Five "traps" to avoid when planning intergenerational worship.
Daron has a soapbox moment - Are we as a church prepared to bite the bullet when it comes to keeping our children? Or is it a case that for many of us, this is a bitter pill to swallow? All the research is in and the evidence is clear that one of the most crucial factors in keeping our kids and shaping their lifelong faith is making sure that they are involved in and are experiencing intergenerational worship. Often when it comes to our church worship hour we fall into a number of traps. 1. The trap of "Worship Wars" - This is where we as adults think that unless we sing hymns a certain way or unless we have a certain order of service, unless the pulpit is in a certain position or unless the order of service is a certain format then it is not true worship. Adults often have all the power and all the positions. When a child appears on stage it is often for the cuteness factor. So we fight over what worship looks like and try to claim that we have the "heavenly script" of how it should be. - Whilst the elders straight-jacket the worship service, your children walk out the back door. 2. The trap of "Consuming Worship" - This is where we like to sit in the pew and consume worship. If we are not careful and do not fully understand what worship is, we can approach the act of worship just as we approach buying any other product. It has to meet our needs or else it was just not good enough and so we critique the preacher, music selection, etc, without ever entering into the true meaning of worship - Whilst we continue to consume worship much like going to a concert or a sporting event and never truly entering into the game - our children see plastic worship and plastic Christianity and walk out the back door. 3. The trap of "Silo Worship" - This is where the church in its quest to meet the felt needs often under the guise of "strategic evangelism", organises children’s church, youth church, seniors church, teen church, boomers church, seeker church and the list goes on. The congregation is divided up into categories with top speakers, specialised music and drama to cater to the needs of the group. This allows the adults to get on with the "important message of the day" undistracted. The problem is that when our youth and children graduate from their events and ministry they also graduate from the church and walk out the back door. 4. The trap of "Polished worship" - This is where a select few are given "their ordained ministry" to lead in the various aspects of worship. Worship has to be the best, it has to be perfect and it has to be a certain way all the time. The same people do the music week in and week out. The same people do the preaching (Its my pulpit!). The same people do the various components that make up the worship service because it is 'my' ministry. Often the children and the seniors are pushed to one side and the youth once again are entertained for a short time but then drift from the pews seeking the next big thing. 5. The trap of "One hour worship" - Sometimes we have compartmentalised our worship into one 24 hour period or even into one hour each week and that is all we do. We act churchy for a few moments but that does not permeate our homes, marriages, workplaces, schools, universities and bowling greens. Our children can spot the fake worshippers from a mile off and go elsewhere looking for authenticity and genuine acceptance. Week by week the slow bleed from our pews continues and no one seems to worry about it or even ask the obvious question of where have they all gone! I MEAN WE ARE LOSING BETWEEN 50 to 90 PERCENT OF OUR CHILDREN IN MOST CHURCHES AND MOST HAVE MADE UP THEIR MIND TO LEAVE BEFORE THEY REACH THEIR TEENAGE YEARS. The research is very clear both biblically, theoretically and practically. Children are more likely to adopt the faith and remain in the church if they have opportunities to worship in spirit and in truth alongside all of the generations that make up a church. As they rub shoulders with the different generations, as they participate in the rituals and practices that make up a worship service, their faith appears to become very sticky. This means that we as adults need to make sure that the worship service is truly a family intergenerational worship event. This might take some planning and coordination and might even mean expanding the worship team. It might even get messy and look unpolished at times. We need to always remember that Jesus places a child in the centre and says that the kingdom of heaven belongs to children. If the kingdom of heaven belongs to children then how much more should our family worship, that normally happens between 11 and 12 on a Saturday morning? When Children participate, are involved and feel welcome in Church, I have found that most adults do too. The Question is are we prepared to bite the bullet? Or is the pill too bitter to swallow? (Daron gets off his soapbox and mumbling in a frustrated way wanders on into the crowded street)