Signs On the Road: Intergenerational Worship at Tiny Church

Our children have Sunday School during worship, following the children's time. There are plusses and minuses to this approach, but having Sunday School during worship is a practical reality at Tiny Church. We're tweaking this with our plans for the Upper Room. And on the fifth Sunday of each month, I plan a more kid-friendly service, including a vastly shortened sermon, plus something experiential for everyone to do together. We've done a couple of different things. In May we were looking at Paul's speech to the Athenians in Acts 17. In that speech he makes connections between the culture and the Christian faith. For that service, I said a couple of quick words about that (Oprah made an appearance in that message, as I recall!).

I had printed out letter-sized photos of things that were happening at the time (the devastation in Joplin, protests in Libya). People had been asked earlier in the service to choose one that 'spoke' to them. During the sermon time each person was invited to look at the photo, study it, and write in the margins of the page an idea about where God might be present in that situation. (I don't know was an acceptable answer.) I had brought in a large board we use for posters and signup sheets and people posted them on the board with tape. It has been in a corner of our fellowship hall as an artifact of that service.

This summer we are doing a series based on a series of articles I wrote a few years ago. The series is called "Postcards from the Bible" and looks at different settings in scripture and what they might represent for us spiritually. So this summer we've 'traveled without leaving the sanctuary' as we've looked at the garden, the valley, the mountaintop, the desert, and so forth. Yesterday was a fifth Sunday and we were on the road.

I used the walk to Emmaus text from Luke 24. After reading the text, I talked a little about the road as a metaphor for life's journey. I talked about the signs we see by the side of the road, and how Jesus was a sign for the men (opening the scriptures to them, walking with them as a companion) and the men provided a sign for Jesus (offering hospitality by inviting him for dinner even though he intended to keep going).

Then I played the song "You're Aging Well" by Dar Williams (link is to a YouTube video by a fan). The song is about the negative signs that get posted along the way in our lives and the singer's desire to paint over those signs with messages that are gracious and hope-filled.

Earlier in the service the kids had handed out paper with the lyrics on one side and a blank road sign on the other. After the song finished I asked people to write a message on their sign, some bit of wisdom that helps them get through tough times, a message of faith and hope.

After they had done this, I said that a sign is not a sign unless it is shared with others. So I invited people to stand up and trade signs. Once they'd received one they were to read it and trade with someone else. We went several rounds like this.

Then I told folks that if they'd ended up with a sign that was particularly meaningful, they could keep it; otherwise, I invited them to put it in the offering plate and we'd post them on the board in the fellowship hall, as an artifact of this service.

Tiny Church is an interesting place. I know there are people here who are very content with traditional worship. Others like creativity as long as it's not "weird creativity"... whatever that is! And yet, with all this diversity, whenever I've planned something different than the usual routine, everyone participates, from the 90-year-olds on down to the children. I'm grateful for that.