Time to rub out the battle lines?
All-age worship: can we sometimes become entrenched in our positions, particularly with regard to children and the church? By Ed Jones
It was only meant to be a minor item on the agenda, but it was apparent, fairly swiftly however, that was not going to be the case. The idea of having flags or banners available within the times of corporate worship on a Sunday had been suggested to help ‘draw some of the children in’. It became a discussion, or rather a heated debate that provided a springboard for individuals to share their thoughts, ideas and general grievances on the wider issue of all ages worshipping together.
Recently I was asked to write article for a Christian magazine on the topic of all-age worship. The brief was not one looking for a blueprint of how to deliver such a gathering, but rather to open up some of the questions and theological issues behind one. To accompany the article the magazine asked some people for their opinions on worshipping together across the generations. They asked people who happened to be aged 13, 81, 60, 9, 7, 14, 17, 58, 76 and 44 years old. Reading their answers, I was struck afresh in seeing ‘the lines’ that are drawn within church life on a whole host of issues that people are, on the whole, standing one side or the other of.
In the New Testament, the early church described in Acts, meets together, to learn, to fellowship, to worship and to pray (Acts 2: 42). The fact that the children were sent off to work on some colouring sheets doesn’t seem to be recorded. Why, because they would have been there in the midst of it all and this was not new either.
The challenge though, is that church being something where all-ages are welcomed, accepted, valued and able to play their part is just not that that simple. Do we therefore look to someone else, somewhere else to do the ‘intergenerational-all-age-stuff’ and let them get on with it, sticking our heads in the sand, not really engaging - or work through the challenges and opportunities that are before us?
Through the Today…not tomorrow initiative, it has been great to share in conversations regarding all that ‘intergenerational church’ means and what it can/should be. Furthermore, to hear and see churches seeking to unpack what it all looks like for them in their context is so exciting.
Do we sometimes in fact, grow to like our battle lines, our standpoints, our positions – particularly with regard to children and the church? (Those holding to these lines are classically thought to be distinguished by generations or age, yet I don’t see this as always being the case) How are we willing to do our bit to turn the tide, to make a difference, to ask questions, to seek help and guidance – to rub out the battle lines that are marked within our churches?
Some thoughts to consider:
Are there notable, possibly long-standing, battle lines you need to be prepared to challenge and maybe quash?
How is everyone within the life of your church able to speak into what God is doing?
How are you sharing what it means to be church for all-age (assuming you believe church should be for all-age) with your church?
Ed Jones is a Baptist minister based in Basildon, Essex, and is the executive director of Arise Ministries