I’ve been tasked with reviewing the aim and focus of the ‘all-age talk’ or ‘children’s talk’ at the church where I serve as Youth Minister. We are a pretty conservative Baptist church with a fairly set form of service (affectionately known as a ‘hymn-prayer sandwich’). The Junior Church leave approximately half way through the service and head into their own groups for age-specific teaching. But before they go we have the mini-talk which is aimed at them.
For a few years there has been confusion over the title and aim of this talk. Some refer to it as the ‘children’s talk’ and argue that it should be aimed at the children (4-12 years?) with others calling it an ‘all-age talk’ which should be aimed at everyone present (0-90ish?). It was primarily this issue (the name and focus of the talk) that it is my challenge to resolve. But as I scratch the surface of the issue it feels very much like opening Pandora’s box.
Whichever understanding you have of its purpose, in reality the talk rarely hits the mark. Frequently too long, rarely engaging, sometimes indecipherable even to the most switched-on people present, regularly pitched nowhere in particular and occasionally seen as an opportunity to say something to the adult church that you’ve been wanting to say for a while but could never find the right place or time.
There is little doubt that the initial thought/aim was to make the first part of the service more interesting (you might even say bearable?) for the children & young people. I’m sure it was well intentioned – but we’re still a long way off achieving that. Our approach to involving children and young people is very tokenistic (we also ‘allow’ the young people to collect the offering). Clearly something must be done.
At present, at the very least (in my opinion) we need to:
- firmly establish the aim & focus of the slot
- provide training to volunteers on the rota
- produce guidelines & practical advice to assist volunteers in their preparations
- provide feedback to volunteers after each slot with the aim of helping them to improve (not to knock them down)
However, I think a far more radical approach is called for (gasp!). But I’ve said enough for now.
Over to you…
Do you have any thoughts/comments/wisdom to share? Please take a minute or two to describe how you engage children & young people in your services, and if you have any nuggets of wisdom to share – positive (‘this works well…’) or negative (‘here’s how not to do it!’).