I was recently speaking at a conference in the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist church, and had a little extra time on my schedule to meet up with a friend for dinner. We hadn’t seen each other in a few years, so I was really looking forward to it. We set a time and location; all I had to do was show up.
I must confess, I’m completely directionally challenged. God blessed me with several gifts, but an internal compass is not one of them.
The way I’ve gotten around this issue for the last several years is to carry a GPS (in the form of an iphone) everywhere I go. My GPS app of choice is TomTom. The main reason for that is that, prior to the iphone, I carried around a TomTom unit with me. Basically I know the software. That said, I don’t use the Apple Maps app very often.
I hadn’t updated TomTom’s maps in some time, and was headed off to meet my friend. When I got onto a toll road that was suggested by someone at the church I was speaking at, my GPS got totally freaked out. I was driving in what used to be a field or something because it was spinning around in circles and didn’t know where to tell me to go.
I went from arriving a few minutes late, to running very late. To make matters worse, with the GPS in a constant state of recalculating, had no idea when I’d arrive or if I was even going in the right direction. I called my friend and he said, “Don’t you have an iPhone 4S?” I said, “Yes, why?” He replied, “Ask Siri”.
For the uninitiated, Siri is Apple’s digital assistant application. Among other things, she’ll make appointments, find directions, read texts and dial numbers for you. In theory, it’s like having an assistant at your side at all times.
When I first got my iPhone 4S, the servers that make Siri work were so overtaxed by users experimenting, most of the time, Siri would just say to me, “I’m sorry Jason, I cannot complete that request right now. Try again later”. After a few weeks of this, I just stopped trying and I never did get into the habit of using the app. I’ve been told that things have improved significantly since that initial period.
When I asked Siri to find directions to the restaurant, she found them immediately. She mapped it all out for me, and all of a sudden I knew when I’d arrive and how I’d get there.
It occurred to me that I’ve been carrying around a powerful resource for half a year or more and hadn’t been using it at all. It was always right there in my hand. Until that moment, I’d failed to recognize what I had with me all along. Since then I’ve used Siri to schedule appointments, look up movie times, call numbers and more.
Yes… I’m an Apple fan. No… this isn’t an advertisement for iphone 4S.
I began to think about how often we do the same thing in ministry. We picture bigger better things. When more creative and engaging worship seems out of our reach, or when we believe that we don’t have the resources to make it happen, we fail to recognize that what we need may be right in our hands.
Take for instance the “Children’s Moment” or “Children’s Sermon”. This brief segment of worship is built around the “what’s in your hand” principle. The person who preps the Children’s Sermon will often make a stop at the toybox, bookshelf or maybe even a desk drawer. The next step is to build a relatable lesson around an object or story – one that the kids can grasp.
As a consultant, I can share with you one universal truth about the Children’s Moment: It is the single most engaging time in worship for children and adults alike. I’ve never seen adults strain their necks they way they do to get a better view of what the kids are seeing up close. Smiles and bright faces last from the time the Children’s moment begins until the time the kids are sent off to Sunday School.
It’s the most creative moment in many of our worship services. Why then do we finish and go back to less creative, boring “adult worship”. Why not plan the entire service like it’s the Children’s Sermon? The adults are just as engaged if not more so than the children, yet we limit our creativity to a 5 minute portion of the overall service.
I believe that the Children’s Sermon is a good model for what worship in general should look like. It relies on 5 fundamentals. They are:
1.) It’s simple – one big idea.
2.) It’s built around a metaphor – an object, idea, or story.
3.) It’s creative – it uses things you already have to communicate truth in a more compelling way.
4.) It’s designed for a specific audience – communication is intentionally designed for the target audience of children.
5.) It’s participatory – there’s almost always a back and forth conversation between the preacher and the participants.
As you design worship in the coming weeks, think about what you already have at your disposal, and how you can use what you have to capture the imagination of children and adults alike. (2556)