Monday, July 9, 2012

A Report on Our New Family Service: The Benefits

You may remember that I wrote a blog post in early June about our new approach to worship which we're hoping speaks to the needs of families with children.  We know that many families can't devote an entire Sunday morning the way that families once did.  Many families have an hour, and that's it.  With that in mind, what can we pack into that hour?

Our new worship service sometimes feels like church camp, and I mean that in the best possible way.  There's a messiness, since we're not sunk into a rhythm yet.  There's an inventiveness.  It doesn't feel like regular church.

We've been using resources from Faith Inkubators.  We're using material from their Bible Songs Sunday School curriculum; we chose to start with the Psalms, which have an interesting connection to the Gospel lessons in the New Testament too.  Many of us could create the resources, like the Powerpoints, the songs, the dramas.  And yet, we all have full-time jobs, so it's good to have some ready-made resources.

I am getting this Holy Spirit nudge as I look at VBS curriculum and Sunday School curriculum.  How does one get to be on a team who does this for a living?  Could that be my new career direction?  Because let me tell you, I'd love to write curriculum and devotions and prayers for a living.  I'd love to teach others, should a seminary out there need me to join their faculty.  I'm ready for any MFA program that wants to put a spiritual writing component into their course offerings and needs someone to design it and teach it.  Here I am, Lord, send me.

But I digress.  Back to our current project.

We've done 3 weeks, so far, of our new service, and we've gotten enthusiastic response.  Our 2nd week was a VBS service worked into our new approach.  It, too, worked out well.  We've inserted some learning-by-modeling-behavior time into our new service.  We break into small groups and talk about our highs and lows of the week and how we see the Bible passage in our weekly lives.  We pray for each other.  We bless each other.  Some of that feels more comfortable, and some less so.

Let me be the first to admit that I'm not a small group discussion person.  But others have commented about how much they like that part.  Our hope is that maybe families will return to the practice on a daily basis, like at dinner time, or at least once or twice in the coming week.

We have a song as part of the package that ties into the theme, and we do the sign language that comes with the song too.  Each song, so far, has been in a different style.  We've had a meditative one, a Gospel tinged one, one that sounds like Elvis riffing on Psalm 23, and one that's pure pop.  Fun!

At some point, when we need something different, we may do a creative project here or there.  We'll see.

So far, we've had about 35-45 people at our Family service.  For a new service in the middle of summer, we're calling that a success.  We usually worship 15-25 at our traditional 8 a.m. service and 100 at our 10:45 blended service.  So, 35-45 at this new kind of service seems like a positive sign.

We first offered this kind of service as an alternative to the high mass Easter service or sunrise Easter service.  Imagine our pastor's surprise when more people attended the alternative family service than the high church Easter service.  I think it was the final sign he needed that it was time to pursue this idea more assertively than he had in the past.

Of course, our church has a history of embracing new programs and services enthusiastically, with attendance dropping off after a month or two.  It will be interesting to see what's happening through the fall.  I shall report back!

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