?

Now there’s beauty! These kids weren’t trained to that degree, by any stretch, but had nice voices, nonetheless.

[quote="japhy]I would recommend that children learn to participate fully, consciously, and actually in the liturgy before they participate by taking on liturgical roles like lector or cantor. Make sure they know what the Mass is before offering them roles they don’t understand.

I didn’t say that have to “fully understand”. But they do not need to understand, and they need to have an idea of what participation in the Mass truly is. If they’re not paying attention, simply giving them “something to do” isn’t the right approach, in my opinion.

I have met their Director, Girard Wirth - believe me, he trains those boys to within an inch of their lives - and they don’t get in, to begin with, unless they pass the audition. That’s why they sound so good. :slight_smile:

In my Diocese, they must be 16 years old, Confirmed, and regular attenders at Mass, unless it’s a children’s Mass, in which case it appears as though anything goes - we’ve had the same scenarios with children who were just barely literate trying to sound out the readings, and kids whose voices were so soft that they couldn’t be heard.

“If they’re ready” – that is the criterion that is often ignored.

We adults are trained that it’s important to read the sections before and after the reading we are to do so that we can understand what we are proclaiming. Show me a child of 7 or 8 who understands Paul and is able to actually proclaim one of the letters and I’ll show you a rare bird indeed. Those readings are difficult even for a seasoned reader.

The ministry is not about involving as many people as possible but about involving people who are good at what they are doing.

I think a child could more easily cantor the Psalm and the Gospel Acclamation than do the readings. Those are really the only 2 places that call for a cantor.

In my experience, if you want the community to sing, a children’s choir is counterproductive. When the children’s choir sings people tend to just listen and applause it much more likely.

I am opposed to children participating as cantor/lector at the non children Masses.
We have a seventh grader who has been allowed to cantor at our 5:00 and 8:00 Masses and is work in progress. A cantor is suppose to be unassuming. But of course, everyone is noticing that she is a cute girl with a sweet voice. There are rules to how to successfully cantor in place. Everyone is looking the other way.
The rules were set that a Cantor had to be a member of a choir. This child is not a member of the choir but I found out her mother is a doctor in the community and that he child attends a prep school.
There are enough choir members to fill the cantor position professionally.

Don’t assume a bad motive when there are possible innocuous ones. That’s rash judgement and we are called as catholics to look for the best possible motivation and meaning on the part of others.

Why not ask the priest about these concerns if you’re really struggling with this issue?

One of the most amazing things I have witnessed at any Catholic service I have attended was seeing a 6 year old boy CHANT the Epistle reading in both English and Ukranian at a Divine Liturgy I attended. It was amazing how perfectly he did…totally in tone following all the rubrics with precision. Simply amazing.

In my opinion if a child is capable of perfuming a ministry in the church them let them…it should be judged on a case by case basis.

“Capable” being the operative word. As I said, they are at the service of the Liturgy, not the other way around.

I long ago lost track of the number of times I’ve heard “We have to get kids up there to train them so they can do it when they’re adults.” That’s the wrong way of going about it. We have to train them so that they become able to get up there and do it. The ambo is not a training ground for readers, it’s a place for trained readers.

That boy was not at his first attempt, I’m sure. As I said in a previous post, I’ve heard an 8 year old proclaim a reading from Paul better than many of the adults I’ve heard do it, but that 8 year old was an exceptional reader and had definitely read that out loud many, many times before she set foot at the ambo.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit