Worshipping Together: Theory into Practice

This is part six of the series looking at the inclusion of Children & Young People in Worship. I’ve updated recently on my presentation to and the outcome of the Church meeting in relation to the changes I proposed. Now I want to start updating on the progress which has been made so far and where we’re going next.

With the review in mind, following the Church meeting a number of us attended a training session by Doug ‘Duggie Dug Dug‘ Horley. The following is a brief summary of the sociological challenges, theological reflections and some practical tips which we felt were pertinent to our process of change:

He set out the imperative for children’s work – that children represent the greatest opportunity for evangelism:

  • moral and spiritual foundations are set by the age of 9
  • world view is formed by 13 years
  • 66% of Christians accept Jesus before they are 18
    • over 50% before they are 13

He explained the conflicting pressures which shape children’s worldview; the things we’re battling against as we seek to define their worldviews with Christ’s values:

  • media: TV (celebrity), age-inappropriate video games
  • family status: divorce & separation
  • drugs
  • peer pressure
  • internet: pornography

Theological reflections:

  • Deuteronomy 6:5-7 – ‘Impress [the commandments] on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up’
    • the importance of relationships in our work
    • parents share the responsibility to teach their children about the Lord
  • Joel 2:16 – ‘Make sure that everyone is fit to worship me. Bring adults, children, babies…’
    • everyone is to be included in the act of worship
  • Psalm 8:2 – ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’
    • the innocent but heart-felt praise offered by children is powerful & valued by God
  • Psalm 78:4 – ‘tell the next generation of God’s power and the wonders He’s done’ [paraphrase]
    • it’s important for us to share our experiences together (young & old)
    • drawing young people into worship
  • Mark 10:13-16 – ‘Let the children come to me! Don’t try to stop them.’
    • children are not to be excluded from the Lord’s presence – not even by those who ‘know better’
  • Matthew 18:6 – ‘Doom to the world for giving these God-believing children a hard time!’ [Msg]
    • we are to encourage children in their relationship with the Lord, not hinder them

Headline points:

  • follow Jesus’ example
  • teach children well
  • build friendships & relationships
  • must encourage questions
    • never shut down a child who is engaging with faith
    • encourage an atmosphere of questioning
    • genuine inclusion vs tokenism:
      • ‘children will feel included not because they have been told they’re included, but because they have experienced it for themselves’

There were few practical nuggets of wisdom shared verbally about how to engage children and young people well, but many were modelled by Doug throughout the session (and the evening event):

  • simple language
    • even though his target audience for the seminar had an average age of 40+
    • genuine enthusiasm in delivery
      • don’t fake it – with children you might get away with it, but young people will spot it a mile off!
      • energy in ‘performance’
        • moving around, rarely standing still
        • short bursts
          • no one segment was more than 10 minutes before moving to the next
          • style & approach of segments contrasted

Next I’ll outline the outcome of our meeting to start making the practical changes needed, then let you know how it’s been going. Thanks for sticking with it – I hope you’re finding it helpful.