Options for Worship

This is part four of the series looking at the inclusion of Children & Young People in Worship – if you haven’t read the other posts (intro, 1, 2, 3), I’d encourage you to do so before you continue.  this time taking a bit of a step back and considering the wider issue.

Having critiqued our current practice at Spurgeons, and considered some of the relevant issues and theology, I believe there are three possible options we might consider taking in our context (with a little adaptation, they may be relevant for others too).

Some might argue that I should consider the implications of any change before presenting and choosing an option. I disagree. Too often in my experience we discount options/actions because their implications are too hard/involved/expensive. We focus too much on practicalities (and why we shouldn’t do something) and not enough on what we believe is the right action to take. I think we should work out the right thing to do, and only then work to achieve it. I am fully aware that each option presented below will require work in order to implement them (much of which will probably fall to me), but I don’t want to allow that to deter me from taking the right action, simply because it involves more work.

And so to the options:

Option One

  • fine tune the status quo
    • retain the present slot
    • refocus it to engage 5-16 year olds
    • produce theme/series
      • each week builds on the last
    • provide guidelines to assist those preparing to lead it
    • assess each talk and feedback to volunteer presenters
  • ensure appropriate vocabulary for first part of the service
  • ensure prayers are suitable for all (length/content/style)
  • maintain appropriate pace to keep young ones engaged

Option Two

  • change the nature of the ‘family time’ at the start of the service
    • aim for all-age worship each week, prior to Junior Church groups
    • introduce range of new songs suitable for children & young people
    • allowing space for worship activities
      • creative prayer, actions & movement
    • engaging multiple senses: sight, sound, taste, touch, smell
    • draw the children and young people into worship:
      • ‘tell the next generation of God’s power & the wonders he has done’ – Psalm 78:4

Option Three

  • young people join together (separate from adults) and have their own worship time
  • similar approach to option two, but without the danger of alienating the adults

Before I reveal my personal view, let me analyse the options a little first.

Option One would be an improvement on where we are now:

  • providing clarity for those delivering the talk and some guidelines to assist in preparation
  • helpful feedback will ensure both consistent quality and encouragement/development to volunteers
  • theme for series will provide direction for volunteers, assist with their preparation, whilst also ensuring progression of the teaching
  • although aimed at children and young people, this would also be accessible and helpful to new Christians of any age
  • the focus on appropriate vocabulary will assist in making the service more accessible
  • positive:
    • will build on the foundation we already have
  • negative:
    • doesn’t specifically address the need to encourage children to worship

Option Two would provide a marked change (gasp! change?!) and involve a great deal of work, both in implementation and on an ongoing basis:

  • form a team to plan & lead worship each week
  • need to invest in appropriate worship resources and developing team skills
  • introducing the changes to the congregation
    • being sure to communicate the reasons well (both theological & practical)
  • weekly task of planning the worship time
  • positive:
    • enables children and young people to join the adults and fully participate in worship, following their example and learning from them
    • the service will be more suitable for families
  • negative:
    • there is a danger of alienating the adults (to be discussed further in a future post)

Option Three is a radical step but I fear it may be a step too far, offering some of the benefits of Option Two whilst avoiding the main danger, but also introducing a significant problem:

  • positive:
    • makes worship more accessible to children and young people
    • encourages them to participate more fully and express their worship
    • the focus of children’s worship may make the church more appealing to families
    • by separating the children from the adults you don’t run the risk of alienating adults by ‘dumbing down’ the worship time
  • negative:

Conclusion

Having considered at length the options outlined above, I believe that we should strive toward Option Two, effectively transforming the worship time at the start of our service.  I will have my work cut out in order to present the options and convince our fellowship that this is the right option for us, and, more importantly, that we can achieve it.  If we agree that this is the way forward, the really hard work will begin when we attempt to implement it.

The Easy Path?

I’ve been leading our ‘family services’ for the last six years, and understand just how hard it is to change the format and atmosphere of a service. Whilst the content of those services has been aimed largely at the young people, often they have reverted to our usual style and format. Preparing services which engage young people requires more work than a regular service (even more so to engage children too!) but as I’ve said, that’s no reason not to do it if you believe it’s the right thing to do. If ‘hard work’ was a valid excuse, I doubt we’d bother with services at all. The time and effort we invest in preparing our services must be proportionate to the value we believe they have. If we believe it’s important to engage adults in worship, we put in the work on a weekly basis. That fact that we don’t currently expend any effort to engage our young people in worship on a weekly basis reveals how little value we ascribe to their worship.

I’d love to hear your views on the options above and the brief analysis of them. Do you have particular experience of them which would be of interest.  Please keep the conversation going in the comments below.

