A little quiz for you. When you think of all-age services, what comes to your mind? Is it ..
a) Excruciatingly painful?
b) Wonderful, but absolutely exhausting?
c) A token nod to the children that grown-ups ‘tolerate’ them?
d) The Sunday when all the families stay at home because there’s no children’s programme and the parents can’t face the trauma of parenting in the pew?
e) Other (please let me know!)?
I found these options in an article about all-age and found them interesting! I know from conversations with others that all-age services are one of the hardest to prepare and many feel like it satisfies no-one.
So why do we bother with them?
Through the Old Testament we read of generations of family communities worshipping together and living out their faith together – when the nation was called together they did not separate the ages. All ages heard what God had to say, what they as a nation were being called to do, etc. In the New Testament families went together to hear what Jesus said. We do not read in Acts of children being left at home when the believers gathered together. The church is God’s family and we need to meet together, all ages worshipping and learning together. Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them …’ (Matthew 19 verse 14)
At a conference I heard someone describe all-age as a family walk, everyone travelling in the same direction, at times children running ahead showing the way, at others lagging behind having to be encouraged, some people stopping a while to contemplate something they’ve seen, people chatting together sharing their experiences, others needing to be helped along the way, etc.
To me that paints a picture of how all-age services should be. How we get there is a journey too. I know we don’t always get it right! But I pray that if asked the question I started this article with again, your answer would be something like:
f) An opportunity for people of all ages, understanding, abilities, and experiences to come together to offer God their praise and worship, or
g) A time when the whole family of God can learn from each other and grow together!
Caz Gatehouse, Children’s Minister