Why We Worship Together
Did you notice the dozen or more children and youth in worship on the first Sunday of advent? I was sitting on the floor with them and almost forgot they were there, they were so quiet. Many youth and children stayed up front after the Advent wreath lighting. We had two activities that related to worship and kept everyone engaged: a giant coloring poster (the first of 5!) and a clothespin prophet craft. By the end of worship, they had created enough prophets to pass out to the congregation! These can be added to home nativity sets as part of the Week 1 Advent Devotional.
Even though their hands were busy, they were definitely paying attention. When Pastor Melissa asked, “who has read Harry Potter?”, all the youth raised their hands. The younger children looked up with faces that said, “I’ve heard of that book!” The space at the front of church has become a place where children feel comfortable and participate in the worship life of the church in age appropriate ways.
Having children in worship reinforces important beliefs about who we are as individuals and as a community:
- Through intergenerational worship, children come to understand their identity as an essential part of Christian community. Because church is one of the few places that is less separated by age, they realize they don’t have to grow into their identity. In this place, there are no tests or exams or graduations. Even the youngest among us are already beloved children of God, able to worship with the community.
- Worship is transformational. For thousands of years Christians have gathered together to pray, read the Bible, receive Holy Communion, and be in community. Over time, with practice, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, these seemingly simple acts become a way of life.
- The body of Christ is diverse and beautiful. Having children and youth in worship affirms that at Northbrook United Methodist Church we mean what we say about welcoming all: Our welcome knows no boundaries of race, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, economic reality, education, faith background, family status, physical or mental ability. We welcome all into full participation in the life of our congregation.
Worshiping together, even when it seems playful or noisy or messy, is serious work. In fact, it is likely the single most important thing we do to nurture disciples. After extensive research into youth faith participation, the Fuller Institute lists this as their first insight: Involvement in all-church worship during high school is more consistently linked with mature faith in both high school and college than any other form of church participation. Read the article here.
I hope this has been helpful in explaining why things are a little different this season. I am thankful for your willingness to explore new worship opportunities in Advent. Please be in touch with feedback this Advent season.
Grace and peace,
Director of Ministries with Children and Youth