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What’s the Point of All-Age Worship? Part 2

Many Spring Harvest guests say Big Start is their favourite part of the event. For thirty minutes each morning, all ages gather together to worship, pray and hear from the Bible. The same happens in the early evening - this year in a bigger venue than ever, and packed out. The presence of God in those times is palpable, but it seems rare to find a local congregation doing all-age worship regularly and well. Is it just too hard? Is there even any point? Why should we bother?

“We need children”


Becky Drake, founder of Worship for Everyone, says, “This is right at God’s heart. Children experience faith first hand all the way through the Bible. Everything from the crossing of the Red Sea to the feeding of the 5000, there would have been children all around witnessing Jesus’s miracles. Our churches should be no different. It might be hard, we might be tempted to give up, but God loves unity and so actually I think it needs to be a priority. We need children and they need us. They learn in the worshipping space by watching adults and sensing the presence of God, but we also get to learn from them, their freedom, their purity, their pure faith.”

Martha Shrimpton agrees, “We are all in Christ and can learn from each other - young teaching old, old teaching young – we don’t need to dumb things down for younger ages, or make it more serious for the older folk, we can all learn the same things and include everyone along the way.”


Re-thinking the model


Martha is part of the Spring Harvest Planning Group and takes part in creating content for Big Start. She says, “I think all-age worship can be seen as one activity for the kids and another for the adults, in the same room at the same time. So I prefer to call it ‘Intergenerational worship’. It’s worship that can be accessed by everyone, no matter what their age or background. It’s about being in it and experiencing God, together. 

“Big Start this year was really intergenerational. It’s not just about being wacky or wild and having fun, it was actually having an impact on people’s relationships with God, no matter the age. It was really special to get a message from a 40-year-old Dad who was watching Spring Harvest Home online with his kids. They loved it so much they have watched it again and again, before school too – and he was also really impacted by it and met with God through those gatherings.”

So how do we do it? Martha laughs, “We don’t totally know the answer because it’s always changing. But I think that’s the exciting thing about it. It’s changing because our world (and what we consume) is always changing. But there is always chaos and beauty that we can embrace!

 “Life is messy and loud sometimes. God gives us permission and encourages us to play. You go back to God telling Adam to name all the animals – he doesn’t tell us how to do everything but holds our hand and does things with us in the mess and fun. This is where we experience new things and meet with God. If there are toddlers crying, don’t send them to the back (or out) with their parents. If there are children dancing in the aisles, don’t ask them to stop. God calls us to be like a child. We’re a family doing life together. Let the chaos and beauty in!”


Making it your own


Martha suggests, “It’s not about recreating what you’ve seen somewhere else (like Big Start) but co-creating with the people you have in your church family. Be inspired by what others do, but you can create your own style of intergenerational worship that suits your setting so much better. Start with your community. Who are you trying to engage and what do they like or have in common? Building relationships is part of your worship, so don’t be afraid of spending time introducing people to each other.

“It’s really important to remember that there are many different ways of learning – a bit of research on learning styles is always helpful and all can be incorporated. Every 8-year-old learns differently, so something targeted at 8-year-olds won’t work for all of them. It’s not about targeting age but incorporating lots of different ways to learn, worship and pray. Hearing, seeing, and please don’t forget DOING. It really has to be interactive. Art and doodling, dancing and singing, reading aloud together. 

“Imagine a worship space FULL of all ages, child, teenager, adult and grandparent all celebrating God together – it’s an awesome picture of the church!”

Perhaps Big Start is so loved because it gives us a little window on heaven? It’s a place where everyone is welcomed, valued and included as we worship God together.


For more on this topic we recommend: Worship for Everyone - unlocking the transforming power of all-age worship by Nick and Becky Drake.


Martha Shrimpton is an actor-musician and presenter who has worked within the arts for a number of years. She is the director of Nimbus Collective, which encourages individuals and churches to connect with God in creative ways by producing resources, hosting events and leading training days. She is part of the Spring Harvest Planning Group, and creates content for Big Start. She is also the author of Wow! Jesus

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