Are you listening now? Are you in disbelief? Are you still terrified of what might happen if you allow kids to be in worship - and I mean ALL of worship? Yes - gasp! - even the dreaded sermon?
Take a page from Tusakwilla UMC in Casselberry, FL, where their pastor has a passion for intergenerational ministry and did a little intergenerational worship experiment this Advent and Christmas season!
As my ministry intern and I were planning Advent last year we made the bold decision not to offer Children’s Church from the First Sunday of Advent through Baptism of Our Lord Sunday. Six weeks – no Children’s Church. Why? Because we felt it was important for our youngest worshippers to worship with their families and the church family as together we all heard and experienced formational Scriptures to our faith. Our God is coming. Our God is with us. Our God is love. Emmanuel.
In making the decision to not offer Children’s Church, we knew that we would need to supplement the worship experience for the children in our congregation. So, we set about gathering activities that would invite the children to engage in worship in the pews. We found the usual puzzle pages and coloring sheets, but we wanted something more. And then I had an idea that bubbled up with great excitement! “What if,” I said “we played Advent BINGO? What if we made BINGO cards incorporating words that might be used during the worship service so that the children have to stay engaged to listening throughout the service in order to complete their card?” From idea to reality, Advent BINGO came to TUMC.
Through the help of an online BINGO card generator we were able to customize our BINGO cards each week. I advised the congregation that the children had the cards at the beginning of worship on the First Sunday of Advent so if they heard a “BINGO,” there was a purpose behind it. After the first week we learned that we needed to limit the “game” to the sermon as some children were achieving BINGOs before we offered the Pastoral Prayer. After the first week in worship children asked for multiple BINGO cards. After the second week in worship adults asked for BINGO cards!
I was amazed at the words that the children recalled hearing in the sermon and their delight as they shared their joy with me warmed my heart. The adults in the congregation were thrilled to see the children so involved, so engaged, and so well behaved in worship. And their parents were grateful to have the opportunity to worship as a family and to not feel stressed during that time in the pew.
I look forward to using BINGO as a useful tool in worship throughout my ministry. This is not an activity that we have every week in worship, which helps it remain special and fun. I am committed to finding more ways to mindfully and purposively engage our children in worship. What do you do in your congregation? What is something old that you can make new and apply it to our worship experience?
— Rev. Sarah B. Miller, Senior Pastor – Tuskawilla UMC, Casselberry, FL
Wow! What an incredible story of being creatively inclusive. How have you incorporated kids into worship in your church in a way that is inclusive?
Questions about how Sermon Bingo works? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info!
Looking for more ways to be intergenerational in faith formation experiences? Contact us about our workshops for pastors, leaders, parents and families!