the baby and the bathwater


together
October 13, 2007, 2:06 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

together: into or in one gathering; in union; into or in relationship; into or in a condition of unity; at the same time; simultaneously; in cooperation; with united action; conjointly; with mutual action

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another (Hebrews 10:25)

Together, together, together everyone. Together, together, come on lets have some fun. Together, we’re there for each other every time. Together together come on lets do this right. Everyone is special in their own way. We make each other strong. We’re not the same. We’re different in a good way. Together’s where we belong. (High School Musical 2006)

It seems that even in the earliest years of the church, people sometimes gave up on coming together to worship, and needed encouraging, needed reminding of the huge gift that gathered worship is to the church. And we are no different today. The pressures maybe different, the culture is almost certainly very different. But the fact remains that, as ever, the desire to come together to worship in church today is sometimes under threat. Not so much due to political pressure, or persecution (though this may come one day), but through something far, far more dangerous and potentially terminal: a misguided theology.

There are some elements of the church that are currently, ever so subtly, backing off from attaching the highest of priority to meeting together for worship. It’s wrapped up in some ever so appealing language promoting community or mission, but it’s inference is worrying. It can give the impression that joining together and singing is not really so important after all. And this makes me sad. Because when a church comes together, a church that is made up of a diverse range of people from a wide range of backgrounds and a huge variety of personal circumstances – when that church comes together and joins with one voice in singing songs to God, they are making one of the most important, counter cultural statements imaginable. In a society that is increasingly individualistic and consumeristic, that statement is ‘we are better off together’.

I understand why some are devaluing worship in the life of the church. We all desire to be relevant to our culture. We all have a huge longing to see our friends, our neighbours, our work-mates come to know Jesus. And we are slightly afraid that this thing called worship may put them off. And the concept of a worship ‘service’ feels slightly, well, old-fashioned. Certainly not very post-modern. I remember some time ago when a whole load of our friends came to the morning service when one of our daughters was being dedicated. When I got up to lead worship – singing – I suddenly felt slightly exposed. I could sort of see how they would relate to the dedication, and the kidz actions, and even the prayers. But the singing? In a very real sense I felt uncomfortable at expecting my friends to do this.

I do understand those who are backing off.

I understand why they think this way.

But I don’t agree with them.

When people come together to worship, they experience the manifest presence of God, they hear the voice of God, they see Him break into impossible situations, they see people come to know Him for the very first time, and they themselves become satisfied as children of God.

Yes, I know that worship is a lifestyle. Yes I know that we need to act justly day by day. Yes I know that we need to give ourselves wholeheartedly in service. Yes I know we need to develop ways of expressing community. All these things are hugely important. But it is misguided to say that they can in any way replace gathered worship: The truth of the matter is that God still wants us to come together and sing.

It is a command.

But it’s a command that, like every command from God, has a heart of love at it’s centre. A heart of love that knows who we were created to be, and knows what we need for this life. God has designed us with a deep hunger to worship Him, encounter Him, be intimate with Him. And He has given us this gift – singing together – to help us do just that.

I passionately believe that coming together to worship as his people – yes after living a lifestyle of worship, acting justly, serving wholeheartedly, living in community – but coming together as his people to worship, to encounter Him together, is fundamental to our identity and purpose as his church.

It maybe that our gathered worship needs refreshing, making it more accessible, making it more relevant. The bathwater may need changing in this respect every now and then. But the baby will begin to die if we throw it out altogether.

Because we are stronger, better together.

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7 Comments so far
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“It maybe that our gathered worship needs refreshing…”

Please, please, please, please can we refresh the worship for children…it is soo depressing for them to have to sing 1 of 4 ‘trinity kids songs’ week in week out.

I know of so many 8 year olds and over that get ZERO from worship at Trinity.

If we are serious about refreshing then let us start with the kids.

Comment by Andy

Andy

Kidz worship at its best is as almost as different from adult worship as the teaching in the kidz slot is from an adult sermon.

However, I’m not sure that the band are the best people to ask to refresh it. Yes, to have great kidz worship you need a good band playing well chosen songs, but where it’s done well, the kids are often led into it by someone who’s not encumbered by an instrument and isn’t necessarily a “worship leader” in the usual sense, just as we don’t expect our main preachers to teach the kidz slots.

People with a gift for kidz worship can draw children into worship, give them a sense of ownership and belonging in that part of the service, explain what the worship is about and make it much more than a song with some actions that we might or might not join in with. Have you seen the teenage girls who teach the 4-7 year olds’ Dizzy Dancing class? OK, that’s dance rather than singing, but they get those kids to engage in genuine spiritual worship and it’s amazing to see how much even the smallest ones put into it and get out of it.

At Trinity we have some wonderful people with amazing gifts for leading adult worship, and some other wonderful people with amazing gifts for kidz teaching. Do we have anyone with a specific gift for leading kids into worship? If so, what more could we be using them for?

Comment by Ruth

I think that the harsh reality is that at Trinity we have decent adult focussed worship and teaching but we are woefully inadequate at both worship and teaching children (with some noteworthy exceptions).

That is not to say that there are not lots of enthusiastic, skilled and dedicated people around but as far as I can see (and this comes from years as a Church and non Church Youth Worker, as a parent of an 8 and 10 year old and through observing some sunday mornings in kids church)…

– Under 7’s worship and teaching…pretty much sorted.
– Girls into dance…pretty much sorted.
– Boys aged 7 and over…absolutely nowhere.
– Pre teens/early teens…in a bit of a mess
– Kids worship…awful.

I know that Mark recently spoke on the subject of kids work…I’m quite strongly of the opinion that we need some external support…to help us take stock and formulate a strategy. I don’t think we have the whole skill set available at Trinity…I wonder if people would be open to that type of approach.

