This fall, children will join adult worshippers for the entire service and Sunday school sessions will be put on hold. Understanding that we learn through hearing and doing, the church has established an activity zone in the sanctuary for those who need to keep their hands busy as they listen and learn.
Wendy Abel, moderator of the congregation, said the concept promotes the importance of cross+generational relationships.
“In my personal experience, and in my time as moderator at MUCC, the value of relationships is what drives many decisions. Having the entire family in worship communicates to the children: you are important, we want you to learn what we are learning, we love you, we can teach you and you can teach us.” - Wendy Abel, moderator of the congregation
"When worship builds mental and spiritual connections that can be discussed again at home, it becomes more than a one hour event,” she said. “Meaningful worship can provide education; and meaningful educational experiences can be worshipful. We really want to equip families to grow in faith together."
"However you define your family - single person, single parent, step- or grand-parent, empty nester, couple with no children, chosen family - you are included in whole-family worship," she added. “Some of the experiments in worship this fall will intentionally build cross-generational connections that branch beyond family units.”
Vice-moderator Jim Hartman said the decision was reached after analyzing if Sunday school classes were actually serving their purpose in teaching the Word of God and Jesus to the congregation's children and adolescents.
“In the past ten years, our pre-confirmation youth (age 5-11) have met both for education time before and during worship,” he said. “Each time slot presents different challenges involving curriculum, attendance from week-to-week and teachers missing worship. We were wondering how the children have benefited from the program.” Hartman added that the success of Messy Church, a monthly family event that combines creative arts with scripture, was influential in helping the Servant Leadership Team (SaLT) reach consensus on the elimination of Sunday School.
Abel said the transition away from Sunday school will mean positive changes for younger and older
church attendees. “The sanctuary will feel different,” she said. “The worship experience is felt musically and prayerfully through the spoken word, through art both observed and created, and we are certainly known to be playful from time to time. The sanctuary space is going to evolve to allow better ability to move around the worship stations.
Worship/prayer stations are great tools to write a thought or two, draw a picture, or write a note to someone who may be feeling alone. Making these more accessible is a way to enhance the worship experience.
Mel Thompson, who also taught Sunday School and is currently active in the church’s youth ministry, also believes this is an exciting direction. She talked about her daughter Cora’s experiences at the Easter season prayer stations.
“She kept herself busy decorating a cross with flowers throughout a very full worship service,” Mel said. “She now uses the cross as a bookmark. She'll pull it out sometimes and say, ‘Mom, do you remember the time we made this at church?’"
‘Mom, do you remember the time we made this at church?’
“At baptism, promises are made to teach our children together. There have been many times when
children have taught things to others,” he said. “In the beginning, simply sharing the space and experiencing the environment with opportunities to sit in a special place and have parallel time will potentially lead to sitting, singing and praying with families, friends and other adults. This will evolve as we learn and experience this exciting education style together. It is an exciting time to be at McFarland
UCC and watch how this unfolds.”
How you can support this ministry:
- We are looking for adults and teens to serve as worship hosts in the activity zone. If you enjoy children and are willing to help them engage in quiet exploration during worship, email email@example.com
- If you think your younger child would benefit from a short “welcome to worship” workshop, email firstname.lastname@example.org to indicate your interest.
- Curious about how we'll be adding more whole-family opportunities for learning? Watch for an article in next month's newsletter about upcoming Faith Milestone events.