“You are not the future of the church; you are the church right now!”
These are words that I was privileged to preach recently in regard to our teen and young worshipers. So often young worshipers are told (explicitly or implicitly) that their time to contribute to church lies far in the future. At our church, we do our best to counter such thinking. We believe in the importance of all generations forming the church at the present and that we are better for it.
We do our best not to simply say we are intentional with all ages participating in worship. We put intentionality into practice by having a variety of worshipers read Scripture each week prior to the sermon and having worshipers of all ages help serve Communion every week. We also make space for young worshipers to come to the altar during the pastoral prayer to lift up requests and praises.
Last year my co-pastor and I determined it would be wise to seek out a council of people to help us inform and shape what it means for us to gather in worship. We intentionally invited worshipers of all ages to participate because they are an accurate representation of all who gather for worship. There were wonderful questions and comments from all ages, and we were better for the inclusion of our young worshipers.
One of the thoughts that came from our worship council was that we needed to be more intentional about how our youngest worshipers leave the sanctuary to continue in worship. They begin in the sanctuary and are dismissed to continue in children’s worship halfway through the service. We determined it would be significant to pray a prayer of blessing over our young worshipers as they leave. So every Sunday we invite parents and guardians to place a hand on their young worshipers, and we say the following together as a congregation: May these precious ones learn to love all that is true, grow in wisdom and strength, and, by your grace, come to know you as Lord and Savior. Amen.
This prayer has been a particular blessing in my life because, many Sundays, I get to lead it from the front of the sanctuary while holding my oldest daughter (two years old), who then joyfully bounds up the aisle to continue in worship with other young worshipers. It is a joyous moment. It is beautiful chaos, and I would be worried if we didn’t have young worshipers giggling and joyfully bounding up the aisles to continue in worship.
When my co-pastor and I were installed just over a year ago, we knew it would be important for us to be present in children’s worship from time to time. We took turns one month at a time preaching to, leading worship for, and engaging with our youngest worshipers. Our desire was to be intentional in building relationship. We have also taken time to help lead teen Sunday school on occasion.
We truly believe in the importance of all generations as the church of the present and not segmenting generations into the church of the past, present, and future. We are better when we learn from one another and function as one big family. We don’t always get it right, and we are always willing to learn. We just want to be found faithful as we minister to worshipers of all ages in intentional ways.
So remember, you are all the church of right now!
May we gather together for worship to be shaped and identified with Christ. May we be sent to serve and share Christ’s love with the world. We can only do so faithfully when we intentionally include all worshipers in the gathering and sending.