This month, our church has encouraged families with elementary, middle, and high school students to worship together in lieu of their regular Sunday morning programming. It was an idea that surfaced at the end of last summer and again this past April at a staff meeting. It wasn’t really a hard decision for us to make because of two observations: (1) last summer it was almost impossible to recruit volunteers to serve because of August travel schedules and (2) summer is a good time to try something different. We had also been asked by several families to promote this type of initiative.
After a number of collaborative brainstorming sessions between Children’s Ministry, Student Ministry, Worship Arts, invested parents and Senior Leadership, we decided to go for it. But we wanted to be strategic about our approach.
We wanted to give advance notice to our congregation, so we began announcing this change a few weeks out. Our first announcement fell on our VBS Celebration Sunday (when there were many families – regular attenders and visitors – were in attendance.) Our Family Pastor even gave the children a bit of a teaser by announcing that a special ticket book might show up at their house. *See below for more info about this.
In addition, a number of promotional material was prepared. We contracted a designer to create a Worship Together logo that was used on promotional material through the Sunday bulletin, our weekly e-newsletter, a letter that was mailed home to parents, our website and video. Our promo videos included a rising 6th grader being ‘interviewed’ by one of our preachers; a skit by members of our Family Ministry team and one by me (gasp)!
We acknowledged that some parents & families might be a little apprehensive about worshiping with their younger elementary-aged children. We wanted to ease their fears a bit and supplied a “Worship Together Resource” handout for parents to download from our website. You can take a peek at that here. (I will also place a pdf copy under the “Parent Resources/Downloads” tab on this blog.)
Being very intentional about including children and students in the service is something we also desired. This included a special blessing that parents could over children and students on Communion Sunday; creatively telling the Bible story through skits (involving children & students); and using examples that kids could relate to. Our contracted designer also designed a pew card that explained the elements of the service and why we do them.
Supplying children’s worship bags was also a way for us to be intentional about including younger children in the service. Each bag (a small, bright yellow plastic bag that I had on hand from a previous event) was filled with crayons, a pencil and that week’s specially designed children’s bulletin. Our children’s bulletin was a one-page bi-fold which included a cover page; a place for older children to take notes (write down the scripture, who was preaching & what they learned); a place for children to circle corresponding pictures every time they sang a song, prayed, gave an offering, took Communion and read their Bible; and 2 activity pages (we varied the activities each week and chose crosswords, coloring pages, decoder puzzles, mazes, etc.) Remembering that we were catering to children in grades 2-5, we wanted to offer a balance of activities to suit the wide age span.
Earlier I mentioned a special ticket book for families. We mailed a ticket book to families with elementary-aged children so that the children could redeem tickets each week for a special small treat. We chose some items that corresponded with the scripture text as well as general items like pencils and bookmarks.
I am hearing pretty good feedback from parents and other adults about how much they’ve enjoyed worshiping together and seeing the children in worship. Our prayer is that Worship Together would become a regular practice among families at our church.
You may also be interested in reading:
Dear Parents of Young Children in Church by Sharon Harding
What about you? Does your church encourage families to worship together?