What do worship bags have to do with Sunday school? Good question! The connection between Sunday school and Sunday morning worship really struck me when I read this quote from the book Family-Based Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries (an excellent book, by the way):
“A startling study done by the United Church of Australia documented the long-term impact of dividing the church into age-specific groups. The researchers discovered that people who grew up in church attending worship and not Sunday school were much more likely to be involved in church as adults than were those young people who had attended only Sunday school without attending worship…There is no such thing as a successful youth ministry that isolates teenagers from the community of faith.”
Reading that helped me think more broadly about the way we nurture the faith of children and teens at church. There are many wonderful church programs, including Sunday school, that help children grow in faith. But we can’t forget that worshipping together with believers of all ages is the one practice that will last a lifetime. It forms us in a deep way and connects us to people from all generations. It’s really special, and it’s worth getting it right. And by getting it right I mean doing our best to help every child understand what’s happening in worship and how to participate in a meaningful way.
That’s where the worship bag idea came in. The kids at my church go downstairs for children’s worship during the sermon, but before that happens the kids spend a long time worshipping with the congregation. There are already many ways that they can participate, but many of them choose to sit, talk together, and doodle during times when the could be singing, greeting others, etc.
This week with the kids we read about Jesus as a boy at the temple, staying behind even after his family started their journey back home. We talked about our worship service and all the ways that kids can participate:
- We receive a call to worship by raising our hands in the air—the kids can do that too.
- We greet one another with hugs and ”hellos”—kids do a great job at that!
- We read a prayer of confession, often from Scripture—kids who read can look that up and join in the prayer.
- We sing, clap, and sing some more. Often our songs involve a lot of repetition. They are easy for kids to catch onto!
- We offer prayer requests—kids can raise their hand to ask for prayer requests too.
Next week we’ll introduce the worship bags with a simple checklist inside that includes many of the ideas that kids came up with for ways they can participate in worship. I’ve challenged them to check off the ones they complete each week and drop them in large glass jar on their way down to Children’s Church. The jar will read, “We Worship Together” and over the next several months I’m praying we’ll see the jar fill up as kids discover all the ways they can participate in worship with everyone else!
I'll keep you posted on how it goes!