Summer at Eliot Church is the season when I make the congregation try new things! This is our third year of moving worship from our fancy-pants sanctuary to our rather rustic hall. It’s a beat up old space but it allows us to use tables and chairs instead of pews – allowing for more personal connections and conversations. This year I wanted to do something intentionally intergenerational.
I turned to Illustrated Children’s Ministry, run by my friend Adam Cleaveland, and purchased the “Illustrated Invitation” curriculum. The curriculum is not designed to be a worship liturgy, and it’s more oriented to children than adults, but I found it easy to adapt.
We average about 90 people in summer worship ranging in age from 2 to 82. We sat around tables with about 8 people per table. At the start of the service I let everyone sit where they wanted and had all chairs facing forward. Colored dots on each bulletin matched construction paper centerpieces. After the passing of the peace, I instructed people to sit at a table the matched the dot on their bulletin. This randomized people and generally resulted in mixed-age tables. Once discussion started, they could turn their chairs around. Bulletins included the coloring page from the curriculum on the back cover. Each table was set with 5 hymnals, a set of story cards (from the curriculum), discussion questions, colored pencils, and crayons.
The basic shape of our service went like this:
- Opening sequence including music, a call to worship, and opening prayer. I adapted the prayer included in each lesson of the curriculum for the opening prayer, and I chose a complimentary Psalm for the call to worship.
- Litany of Confession and Forgiveness and passing the peace according to our usual pattern.
- A conversation starter taken from the Gathering activities suggested in the curriculum. I had to adapt these for our setting, but the changes were minimal.
- Scripture reading three ways: from the Bible, using the script provided in the curriculum, and with the story cards provided in the curriculum. I put one pack of story cards on each table. After the first two readings, the table who could put the cards in order fastest got to come forward and show the congregation. The kids loved this and raced to be first.
- Discussion questions based on the Imagining Together section of the curriculum. I printed these (along with the Scripture reading) on a sheet for each table. We spend 10-12 minutes in discussion with our table groups. These conversations replaced traditional preaching. Worship leaders signaled the end of discussion time by singing a short memorized song. During the song, someone passed out bags with supplies for the next activity.
- Activity based on the Joining God At Work section of the curriculum. This probably took the most adaptation but still stuck close to the curriculum. Each activity was done in small groups by table.
- Closing of worship including offering, prayers of the people, a closing hymn, and benediction.
We had 6 weeks of downstairs summer worship, so I chose 6 of the lessons from the 12-week curriculum based on what Bible stories seemed most relevant (or hadn’t recently been covered in worship) and which activities I thought could be easily adapted for my setting. We used: Module 1 Weeks 1 and 4; Module 2 Weeks 1 and 2; Module 3 Weeks 2 and 4.