Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
~ 1 Corinthians 12: 27
In our small but mighty church, we are committed to worshipping as whole body—young and old, silent and speaking, calm and fidgeting. We try to welcome and engage everyone because we believe we worship more fully together.
We have a vision of lips singing as only lips can sing while hands lift, grasp, and carry as is their strength. We imagine minds blossoming with wisdom and ears straining for understanding. We see wild, unkempt hair bouncing in the wind of the Spirit and hearts beating in time, pumping the life-blood through this fully engaged body of worship. And it is unspeakably beautiful. And it is terribly hard.
We don’t always enjoy the gifts of other members of the body – especially when they differ so vastly from our own. An ear is not made for dancing, so when she listens to the soft thuds and heavy breathing of a body in motion, she doesn’t grasp its joy. A foot is not designed to see, so he doesn’t recognize the glorious interplay of light and shadow through which he walks. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need each other. It doesn’t mean we aren’t part of the same body. It just means we are different—and that’s okay!
If the whole body were an elder with a penchant for tradition, where would the sense of adventure be? If the whole body were a frazzled family just trying to get it all done, where would the sense of peace and patience reside? If the whole body were a toddler waving his arms in joy one minute and weeping with frustration the other, God save us.
But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as GOD chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” (1 Cor 12:18-20)
We are the Body of Christ and sometimes part of the body has to take a bathroom break in the middle of the service, but that does not make her worthless. Sometimes part of the body can no longer climb the stairs to the sanctuary, but that does not make him obsolete. Sometimes parts of the body might need an oxygen mask, or a hearing aid, or translation, or crayons, or an extra explanation, but that does not make them a nuisance and it certainly shouldn’t keep them out of worship.
In a healthy body, all the parts work together towards a common goal. Shouldn’t we begin by uniting all the members of our church body in common worship? Here are some ideas to get your started:
Encourage families to bring children to worship - out loud, every Sunday. Our words have power. When we say, “we love and you and want you here” it matters. Children cannot love worship if they aren’t there. Kids learn liturgy, songs, and prayers from within the community. It also helps to point out the rest rooms, the coloring sheets, the family worship area, the assisted listening devices, and any accommodations you’ve made to welcome the various members of the body.
Get an induction hearing loop for your sanctuary. This is life-changing technology for folks with assisted hearing devices. It transmits the sound from your sound system directly into the hearing aid or cochlear implant. (And it’s surprisingly affordable).
Offer tools to help active, movement oriented folks of all ages engage worship - like coloring prayers (not just for kids anymore), outlines to take notes, play-dough, or even ribbon sticks to wave during music.
Karen Ware Jackson pastors and leads worship accessible for all ages at Faith Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), a small, dynamic congregation in Greensboro, NC. As the mother of two preschoolers who worship front and center, she knows firsthand the joys and challenges of parenting a child while leading an inter-generational congregation. She blogs about parenting, pastoring, and engaging all ages in worship at www.karenwarejackson.com.