My church, Trinity Lutheran Church in Pembroke Pines, Florida, is featured in this month's The Lutheran. The issue's cover story is about transforming Sunday School, and our Worship Together service is one of the features of the article.
The article discusses the successes in transforming Sunday School, and I understand that focus. I do want to stress that we didn't find the formula that's working now right away.
Our 9:45 service blends elements from Sunday School and a traditional worship service. We have a liturgy that we follow most weeks. Instead of a sermon, we have a puppet show or a reader's theatre or some sort of interactive approach--although occasionally we don't. We break into small groups where we model a Faith 5 approach to faith development that families can practice in their homes. Every other week, we have an arts/craft project of some kind. We've just celebrated the second year of this approach.
Our church had been experimenting with re-making Sunday School for almost a decade before we came up with this approach. Before I was a member, I was fascinated with the church's experiment with intergenerational Sunday School. For a season after I became a member, we had fun with skits and improv in Sunday School.
But we found that there was an initial burst of enthusiasm, only to find that a few months later, we were down to one child or two. We also found that those approaches took a lot of work in writing, preparing, and coordinating with all the volunteers. It wasn't until we combined elements of Sunday School with elements of the worship service (like Communion, which we do every Sunday) that we found success.
We currently use resources from Faith Inkubators, which makes it much easier. We have a team of lay leaders who take turns in developing the arts and crafts project and leading the service. There's less risk of burn out when we share responsibility.
Our worship service is much more laid back, while at the same time being participatory. The service has more in common with church camp services or Vacation Bible School than with the traditional service. I confess to missing some of the high church style of traditional worship: paraments that change, the hymns that remind me of my grandparents, the chanting of the Psalms. But I love, love, love the sense of really knowing my fellow worshippers that our 9:45 service fosters.
And because we're a small worship group, we're very welcoming to visitors. I worried it might be overwhelming, but people seem to jump right in. We do make a point of telling visitors that they have more traditional options with our early service and our 11:00 a.m. service. But often visitors come back to our service.
It wouldn't work for everyone in every setting. And church history tells us that our approach won't always work for our church. But I'm happy that it's working now.
pause for silent prayer
6 months ago