The 1980s sitcom “Cheers,” set in a Boston bar, probably isn’t the first place you’d look for a model of how the church should be. But when it comes to community, Cheers has some good things going for it.

At Cheers, everybody—no matter how neurotic, addicted, immature, or goofy—is welcomed, accepted, and known by name. When house painter and resident wisecracker Norm Peterson enters the bar, everyone shouts, “NORM!” (Propriety aside, wouldn’t you feel great if everybody shouted out your name when you walked into church on Sunday morning?)

Norm and his buddies are a family in every sense of the word but genetically. But what does it take for a church to develop a strong sense of family? According to many church leaders, the key lies in two words: intergenerational ministry.

WE: All Together Now

Faith Alive, the publishing ministry of the CRC, has launched a new venture designed to help churches become places where people of all ages know each other, learn together, and learn from each other.

A new group of products called “WE” provides intergenerational events where preschoolers to senior citizens share a meal, experience part of God’s story, and respond to it together.

Ruth Vander Hart, Faith Alive’s managing editor and curriculum editor, says, “WE gives church members a space to meet new people, form bonds across generational lines, and build community in a way that can be hard to come by in other church events.”

WE events usually run about two hours. When people arrive, they’re seated randomly at tables of six to eight (little kids are welcome to stay with parents or go to another table). The event host welcomes everyone and invites them to use some fun conversation starters to get to know each other as they eat a meal together.

After the meal, volunteers perform a skit or readers’ theater or some other dramatic presentation of part of God’s Word. At their tables, groups respond to the story by doing various activities together. They might make part of a banner together, do a service project, create a “blessing bowl” out of clay, or learn about the meaning behind the furnishings of the tabernacle.

Finally, the table groups share what they learned with the large group, everyone sings together, and organizers hand out take-home devotions and other items to help the learning continue after the event.

Events are designed to allow people of all ages, from the church’s oldest members to its teens to its youngest kids, to actively participate.

Talbot Street CRC in London, Ontario, used WE: The Epic Story with the congregation. Member Marg Wiersma said, “The events are great because they create community. It was so nice to see the adults and the children working together! Our church is really big, so these events are great because you get to connect with people you might not meet otherwise. At one event I sat with a teenager and a five-year-old boy, and we got to know each other. Now when we see each other in the halls at church, we always say hi!”

WE Series

WE: The Epic Story (10 events)
by Bonny Mulder-Behnia and Laura Keeley

Trace the whole sweep of God’s big story, from creation to new creation, with these 10 events. We suggest planning one a month throughout the church year.

WE: Enter the Tabernacle (five events)
by Diane Geerlinks and Betty Panza

Explore the meaning of the Old Testament tabernacle and God’s desire to live with his people. In the final event, participants walk through a model of the tabernacle made from common household supplies and learn how each piece tells part of God’s story.

WE: The Unshakeable Promise (six events)
by Bonny Mulder-Behnia and Laura Keeley

Discover the meaning of “covenant” by exploring the stories of Noah, Abraham, Moses at Mount Sinai, Jesus’ birth, the Lord’s Supper, and the coming of the Holy Spirit.

WE: Expectations (one event)
by Laura Keeley

Start Advent off right with this single event. Based on the theme of Jesus as the Son of David, this event centers on the creation of a community Jesse tree. It’s also a great way to try WE if your church hasn’t used it before.

To view an introductory video and get more information about how WE can work in your church, visit WeCurriculum.org.

How to Make a Hymnal

The lifespan of a hymnal is about the same as that of a good roof—about 20 years. After two decades, both begin to show their age.

The gray Psalter Hymnal, published in 1987, is 25 years old. An entire generation of kids has grown up since it was released. In those 25 years, the world and the church—and especially the church’s music—have changed dramatically.

In 2013, Faith Alive will release a new hymnal called Lift Up Your Hearts: Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs. The introduction of a new hymnal is always somewhat historic, but this hymnal has an added dimension: it will be the first hymnal ever to serve both the Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America (see sidebar). “Our hope is that churches from other denominations will also find that its breadth and depth of song choices will meet their worship needs,” says Joyce Borger, Faith Alive’s music and worship editor and head of the editorial committee for the new hymnal.

At first glance, producing a new hymnal sounds easy: someone picks the songs, and a printer prints the book.

But the reality is much more complicated, especially when two denominations are involved. There are questions of theology and musicality to be discussed. There’s a balance to be found between old favorites and new songs, between Western tunes and songs of the global church.

The production of a hymnal takes about ten years from start to finish. Planning for the 2013 release of Lift Up Your Hearts (LUYH, or “Loo-yah,” as it’s affectionately pronounced), began in 2003 with some initial conversations and research, though the first official meetings of the editorial committee were not held until 2008.

An 80-member advisory committee from the CRC and the RCA provided a link between churches and Faith Alive. Their role was to communicate to the editorial committee which songs would best help their congregations worship God. They also provided feedback on many other questions, especially questions about word and tune choices. Though not a decision-making body, this group’s opinions and perspectives influenced the editorial committee’s decisions.

The 13-member editorial committee for LUYH includes five CRC representatives, five RCA representatives, and three staff members from Faith Alive. Their first task was to listen to the advisory committee and the churches. Based on the advisory committee’s wisdom, the editorial committee chose the songs for the hymnal, decided which tunes would accompany them, and organized them into helpful groupings.

LUYH’s editorial committee began its work with a roster of 3,000 songs under consideration. They pared those down to about 800, based on theological and musical criteria, while keeping in mind a balance of genres and content and anticipating the pastoral needs of this and future generations.

After songs are chosen for a hymnal, they’re edited, typeset, and copyedited. Permission is sought from copyright holders for the publisher to reproduce the music and lyrics. Graphic designers lay out each page. Proofreaders ferret out stray typos or other errors. Finally, the completed manuscript is sent to the printer.

LUYH is scheduled to roll off the presses in the spring of 2013. Electronic versions of the hymnal will also be available at that time.

—Sandy Swartzentruber

Why a bi-denominational hymnal?

Following an agreement formed after the closing of the Reformed Church in America’s publishing ministry, Faith Alive became the resource provider for both the CRC and the RCA. Also, the synods of the CRC and RCA have encouraged their churches to find ways in which to work collaboratively. As denominational siblings it makes sense for us to work together wherever possible.

New Titles from Faith Alive

For more information on these and other resources, visit FaithAliveResources.orgor call 1-800-333-8300.

A Place at the Table
Thea Nyhoff Leunk

This three-session video-based study helps parents and church members sort through the biblical and practical issues involved in welcoming children to the Lord’s Table.

Body + Soul
M. Craig Barnes

Experience the Heidelberg Catechism in a whole new way! Craig Barnes, theologian, pastor, and popular author, shows why the catechism is so relevant today. Great for individual reading, small group study, or an all-congregation event. Introductory video segments by Barnes (available separately on DVD) help kick off group discussion. A church kit includes a resource CD with reproducible small group discussion guide and leader's guide, worship planning guide for a six-week series of services and sermons on the Heidelberg, and an all-church event planning guide.

Deep Down Faith
Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

These thought-provoking devotional readings help teens and young adults live into the basics of the Christian faith expressed in the Reformed/Presbyterian tradition. A strong foundation for a small group study or a mentoring program.

Who, Me? Series
These new Bible studies for youth explore the lives of biblical characters and the extraordinary ways God uses ordinary people.

About the Author

Sandy Swartzentruber serves as the resource coordinator for Faith Formation Ministries and is a member of Sherman Street CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich.