"An intergenerational service of formation and worship is one way to bring all of the things 'we need to do' at the end of the program year into a celebration of the spiritual gifts of the whole congregation."
Celebrating the Program Year
For many churches, the program year rushes after Lent and Easter. As with the church year itself, the life of a congregation is more of a spiral than a straight line, and it builds on the work of previous seasons and year. How then to celebrate our ministry success of the year? How should we honor our devoted volunteers? How do we share the beauty of children's and youth ministry with others in our congregations when everywhere activity is speeding up, not slowing down?
An intergenerational service of formation and worship is one way to bring all of the things 'we need to do' at the end of the program year into a celebration of the spiritual gifts of the whole congregation. This is an opportunity for all ages to actively engage and share.
10 Tips for Pulling it Off
Here are some tips to get started. Of course, the main content of the worship service will depend on the needs & gifts of your community.
1. Confirm the Date
Determine with your ministry leadership the best date. Pentecost is May 2oth - does that work? You'll need to consult with your rector or pastor, as well your church administrator or communicator.
2. Make Sure You'll Have a Critical Mass
Check with your families and Sunday school teachers and other key volunteers. Does the date chosen work for all (or most) of them?
3. Create a Sermon for All Ages
Consider an interactive children’s sermon. Remember, this doesn’t mean you need two sermons. See this article for further thoughts.
4. Involve the Youth in Worship
Engage your youth to help lead worship. Ask them to participate, don't force them, and be open to helping them wherever they want to serve.
5. Consult with Regular Formation Volunteers
This can be a celebration of the ministry of all who teach and are taught. Volunteers want to share their ministry and the contributions they bring to the faith community. Invite them to be a part of the planning and worship as well.
6. Avoid Hosting a Three-Ring Circus
It is okay to not do everything. Ideas collected this year can be implemented in the future. Better to do less, and do it well.
7. Honor Teachers & Volunteer (But Maybe After Worship)
In conversation with your ministry leadership, decide where and when to honor teachers and volunteers. What are the implications of honoring them during the service versus during a later reception? Where can you streamline, and where will the impact be greatest?
Prayer for Volunteers
Everlasting God, strengthen and sustain all those who volunteer in our churches; that with patience and understanding they may love and care for your people; and grant that together they may follow Jesus Christ, offering to you their gifts and talents;
through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Adapted by Sharon Ely Pearson, from the Collect at a New Ministry, Episcopal Book of Common Prayer)
8. Simplify the Sunday Schedule
Do not have Sunday school or other formation activities this day. Use this day truly for the celebration of formation for all ages taking place both in worship and during your fellowship time.
9. Invite Others into Planning
Are there voices to add who may not currently be a youth leader or Sunday school teacher? Invite parents and guardians to join the celebration, as well as other leaders from your congregation. This helps show that Christian formation takes all of us.
10. Keep the Right Frame of Mind!
Be creative, patient, flexible and always remember it is God who is being worshipped!
Pentecost is a wonderful time to celebrate how The Holy Spirit touches our lives and how we continuously use our spiritual gifts. Celebrating this Feast as an intergenerational community and conclusion to the program year truly highlights the power of The Spirit and the work we can accomplish as a Full Body of Christ in The World.
Christopher Decatur is a seminarian at Virginia Theological Seminary and Postulant in the Diocese of Ohio. He formerly served as the Children, Youth, Young Adult and Campus Minister at Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland, OH. Chris works part-time for The Center for The Ministry of Teaching. He is the Chair of Racial Reconciliation & Justice for The Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music.