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Worshipping together

The following ten tips are not about clever ways to deliver the Bible story, or creative ways to lead the prayers. These, of course, have their place but there are lots of ideas for both elsewhere on this website and in our many publications. Instead, this article looks at the basics for good all-age worship and then gives an example from the book of Nehemiah of all-age worship in action. Each of the questions below focuses on a key aspect of such services and although there is no way anyone could meet all the targets each time, it will hopefully act as a checklist to guard against all-age worship becoming either too childish or too wordy, both of which are legitimate concerns.

For further ideas and much more in-depth discussion on this whole area, we recommend All-Age Worship by Lucy Moore of our BRF Messy Church team and Creative Ideas for All-Age Church by Karen Bulley.

1. Have we included elements that appeal to people with different learning styles?

Visual, audio, kinaesthetic, discussion-based and reading-based learners

2. Have we included elements that ensure we are worshipping with our whole selves?

Sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, cognition, emotion, imagination

3. Have we included elements that provide for a variety of responses to God?

Loud, quiet, silent

4. Have we included elements that will help all of us along our discipleship path, whatever our stage of faith?

5. Have we included celebrations and explorations of the different ways God acts?

6. Is there a balance of content?

7. Is the Bible story theme picked up in the prayers and the songs?

Short bite-sized chunks work best, including the talk. This isn't dumbing down but spreading the teaching and learning throughout the service.

8. Are transitions clear and well signposted?

Most of us feel more comfortable and able to participate when we know where we are going and what is coming next.

9. Are you being invitational as you lead and giving opportunities for responses at a variety of levels?

10. Is the welcome strong and inclusive? Is the conclusion clear and a true blessing?

Beginnings and endings are so important. Done well they can make people feel at home and safe, and then inspired and strengthened to go out and begin the true worship of the week ahead.

Example of all-age worship in action... from the book of Nehemiah

On the first day of the seventh month, the people came together in the open area in front of the Water Gate. Then they asked Ezra, who was a teacher of the Law of Moses, to read to them from this Law that the Lord had given his people. Ezra the priest came with the Law and stood before the crowd of men, women, and the children who were old enough to understand. From early morning till midday, he read the Law of Moses to them, and they listened carefully...

Ezra was up on the high platform, where he could be seen by everyone, and when he opened the book, they all stood up. Ezra praised the great Lord God, and the people shouted, 'Amen! Amen!' Then they bowed with their faces to the ground and worshiped the Lord. After this, the Levites Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah went among the people, explaining the meaning of what Ezra had read.

The people started crying when God's Law was read to them. Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher, and the Levites who had been teaching the people all said, 'This is a special day for the Lord your God. So don't be sad and don't cry!' Nehemiah told the people, 'Enjoy your good food and wine and share some with those who didn't have anything to bring. Don't be sad! This is a special day for the Lord, and he will make you happy and strong.'

... On the second day of the seventh month, the leaders of all the family groups came together with the priests and the Levites, so Ezra could teach them the Law that the Lord had given to Moses. They learnt from the Law that the people of Israel were to live in shelters when they celebrated the festival in the seventh month of the year. They also learnt that they were to go into the woods and gather branches of leafy trees such as olives, myrtles, and palms for making these shelters. So the people gathered branches and made shelters on the flat roofs of their houses, in their yards, in the courtyard of the temple, and in the open areas around the Water Gate and Ephraim Gate. Everyone who had returned from Babylonia built shelters. They lived in them and joyfully celebrated the Festival of Shelters for the first time since the days of Joshua son of Nun.

Nehemiah 8:1-17 (CEV)

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