The Children’s Sabbath is a weekend that unites places of worship and invites all faiths across the nation in shared concern and action for children and common commitment to improving children’s lives and working for liberating justice with, and on their behalf. 

This weekend is the multitudes intentionally working together in their respective communities to center the voices, needs, and concerns of children, and to advocate for them to live a life of health, wholeness, and access to resources that enable them to thrive. 

On the Children’s Sabbath, places of worship have a strong sense that they are participating in a larger movement for children that includes and also extends beyond their physical location. Some places of worship curate worship experiences, educational sessions, and activities for their congregations where children are leading the way or where there is intentionality in amplifying the voices of children. Others join with one or more places of worship in shared services and activities or work collaboratively to curate a public multifaith service. Optimally and often, local organizations serving children or working on their behalf join in curating these community-wide multifaith Children’s Sabbaths.

A Children’s Sabbath weekend typically has four elements:

  1. A service of worship or prayers during which the divine mandate to listen to, follow, nurture, and protect children calls us to act with an ecclesial urgency in responding to the needs of children today.
  2. Educational programs, during which inter-generational people learn more about the needs of children today and the sociopolitical structures that hinder flourishing and keep children in need; explore the depth of the sacred texts, liberative teachings, and traditions that lead us to serve and seek justice for children; and develop specific, justice-oriented active responses to help children.
  3. Activities that immediately engage participants in compassionate service to help and advocate for children and with action to seek justice (such as engaging, challenging, and writing letters to elected officials).
  4. Post-Sabbath weekend follow-up actions that use the inspiration, information, resources, revival, and motivation of the Children’s Sabbath weekend to lead members and places of worship into new, thoughtful, impactful, and effective efforts to improve the lives of children in the congregation, community, and nation throughout the year.

The Children’s Sabbath is sponsored by the Children’s Defense Fund, honors a multifaith lens, and is endorsed by hundreds of denominations and religious organizations. 

The Children’s Defense Fund Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life, and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. CDF provides a strong, effective, and independent voice for all the children of America who cannot vote, lobby, or are muted in ways that impact their lives and policies that hinder or hamper their lives and futures. We pay particular attention to the needs of poor children, children of color, and those living across the spectrum of abilities. CDF educates the nation about the needs of children and encourages preventive investments before they get sick, drop out of school, get into trouble, or suffer family breakdowns.

CDF began in 1973 and is a private, nonprofit organization supported by individual donations, foundation, corporate, and government grants.

From its inception, CDF has recognized the importance of the faith community’s partnership in building a movement to Leave No Child Behind. A nation that lets its children be the poorest citizens has, at its heart, a spiritual and ethical crisis. Thus, the religious community has an ecclesial responsibility to help transform our nation’s priorities so that we defend and protect those who are the youngest, poorest, and most vulnerable. For many years, CDF has worked to support denominations and religious organizations as they develop and maintain child advocacy campaigns.

The National Observance of Children’s Sabbaths celebration was launched in 1992 to coalesce these efforts into a united moral witness for children that crosses all lines of geography, faith tradition, race, and ethnicity. The Children’s Sabbath observance honors a multifaith lens and is endorsed by more than 200 denominations, faith groups and communities, and religious organizations. If you are interested in having your organization become an official endorser of the National Observance of Children’s Sabbaths movement, please email Faith Communities at 

The Children’s Sabbath is a robust mix of joy and sorrow, celebration and sober commitment

To be sure, a Children’s Sabbath exudes the happiness of a wonderful celebration. Children find enthusiasm in their roles of the day and are more conscious of the gift that they are – God’s reward. In the midst of the children-centered celebrations and expressions, parents or guardians hug children a little tighter and speak words of affirmation. The celebration is also a time where eye-catching balloons and visual decor may adorn buildings and children’s expressive creations of art, poetry, and recordings may brighten hallways. The attention to celebrating and centering children does not end there. The time might also include child-friendly snacks as a replacement of the usual after-service fare. It is a day that children and families look forward to, and those without children at their side can also appreciate the extra energy and excitement that brings memories of child-like joy.

While it is a time of celebration, the Children’s Sabbath is also sobering. The carefully curated worship services and activities deepen our understanding of the terrible plight facing millions of children in our country and the injustices that some faith spaces have left unchallenged. 

Part of the work is acknowledging that we have not consistently responded faithfully and lovingly to the cries of the children in our communities. 

It is painful and disheartening to think about children who are hungry or homeless, without access to health care, who are abused or neglected, victims of community, gun, and gang violence, targets of policies that challenge their identity, suffering from mental health issues, without good quality childcare, or denied a place in Head Start and other supportive formation programs. The Children’s Sabbath can be an eye-opening experience. It can expose the myriad of injustices that children face daily. When done properly, the Children’s Sabbath will do more than open eyes to the problems facing children — it also will lift up new ways to support and advocate for children and families. It will inspire and motivate people to respond purposely with intentionality and get involved.

The Children’s Sabbath is an annual event. 

The National Observance of Children’s Sabbaths weekend is designated for the third weekend of October. However, if that weekend does not work for your place of worship, choose another weekend that does. 

The Children’s Sabbath is flexible

We encourage you to be committed and intentional in creating a weekend that amplifies the voices, needs, concerns, and real lived experiences of children. 

For places of worship participating for the first time, you can ease into this moment without feeling overwhelmed or unready. We have curated and created plenty of resources for you to use or modify. For those who are “repeat participants,” and anticipate building on what you’ve done in past years, this is a moment for you to be even more creative and intentional in your observance. What is most important is that you shine a light on the issues affecting children and that you create intentional space and time to center the voices, needs, and concerns of the children in your worshiping community and wider community. 

Because the Children’s Sabbath takes place each fall, children look forward to it each year. You have an incredible opportunity to create an experience that centers their voices in the places and communities where they worship. This is your moment to work collaboratively as a community that cares about children and is committed to nurturing and protecting them.

The Children’s Sabbath is Trauma Informed.

A trauma-informed approach is an invitation to consider the psychosocial needs of individuals, groups, and systems; inviting and challenging individuals, groups, and systems to embody values concerned with safety, freedom, wholeness, and wellness. The process of implementing trauma-informed practices and care is recommended to occur with intentionality. Implementing trauma-informed practices and care should not be conducted in haste but with an intentional pace and informed practice.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicates a framework for exercising a trauma-informed approach across six elements:

  1. Safety
  2. Trustworthiness and Transparency 
  3. Peer Support
  4. Collaboration and mutuality
  5. Empowerment, Voice, and Choice
  6. Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues