Monday, January 28, 2008

"Worship for kids"

You may have noticed I linked to an interesting debate on worship, peppered with lots of great humour, here.

Amie commented there
"Here' a slight tangent that Lynn will enjoy. On our church worship forum somebody has brought up a point about how we make worship inclusion for children and young people, rather than making it the part of the service they just have to sit through. Thoughts anyone? "

I thought I would post some thoughts on this topic here. Thanks, Amie, for bringing it up.

How do we make worship inclusive for kids?
Errr, I was tempted to simply say: don't use patronising kids' songs but it's a bit wider than that and strikes right at the very heart of how your fellowship sees children.

In the mould of Stuart Murray Williams in the last post, I have written my own list of questions which could be helpful to a leadership team or to those involved in worship leading:-

1. How does your church view children? Are they seen as integral to the life of the church or as add-ons to be catered to because they come with their parents? As little people who need to "learn how to behave" in worship services (whatever that means?)

2. Why are children present in the first part of your service? Best to interpret that question exactly as it is written - is it to allow Sunday school teachers to prepare the rooms? Is it to quieten them down? Is it to allow families time in the service together? Is it for them to see worship modelled by all generations together?

3. What would you like to see children doing during the worship time - joining in I presume - but in what way? Are they to sit still? Are they allowed to move about/wave flags/play instruments/dance/shout/make noise? And when I say "worship time", I don't just mean when singing is taking place - in whatever you do before the preach/teach or before they go out to their small groups.

4. Would any conditions be put on what children are allowed to do in their time in the service? This is a vitally important question to consider. For example: if they would not be allowed to come out or their rows or pews to bop up and down then half of the resources I would recommend would be thrown out the window.

5. If a relevant question to your situation: what are children taught about worship in their homes? Do parents/grandparents talk to their children about their day and the way they have tried to worship God in all they have been doing?

6. Are different forms of worship practised in the children's small groups on Sunday mornings? Are they given the opportunity to express emotions, bounce around, clap and cheer, bow down or other words - are children being given an opportunity to learn about the ingredients of worship as laid out in Psalm 95 - (thanksgiving, adoration, awe and wonder)

7. Not the last question because it's unimportant - the opposite is true! but finally - what are your church's/leadership's view of children's faith? Please see these two posts here and here. Do you/your leadership believe that very young children can love God so much that their heart feels as if it could burst with love? That they can't get to sleep without telling him how much they love him? And in this, they demonstrate true worship. How is this reflected at a child's level in your Sunday gatherings?

I have so much I could write but I sense this is probably enough for now. I don't feel this is the appropriate time for me to launch into a full description of what I recommend or practise, suffice to say that at the very deepest level it's not about what songs we choose in our services.

I will post some theological thoughts on this another day.

I was asked to present a seminar on children and worship at an external event in the next few weeks but unfortunately that day falls on the wedding day of one of my friend's so I was unable to take the invitation up.

But I'm passionate about this topic!
Comments are most welcome - Amie (thanks again for starting this) and Hideous, what are your thoughts? Do start us off!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Children and Communion

I am often asked about this.

I believe that children should be able to take communion if they love Jesus and understand why we celebrate the memory of this meal. I encourage them to talk to their parents about this and I also teach on this to children throughout the year. Toegther as a church family we are seeking to bring children and young people into centre of the promises we make and the practices we adhere to. This is a meal to be shared amongst all who love the Lord Jesus and lots of us can describe how passionately many children love Jesus. I have spent some time this week analysing and comparing the Bible passages where Jesus challenged his listeners about the kingdom of heaven belonging to little children and re-reading again the articles in the January 2000 edition of Theology Today, given over in entirety to the study of children.(My personal hero since entering Bible college in June 2004: Judith Gundry - Volf!)

As Stuart Murray Williams puts it: what are we saying to children if they are welcome only to watch and not to partake?

He writes a helpful set of questions here for those who wish to consider their denominational or personal position to children and communion. Please note: he does not give you an answer!

I'd also recommend "When a child asks to take communion" (by Daphne Kirk) and the excellent Grove booklet on this topic.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Still God

Good debate going on at That Hideous Man - check it out.

In the last month we have been mourning the deaths of three members of our church in their 50s or very early 60s and I have attended two funerals within a week of one another.
When singing at the funerals I was reflecting on how we use some of the great "hymns of the faith" on these sad occasions - to lift our eyes up towards God, our helper at these difficult times. But there is good news in the worship tradition - those great anthems of faith are still being written today by some.

I study the words particularly carefully at funerals as often the songs chosen tell you so much about the individual, the family, their hopes and beliefs (which is why I struggle at humanist funerals - I just cannot not sing "Imagine" by John Lennon)

One of the men who died recently asked that we sing "Still God" by Godfrey Birtill. We have used this song in our church services and I find it one of the most stirring songs to sing. Not one to sing lightly! And of course I wept through most of it at his funeral - the words are so true and so very apt. The thoughts, feelings and emotions in this song used to mourn hi passing were truly his in his life.
This blog posting is in honour of those now with Jesus from our church family - you have inspired me in the race!

Where O where's your presence o God?
In this dry and weary land
So many people drifting away
How we need to understand
You're still God
Even when we're unbelieving
Still God
When we're desperate for our healing
Still God, still God
you're still God
Even when our friends desert us
Still God
Even through the things that hurt us
Still God, still God
So I will be still and know you are God

Where o where's your kingdom o God
We have let holiness go
So many idols litter our land
We've got to let this nation know
You're still God
When the government has no answers
Still God
When the media lowers the standard
Still God, still God, still God
You're still God
When the plans we make are worthless
Still God
When we lose our sense of purpose
Still God, still God
So I will be still and know you are God

When will Jesus really be seen
Through the church that bears his name?
Agents of his kingdom, his peace
In the world for which he came
You're still God
Even though you were rejected
Still God
Though you were ridiculed, deserted
Still God, still God, still God
You're still God
Though you suffered execution
Still God
You're alive and Christ our champion
Still God, still God
So I will be still and know you are God.

(Godfrey & Gill Birtill, Geraldine Latty & Tim Lomax, 2004 (c) Thankyou Music)

On the CD "God Help Us!" available from

Monday, January 14, 2008

Tax return

Help. I've got to do my tax return.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

still here

Still here. Reading other's blogs but not my own :-)
Got to have a night in tonight - watched the Da Vinci Code. It's not affected my belief in the sinless Jesus - don't worry readers I'm as fundamental as ever - in true child-like form I didn't understand most of the film. Thought the first hour was unbelievably slow.

I have only just managed to exist this week. I don't like January. I'm naming and claiming every promise of God that I can remember as the weather has been rotten, I've felt a bit sad (every January I get this), my new shoes hurt, I've lost my second USB stick and my God Rods CD, I've lots of month and no money, my kids are over-tired, my house is a mess and I'm missing yet another friend whose job has taken her onto pastures new.

Looking forward to Sunday though we pledge together as a church family to love and impact our city in any way we can. I asked the leadership team if the children could do this too standing with their families, because, well, they're part of this too and the kids I work with are ready and willing to take that on at their own level, both on their own in their sphere of influence (school/pals) and with their families at the street or household level. So I've re-written the "adult" pledge in bigger print, shorter sentences and with very slight word changes.

I've got a heavy term at college, looking at The Reformation (which I think I will actually enjoy) and my last ever children's ministry class as well as working on my placement with my current employer. Only one year to go though. I tell you - there's gonna be a party!