Liturgical = relating to public worship. Agility = ability to move quickly and easily.
The updated edition of Bishop Robert Schnase’s Five Practices of a Fruitful Congregation has been the book in two summer book clubs I’m part of. An in-person, brown bag, small group at my church on Tuesdays at noon following lead staff meeting (for the purposes of shared vocabulary), and an online small group through Zoom on Wednesday mornings at 8-9am (for the purposes of what this shared vocabulary looks like in other local churches). We discuss a chapter each week.
Last week was a discussion on the chapter entitled “Passionate Worship”. Coming from a kidmin perspective, I have no seat at the big church table. But when I read it from a kidmin perspective, I do sit in the seat to help ‘bridge the divide’ from The Treehouse (basement) or Food Truck Church (parking lot) to the Sanctuary (big church) for my families’ so that….
- New families can find places and spaces of familiarity to decrease their anxiety level for entering a new space with its own rituals, and
- Current families can explore multiple worship practices with their littles.
“Thank God for his (John Wesley) spiritual maturity and liturgical agility! Our rich Christian heritage of worship comes to us through many convolutions of style and practice. Outdoor camp meetings, frontier revivals, high-church liturgies, African American spirituals – these are but a few of many streams of practice that flow through our history.” Robert Schnase, Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, pg 60
My first step was to watch a month or two’s services of my church’s ‘big church’ to find the pieces of ‘regularness’ in every single service. I took really good notes as if I was a first-timer each week. I compiled a list of those regular elements.
The second step was to evaluate the elements to determine one or two to intentionally teach at some other place and space in a participatory, developmentally appropriate way.
Worship experiences and practices are typically not taught, but caught. With the average attendance of faithful church attenders in my area of the state being 1 out of 5 Sundays which include Easter Sunday and Christmas Eve, we’re unreasonably expecting little people and new big people to ‘catch’ our rituals of weekly worship less often than twelve days out of 365.
One place we teach these regular elements is through Faith Milestones. Each year our children’s ministry offers developmentally appropriate faith milestone events at 45 minutes for a little with a big person who loves them specific to…
(1) Bread & Juice Class – Holy Communion served in various ways and how we typically offer it at our church, ex: intinction, an open table and the logistics of before and after the actual practice. K5-1st graders
(2) I Can Pray – Offering prayer stations for individual/family prayer as well as what corporate prayer looks like in Big Church, ex: The Lord’s Prayer, journaling, glory prayers. 1st & 2nd graders
(3) I Love My Church – Spaces and places of worship on campus and the stories behind them, ex: Choir loft, who wears a robe and why, and vocabulary such as the difference between a pew and a bench. 2nd & 3rd graders
(4) I Can Serve – Acolyte training and Ambassador Training, ex: timing, dress, lighters, hospitality. 3rd-5th graders
(5) I Can Worship With My Family – the opportunity to learn ‘on the job’ about two or three elements of regular worship, ex: Signing the Apostles’ Creed and Gloria Patri; speaking into microphones, and other opportunities for physical participation like passing offering plates, instrumentalists, holding signs for the word-of-the-day, active visual elements, small-group/family prayers, processing in and out. K5-5th graders
Worship experiences and practices are typically not taught, but caught. I think that is why there are such deep, emotional attachments to how worship is presented and why most American worshippers think only the music is the worship part. American worship experiences today range from Vacation Bible School large group to Camp Meetings, from amateur musicians who passionately love the Lord to professionals in lighting and musicianship, from spaces of well polished wood furniture to a parking lot filled with cheeseballs.
“Multiplying the opportunities for worship is about allowing God to use us and our congregations to offer a more abundant life for all.” (pg 70)
Several years ago I was invited to participate in a week-long planning and teaching for interactive and innovative worship. I participated alongside the worship leader and senior pastor of the local church I was serving. The week-long event was led by Dr. Marcia McFee and Chuck Bell. My greatest takeaway from the whole week was to set the table for participation for and by all God’s people…which means planning far in advance and collaborating with the Christian educators who are trained in developmental practices with the new attender in mind. Bishop Schnase calls it liturgical agility.
I also regularly glean from the teachings of the fabulous worship artist Mark Burrows who I hear in my head say, “What’s good for kids is good for everybody,” when it comes to setting the table for participatory worship.
There are many of us in conversation about innovatively setting the table for worship with littles in children’s ministry, large group worship, as well as family worship. We’re going to get together to share ideas and experiences at a Children’s Worship Think Tank on Thursday, July 21st hosted by Alpharetta First UMC in Alpharetta, Georgia, 10am-12noon, sponsored by the North Georgia Conference Children’s Ministry Network. If you want to be inspired and can get there, you are invited to a seat at the table because we’re better together.
” Praise the Lord. Sing to the Lord a new song, His praise in the assembly of His faithful people.” Psalm 149:1