“We want our children to be part of our worship.” “We want to be with the children of the congregation on Sunday.” “We want to be a true multi-generational congregation.” “We want to integrate our young families.” And from newcomers, “Where are your children?”
From the time I interviewed with your Interim Minister Search Task Force, to multiple conversations in my first year here, including with newcomers, through last year’s transition workshops, the feedback on integrating our young people more has been strong. And so we are making a change this fall. All of our children and youth will spend the first fifteen minutes on Sunday in our weekly community worship service (“Big Church”).
We want them to experience the initial ritual elements of our service: the opening words, chalice lighting, first hymn, affirmation, and doxology. Then we will have a short Moment for All Ages: sometimes it will be a story or message, at other times perhaps a song or something yet to be imagined. Then the children and youth will leave the sanctuary for Young Church.
It’s important, though, if our young people spend fifteen minutes with us, that we make the time together meaningful. In the past, our announcement period could take up ten minutes. That’s not what we want for this precious time together. Thus, the Worship Committee, Director of Religious Education Julie Parker-Amery and I are agreed on trying a different path. We won’t be having individual verbal announcements. Instead, the person doing the announcements will point out the printed announcements. In addition, if you really want to make a personal pitch, you can occasionally do that during coffee hour or even pass out information in the vestibule after the service.
It’s extremely important to realize that at this point, we have several portals of communication in our congregational life: the Steeple Biweekly, the weekly Order of Service, the website, the congregational Facebook page. A lot of research indicates that verbal announcements are not as effective as we tend to believe they are; like all other avenues, they reach only a portion of the congregation; and that a community can benefit from being both more redundant in its communication.
This adaptation to a changing world will require cooperation on your part. There are many ways to publicize your activities. See our “How to Get the Word Out at FRS” chart to plan ahead. Most of all, it calls for our good will in understanding that we are trying to create an important experience for a community that welcomes multiple generations and families who want to spend some time together in worship.
Change can be challenging, I know, but it can also be liberating. Please lend your support and let’s give this a try.