Today’s guest post is by Kris Fernhout, a Fuller DMin graduate and a Student Ministry Pastor at Christ Community Church's Olathe Campus near Kansas City. Christ Community was part of the 2011 Sticky Faith Cohort. This post is a follow up from this one in June.
It’s been a long hot summer in Kansas City…I started raking leaves off my lawn in mid-July. But it’s also been a fun summer of experimentation with Sticky Faith as we try to incorporate intergenerational ministry into everything we do.
This year we took advantage of the unique rhythm of summer and tried a few new things with some pretty interesting results.
In an attempt to make intergenerational ministry a part of our culture and DNA we told our congregation that during the summer we were only offering children’s ministry during our first worship service (student ministry meets then also). We strongly encouraged parents and adults to serve in a ministry that first hour and to worship as families during the second hour. To be more inclusive with our children and students, we also handed out a worksheet for kids that had fill-in-the-blanks from the sermon and other activities that were connected to the preaching theme (if kids completed the worksheet and showed the teaching pastor after the service they got some candy…yeah, it’s bribery, we know, cut us some slack). The teaching pastor each week also worked hard to speak directly to kids and teenagers throughout the service, addressing them specifically and applying the teaching to their lives.
Here’s what we learned from our experiment:
1. Candy is a powerful motivator. Kids did the sheet. Kids connected (albeit probably superficially) with the pastor. On more than one occasion when the teaching pastor asked a rhetorical question during his sermon a child or early-adolescent answered the question out loud (much to everyone’s amusement).
2. This experiment created some lopsided attendance. Our second service was often packed while first service was much emptier. This factor has also made it challenging to recruit volunteers during our second service when many of our families are attending the service together.
3. More kids in the service also made it noisier and disruptive at times. We learned that we needed to work hard to make the sung worship inclusive by adding a song or two that kids recognize and feel is theirs.
4. Lastly, we learned that no matter how hard you try some people (even families with children) won’t buy in. We did have at least 2 families this summer tell us they are looking for another church because they did not like our experiment.
Overall we count our experiment a huge success. The success came with a lot of hard work and preparation though. Our campus leadership and campus pastor were totally behind it and were the primary spokespeople when we announced the experiment. We also told good stories. Twice this summer we had families up front for short interviews talking about their successes, failures and thoughts on worshiping as a family (the parents of one family even outlined the 5:1 ratio for our whole congregation, unprompted. We did give each family with a rising 5th grader a copy of Sticky Faith).
Every week kids were spoken to directly by the teaching pastor (harder to do than it sounds when prepping your sermon) and regularly throughout the summer were thanked for being there and were told they are a valuable and necessary part of our congregation.
This fall we’re back to offering children’s ministry during both services. But it’s only a temporary return to “normal”. In January we’re starting a yearlong series walking everyone—children, students, and families—through the Bible in a year. The plan is to make our experiment permanent.
How have you experimented with intergenerational worship in your context? What have you learned?