Enter, Rejoice, and Come In

Dear Friends,

Recently at a Religious Education conference, I was asked to share the basic structure of our RE program here at UUS:E. I described the format we follow—classroom sessions twice a month, a social action project once a month, and a multigenerational worship service once a month. While such a format is certainly not unique to our congregation, it’s true that most UU congregations do not currently offer multigenerational worship monthly. However, more frequent multigenerational worship is indeed something that many congregations are working toward. In fact, increasing opportunities for folks of all age to not only worship, but also play, pray, eat, work, and talk together has become a common goal of UU churches everywhere.

Planning multigenerational programming can be challenging. This is especially true of multigenerational worship services. Creating a worship service that is meaningful and engaging to people of all ages requires careful preparation and intentional inclusion of many different components, including incorporating multiple learning styles, considering attention span, allowing opportunities for movement and interaction while also keeping in mind those with limited mobility, and so forth. One of the most important components of a quality multigenerational service is offering elements with multiple levels of meaning on a theme, like layers of an onion that can be peeled away. Some folks may be able to get at the very heart of the message, while others may only scratch the surface, but everyone gets something from it.

Reverend Josh and I often collaborate on the creation of multigenerational services, and this year members of the Sunday Services Committee have begun to work with us, as well. No doubt about it, planning such services requires a significant amount of time and energy for all involved. So why do it? What’s the big deal about multigenerational services anyway? The answer is easy—we do it because it’s important. We do it because it matters. We do it because we believe that it is essential to the spiritual growth and development, not just of our children, but all of us.*Multigenerational worship benefits everyone.

When we include children in worship we all get to practice being more patient and more generous with one another. Multigenerational worship makes us stronger. When we all worship together we establish and strengthen relationships across generations. It also makes us more welcoming. When we welcome kids into worship, we demonstrate how welcome everyone is. Multigenerational worship is how our children learn our liturgy. It’s how they learn our rituals, hymns, and responsive readings. It’s where they learn the value of hearing one another’s stories and the gift of holding one another in times of sorrow and celebrating in times of joy. Multigenerational worship lets children know that they are important members of our community right now – not just at some point in the future when they grow up.

Sure, multigenerational worship planning is time intensive, but it’s worth it. Reverend Josh and I, along with the RE Committee and the Sunday Services Committee all agree that it’s worth the extra time and effort. It’s also exciting to know that we are not alone in our work toward expanding multigenerational ministry. This summer I will attend a week-long workshop on multigenerational ministry and faith formation, and I look forward to sharing ideas with colleagues and learning from those who are on the cutting edge of thought and research on this very topic.
If you have ideas for multigenerational worship services or programming, I would love to hear from you.
Gina Campellone, Director of Religious Education

With much love and gratitude,

Gina

*Thalia Kehoe Rowden explores the many benefits of multigenerational worship in her article “Twelve Reasons to Welcome Kids in Church + Tips for Actually Doing It”, from which I shared just a few examples. The article in its entirety can be read here: http://sacraparental.com/2016/06/11/12-reasons-welcome-kids-church-tips-actually/