What sorts of worship practices clearly proclaim that all ages are welcome as the community gathers for worship?
The fourth grade Sunday school class at Meadowlands Christian Reformed Church in Ancaster, Ont., came up with an unusual answer to this question while planning their Sunday school graduation service.
“We loved the banners that our church makes for worship,” explained graduate Hannah Whetstone, “and we came up with the idea of having everyone in the church place a painted handprint on long sheets of paper as they were filing up to the communion stations. Our Sunday school teachers really encouraged us to plan our graduation in a way that showed how we all belong together as a church.”
The next Sunday those long sheets were hanging at the front of the sanctuary with several hundred handprints of all sizes on display as a liturgical symbol of all ages worshiping together. “We thought it was really cool that everybody was able to find their own handprint on the banners,” concluded Hannah.
These banners were just the latest in a series of actions that the church has taken to show that intergenerational worship is of high value to them.
Last year, for example, Pastor Everett VanderHorst preached a series on the Old Testament. The congregation was invited to sign up to produce artwork for each Sunday. During the series, the artwork was placed next to the pulpit and featured on the bulletin cover and on PowerPoint slides. One week the artist was a graphic designer; the next, an 8-year-old. After the series, all 30 works were displayed “art gallery style” throughout the building.
Similarly, the worship team of Meadowlands Fellowship is made up of eight people, four of whom are teenagers who have gradually been apprenticed towards musical excellence. Worship leader Marja Fledderus actively recruits middle school students and is intentional about youth leadership development. She conducts rehearsals shaped by patient, sturdy mentoring combined with playful interactions so that younger members grow.
Faith storytelling is also incorporated into worship and congregational life in a variety of ways; the congregation recognizes that one of the deepest ways to honor bridges across generations is to provide glimpses of how the Lord is working in people’s lives.
Many churches would like to follow Meadowland Fellowship’s example and strengthen their intergenerational worship and outreach. Faith Formation Ministries is eager to help. A variety of resources are available online at crcna.org/FaithFormation. This includes online toolkits focused on Faith Storytelling, The Building Blocks of Faith, Welcoming Children to the Table and Children’s Ministry.