The final couple of posts in the series will probably focus on the ‘holy grail’ or all age worship and good practice which will make implementing the change a success (mostly theoretical).

9 Comments

  1. Just a little more on children & young people worshipping:

    Children and young people should be encouraged to worship 'in spirit and truth' – developing their own authentic worshipful responses to the Lord. Whilst they can learn how to worship from the example of adults, there is also the danger that this may inhibit their own desire to worship more authentically. Spurgeons is fairly conservative in its worship (somehow that seems like an oxymoron when it written down, but I hope you know what I mean), and so having grown up at Spurgeons I find my natural response in worship is also fairly conservative. There is real value in young people having their own space to worship too.

  2. Don't envy your job on this issue!

    Being even more radical – you could combine options 2 & 3. Why not go for option 2 on a weekly basis & then once a month have a time of worship as per option 3. This need not replace the morning service but could be at an alternative time i.e. early evening.

    As for alienating the adults – how do they know they don't like something if they've never tried it? Also worship should be 'God centered' not 'me centered'. It's not 'will I enjoy this style of worship' but rather 'does this enable me to build my relationship with God' that is important.

    • Hehe – thanks Angela. I've had similar thoughts to this, about a specific kids/young people's service. Also wondered if we could have the children/young people out early once a month for a separate worship time, but I'm not sure that would help. It would solve the problem of the children's talk, but I think it's really important that we worship together.

      Totally agree with your second paragraph – but it's not quite that simple. We all know what adults are like ;o) Every two months we have a service which is aimed at young people, but sadly some adults still vote with their feet and regularly stay away.

      • We have some adults voting with their feet too when it's an all age service but they are in the minority. These folk don't stay away from every other service though when the first 30mins is given over to all age worship. Unfortunately as that well known saying goes 'you can't please all of the people all of the time'!

        Surely the adults can see the benefit of discipling the young people in their walk with God, after all the changes don't necessarily have to be too huge in order to make worship accessible to young people. Sure they may want more modern music, but they have to respect the preferences of older folk too i.e. there needs to be a mix. However simple steps like making sure the language in prayers and teaching is 'child friendly' goes a long way. Also asking the children/young people to write prayers or dramatise a bible reading (this could just be by different voices reading the speech of different 'characters' – it doesn't require acting or costumes!!) helps them to think about what they are doing & why. I know I am out of touch with the congregation at Spurgeon's but surely these steps are not that radical?

  3. My initial reaction was to go with option two, however reading your perception of how much work it would entail makes me think that a more cautious approach would be better.

    When things are radically changed people often get behind it with enthusiasm and energy. Then a year or so down the track it's a one man show (probably a one Ricky show in this instance).

    If you were to choose this path, may I suggest you put in place practices that will avoid people giving up on it after a while.

    What about making the changes outlined in option one, evaluating in 3 months, then looking at option two again. You may find that the new-look 'spot' is acheiving some of the outcomes you want from option two.

    By the way, why do you prefer option two? In your intro you said if it's the right thing we should go ahead, not letting practicalities stand in our way. On what basis do you believe option two to be the right action?

    Still your biggest faraway fan!
    Hetty

  4. I agree that there's a danger that people would lose interest and enthusiasm after a while, but that's the case with so many things. I wouldn't be too worried about the possibility of it becoming a one-man show – because I don't have the gifts/abilities to achieve it without help from others.

    I would hope that at the *very*least* we would be able to implement option one, but preferably as a stepping stone whilst we plan for and implement option two.

    Good question about why option two seems so right in spite of the amount of work it entails. For me, option one is likely to be more successful in engaging children & young people for the duration of the slot, and hopefully make the first part of the service more accessible in terms of language, etc. But I don't think that our service lacks a time of teaching for young people – they get that during Junior Church with very age-specific teaching and activities. As I've been mulling over this issue, the strongest sense of any leading from the Lord has been that we need to encourage our children and young people to worship Him. I don't think option one goes far enough for that. I believe option two is the right one for us – losing the children's talk slot, and instead working hard to ensure that the start of the service enables all ages to worship together. Even though there is the danger of alienating the adults with such a big change, my heart still thinks it's the right option. I fear that at the moment we're teaching our young people the truths of Scripture (in Junior Church) but totally alienating them from worshipping the Lord – and worse, possibly putting them off Church all together.

    :: Still your biggest faraway fan!

    Thanks Hetty – I might pay for your airfare back to support me if things get too tough ;o)
    God bless – love to you all…

    • Now I know your reasoning, I like option 2 as well. All the best!

      Hetty (always available for international guest appearances and consults)

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