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Experimenting with age integrated services
I gave a talk recently at the Children’s Worker conference in Eastbourne about how we the church can help young people to be included in the family life of the church. I diagnosed the key problem as :
We have turned church into an event we attend rather than a family we belong to.
Now of course this mindset change needs to affect more than just the way we gather as a church on a Sunday. But this Sunday I had the opportunity to put into practice some of the theory I shared there as I was in charge of the service at our local church. We are experimenting with age-integrated services (rather than all age services). Most people I know don’t like all age services – they are either too childish for the adults or too un-engaging for the children. So the adults would rather the children were out in their groups and the children would rather be out in their groups too. In fact I know some people that hate all age services so much that they attend our church when their home church has an all age service!
So its an uphill struggle to try and help churches transition towards age-integrated services. We have a bit of a head start as we meet sat around tables in family groups which makes conversation and prayer with one another a lot easier.
My passage was a challenging one. Which is a good thing as it means everyone is going to have to grapple with the text.
Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: ‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.
‘I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
‘I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.
‘When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.’
My wife helped me a lot as we brain stormed ideas of how we could help the children engage with the topic and ways in which the adults could benefit from too. We rocked up with a box full of activities to integrate into the service.
Here’s the running order I worked with today. The timings are illustrative we did not run exactly to this.
10.15 Coffee, Tea and Fruit pieces available as people arrive
10.27 Introduction video countdown calling people to worship
10.30 Welcome and introduce the prayer cards we have made. Encouraging all present to write out a thank you prayer and decorate it if they like.
10.34 “Let Everything that has breath Praise the Lord” (Redman)
10.38 “We Welcome You With Praise”(Redman)
This was a new song for us – which is good as young and old are learning it together.
10.45 Prayer response – I invited young and old to come out the front to lead us in a prayer – we had a 7 year old, a 70 year old and 40 year old lead us in thanks. Others then prayed in groups around the table prayers of thanks.
10.50 Then a 13 year old lead an interview and prayer time for a family in our church who have recently joined us from Ghana. (we did a practice before the service started). I wanted young people to take leadership roles in the service rather than just performing roles – so it was great to have her lead the interviews and the prayer response afterwards too.
Here are the questions she asked:
To Nana: “How did you meet eachother? How did you know it was true love?”
(chosen to make a link with Valentine’s day)
To Joseph: “How did you become a Christian?”
(Trying to model to a mixed congregation of believers and seekers there is a decision to be made)
To Nana: “What three words would you use to describe Ghana?”
(Wanting to model that all nations are welcome here)
To Joseph: “What could the UK church learn from the church in Ghana?”
(Trying to model that we are a global family and everyone has something to offer)
To Joseph: “What are the hardest parts of being a Christian in your job in the Army?”
(connecting with the theme of discipleship)
To Nana: “How can we pray for you and your family at the moment?”
(I got a group of the 11-14 year olds to pray for the family at the end).
11.00 Talk part 1 Luke 12:1
Question around the table to kick it off “ Why do you think Jesis taught his discples in front of the large crowd rather than address the crowd directly.”
11.10 Song “You are Holy You are Holy (Prince of Peace)” in parts
11.15 Talk part 2 Luke 12:2-3
Activity on the tables was mask making – the children did this quietly with minimal adult supervision. Towards the end of this talk I had the kids come out and explained that we want to be the kind of church that encourages people to take their masks off in front of God and eachother.”
11.25 Talk part 3 Luke 12:4-12
11.30 All age prayer response standing in Solidarity with Christians in Kiev responding to a prayer request I got from a Ukranian friend:
Please, pray for peace, freedom, and unity in Ukraine, we need God’s help more than ever. This is definitely the most serious crisis we’ve experienced since the fall of Soviet Union and the most violent one since WW2. Ukraine has always been a very peaceful country, even during events like Orange Revolution, but this time with everything that government does people are ready to fight against corruption and for their freedom.
11.35 Song “Take my life and Let it be”
11.40 Prayer response lead by Lucy
11.45 Tattoo response – children and adults put temporary tattoos on eachothers, hands, arms or wrists. Praying for eachother to not be afraid to go public with their faith. A seven year old put my tattoo on the bank of my hand and prayed that I would be brave for Jesus where ever I went.
11.50 Song to close : “We Welcome you with Praise”
You can read more about our journey into whole church worship here.