I got to the other day of saying to my son that God isn’t like how he experiences Him through worship and teaching at Trinity…he is so much more relevant, fun and real than that. That’s a pretty damning inditemet I think…and I know there are many more parents that feel the same.

So, what is my response…well I’ve got something to give so I’m going to get involved. I hope others do also…I also hope that Trinity makes kids a high priority because if we don’t then we run the risk of writing off a generation…

Sorry if this sounds kinda extreme and desperate…I just think that the situation warrants it.

Comment by Andy

Andy

You have raised a very real issue in terms of kidz worship – and I know that many churches have the same sort of challenges. And these challenges are especially hard for the times when the whole church family worships together: with an age range of 0-90+ it’s certainly not easy to provide something that everyone loves.

The reason for writing the article is trying to address one of those challenges – not specifically with kidz worship in mind, although that is part of it – and it’s this: is it better that we all come together and worship, knowing that this may mean individual preferences sometimes have to be laid aside? My response is – absolutely ‘Yes’. It’s a challenge that any family unit has to deal with. But in my mind we ARE better together. So when I come to church and sing, not only am I hopefully blessing the heart of God, but I am also encouraging those around me who may not be feeling quite as strong in that moment as I am.

In my mind, too, you raise another hugely important issue, in that you are speaking into your children’s life on this issue. I also know that, as a father, I can’t rely on the church (even the one I love and have been part of for 13 years) to provide my children’s spiritual formation – church on Sunday is only a small (even though important part) of my children’s spiritual journey – and my personal involvement is crucial.

If I have a frustration it is this: we just don’t have enough people who are committing themselves to help in this area – and whereas, like you I see the need, like you, I can only be at one place at any time. It is so easy, especially in a church as big as Trinity, and with a large staff team, to expect everything to be provided for us on a Sunday. But the truth of the matter is that we still are totally dependent on, and committed to ‘every member ministry’. Our current request for help in kidz church has probably only one or two responses – and that is quite sad.

Andy, you know I have invited you to come and talk further to help us on this journey. I hope you accept my invitation!

As to the ‘4 trinity kidz songs’, I think I can count at least 8……!! maybe my next challenge is writing more of these songs?

Comment by Neil Bennetts

Neil…fantastically encouraging response. I look forward to coffee and chatting.

Andy

Comment by Andy

“… with an age range of 0-90+ it’s certainly not easy to provide something that everyone loves.”

Absolutely. Let us all be grateful that at Trinity we don’t have a monthly all age service where the entire service is trying to cater to the entire age range.

“… is it better that we all come together and worship, knowing that this may mean individual preferences sometimes have to be laid aside?”

I agree with you, absolutely yes. But who should be doing most of the laying aside of preferences – the adults or the children? If the kidz teaching and worship is done well, there should be enough substance to it that the adults can get something out of it too, and even if they can’t, they should be able to put up with it for a short time for the sake of the children. There is plenty of time to cater to adult needs after the children have gone out.

Yes, it would be lovely to have some new songs – I hope you enjoy writing some – but I don’t think it’s the main point. The thing that’s really struck me about what the teenage girls do with the little ones at Dizzy Dance is how much teaching they put into things that one takes for granted for adults.

It’s tempting to assume that if the songs have something worth saying to say, and music that’s conducive to the attitude that fits the words, if the band play well enough that people focus on the song and not the singers, if the worship leaders are genuinely worshipping and not just performing, and the Holy Spirit brings his presence, then people will connect with God in worship.

I don’t think that’s true of kids. (Arguably it’s more true of some adults than others, but that’s another issue.) Most of what small children sing outside of church has words that they don’t understand. As they get older and their musical tastes widen, they start to sing songs with words that they do understand but which aren’t relevant to them. How are they to know that worship is supposed to mean something unless we tell them? As parents, of course, but as church as well.

I’ve watched my 7-year-old listening to those girls in Dizzy Dancing. They explain in simple terms what worship is, and why we do it, why God delights in it, what the words of the song mean, and why we want to offer God our whole selves in worship and not just “sing songs”. And then they give the kids ribbons or something, put music on, and tell them to use the ribbons to express to God how they feel about him. Yes, part of the time the kids just mess about, but part of the time they are really giving themselves to the Lord. I hadn’t previously seen kids that age do that, and it’s been so exciting to watch.

All of that should be just as true of singing in church as it is of dance. How can we bring that into a Sunday morning service???

PS “Sounds from the Sanctuary” has been a big hit with my kids. It’s hugely increased the overlap between what they want to listen to in the car and what I want to listen to! Thanks.

Comment by Ruth

Ruth

I, too, have been very excited about the whole dance thing – and particularly the level of commitment and servantheartedness with which it is run (with only occasional input from staff!). But it’s not just dance – we have similar groups such as amplified, which has been developing a bunch of early-teen musicians – many of whom who are now starting to lead worship at the path – as well as other kidz ‘small groups’ which are also being hugely influencial for the sanctuary aged kidz.

BUT – and this is still the huge issue.

The vast majority of these groups are still being run by staff and a very few committed volunteers (who are awesome!), and so growth will always be limited until more volunteers are motivated to serve regularly.

I am hugely thankful to my worship teams, who themselves are mainly volunteers. They expect to serve for three Sundays a month – and that is for both morning services, or both evening services. And then give up a couple of other evenings a month to lead at prayer meetings, to practice, and in some cases, to train up others. Many of them have families, stressful jobs, and even serve in other areas of church life too.

I know we have a few – but how exciting would it be if we could find a whole lot more gifted Kidz church leaders who would do the same? Then we could really motor with the Sunday Kidz church. The children would surely benefit hugely through the resulting consistency of relationship, teaching and worship.

Any one else up for the challenge?

Comment by Neil Bennetts




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