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Tuesday, 15 March 2011

All age worship - an impossibility?

I've been asked to help out at a local parish church with a new all-age service. I am relishing it, I love planning things from scratch and this is right up my street. However I am concerned that there will be some conflict here. The priest is rather anglo-catholic in his approach. The girl who has asked me to get involved is desperate for change. I am very evangelical and not really a fan of liturgy. It is a very typical parish church, average age 60 I would guess and very few families. The Priest has stipulated that the service must begin at 9.30am (usual time for Sunday mornings) and that it must be a communion. These are probably the two things I would have wanted to drop for the day!
I am really keen to make this a real 'all-age' service. I have been to many family or all-age services and the tendency is to dumb down to a level that is still above the average 7 year old but well below the adults, which usually alienates everyone and welcomes no one. I'm ashamed to say that at our old church we usually avoided the 4th Sunday family service for this reason, and we had 3 kids so in theory the service was aimed at us...

So, as I say, I am keen to make this a real 'all-age' service but how hard is that? How can one appeal to 5 year olds and 70 year olds in the same vein?
I have to say that our current church does do all-age worship well. 2 services particularly come to mind. One which involved everyone bringing cardboard boxes which we then built a big wall with and the kids knocked it down at the end. The second was where everyone sat on the floor and were split into groups, kids and adults together, not necessarily even with your own family. In our groups we had large paper banners on which to write things we were thankful for. The youngest got to draw round their hands or draw pics on the banners. Then everyone held them up at the end. It really did get everyone working together, the older and wiser helped the younger and inexperienced. Parents guided kids, their own and other peoples. Everyone pitched in together. It was wonderful.

Aside from those examples I am lost as to what to bring to our first meeting next week. I would really love to hear from people on this...


Alan Crawley said...

On a technical level I would suggest that you mug up on a service of the word with communion. If the AC priest is AC he will want all things legal, but a service of the word with communion lets you get away with murder. If you don't have a copy of Common Worship it can be found here. When it talks about authorised texts that means only those that appear in Common Worship or New Patterns for Worship (here.

You might also want to check with the priest whether they want to use lectionary readings and if so find out what they are.

The words you will need for communion are here; I have seen Prayers D or F used for family services. The rest of the material from CW is here.

Alan Crawley said...

Then you only have the easy bit - addressing 0-90s in the same service :)

The talk/sermon whatever you want to call it is hard - my approach is to talk to the children with the aim that the adults can learn from it. My favourite was when I asked them how they spent their time and drew a pie chart - adults can work that one out for themselves.

And good luck - if the incumbent isn't supportive this is going to be hard work.

Perpetually In Transit said...

The service time may not be such a problem as you think, Red. In my experience most parents of young children are up early every day and an earlyish service leaves them plenty of time to do other things afterwards.

Plenty of good advice from Alan. I would add: keep the service short and make sure there is a mix of music, i.e. don't try to introduce too many new hymns or songs at once. Change may be needed, but it takes time to do change properly without alienating people.

Similarly with the talk. If the congregation isn't used to the idea of being interactive during the service, you'll need to plan carefully and encourage participation. Visual aids and props are essential, I think - one parish priest I know sometimes uses a glove puppet to discuss the reading, which works surprisingly well with all ages but need good preparation. Use questions and answers to involve both children and adults or get the children to act out an illustration of your theme.

Even such gentle changes as a dramatised gospel reading where appropriate can liven things up and have a real impact. Check now what the set readings are for the first planned service. If the parish priest likes to do things by the book, he may insist on the gospel of the day being used and over the next few weeks the set Gospel readings are long and complex.

That’s probably enough to be going on with, but if you want more ideas, just ask :-)

Anonymous said...

I would never dumb down anything for kids. Although explaining some harder concepts in easier terms would be helpful ( probably for adults too. Who really gets terms like justification or predestination with out some help?). Kids catch on very well even if they do not grasp the whole thing, they get a lot. Also, Kids and adults all want deep things of the Lord and can sense His presence. Worship helps draw everyone into Him.