And all the families of the nations shall worship before him,
For dominion belongs to the Lord and He rules over the nations…”
-- Psalm 22:27-28
How is it possible in this age of information, when Bibles can be carried around on people’s phones, churches have websites and email, and people can watch sermons and worship services on the internet… with all these resources, how can people actually be getting less connected to God? Obviously we can make all the resources we can think of, but if people aren’t interested in using them in the first place, what good have we done?It is clear that young people think differently from their adult counterparts. Not only are they not interested in many issues that adults are concerned with, they think differently. Researchers tell us that adolescence in particular is a time when the brain is growing, learning new ways to solve problems and make decisions. But church is geared toward adult problems and decisions, and often leaves the young feeling bored or left out. If kids complain consistently, many parents decide it’s not worth dragging kids to church, and that can spell the end of that family’s involvement in church and that child’s chance to grow up knowing Christ. How can we reach out to these new families whose children are going to the new schools in our community and looking for a church where they will fit in, have fun, and learn about the Lord?
Till now our strategy at Atonement has been to offer a blended style worship service at 10am that takes traditional adult-oriented elements and mixes them with children’s moments, youth Sundays, Sunday school and an emphasis on including all ages. Knowing that 10am is still early for many families to get up, get everyone dressed and organized and make it to church (especially when Sunday might be the only day a family has to sleep in), we’ve known that the strategy isn’t perfect, but was a compromise we made to have the highest possible quality of worship with our limited resources.
The good news is, our church has reached a point where we have the ability to develop a new worship option that will enable us to provide a compelling and quality service especially designed for families with young children and youth. We’re calling this new service our “Child of God service” and we believe it will be a great help as we grow into God’s future. We are planning to add this service on Sundays during the school year at the 11:30am time slot, starting the first of the year - 2019.We are taking seriously Martin Luther’s vision that the home will become a place where God is honored and worshiped throughout the week. Jan Gerle has been developing a special story-centered approach which will be the centerpiece of the service. Each week we will focus on a different Bible story, and by the end of May we will have covered the entire length of the Bible chronologically. This pattern will repeat annually, moving from Genesis through Revelation but choosing different tales to highlight each year.
Our plan is for the service to last about 45 minutes, followed by a 15 minute period when children will go to the Sunday school room for a craft, and adults will stay in the sanctuary for a brief overview of the story. We will offer a brief Bible study, along with special prayers and activities to help heads of households teach and reinforce the story throughout the week at home.Two big changes will be taking place in the 10am service as we develop the new service. First, we will be offering samples of what this new service will be like on youth Sundays for the next 4 months (Sept-Dec) at the 10am worship time. Though we will not begin offering the 11:30 service until January, we want people to get a taste of it and will be providing that opportunity on the last Sunday of each month. Everyone at the 10am service on those four days will experience aspects of the new service format.
Second, starting this month we will begin to shorten the 10am service. This is necessary so that the new service will have plenty of room for its 11:30 start time by the end of the year. Though we will continue to have Sunday school until the end of the year, the children’s moment will no longer be part of the 10am service. Starting in January, the Child of God service will take the place of our Sunday school program.
The Child of God service will be a full Word-and-Sacrament service. Communion will be offered every Sunday and everyone is welcome to attend. Our Lord Jesus who said “Let the children come to me,” includes people of all ages in his church and in his kingdom. The messages will be simpler and the music more family-friendly. Emphasizing the special viewpoint of children and youth, we hope to strengthen the faith life and intergenerational bonds of our member families. Also, we know people moving into our community are looking for churches where their whole family will be comfortable and well-nurtured in the faith. I am confident that this new approach will be a milestone in our growth as a congregation and as an evangelistic outreach to our neighbors. Thanks for your support of our children and of those new families the Holy Spirit will be reaching through this service.