Taking It to the Streets
Children and Worship adapts to city life
Life in Compton, California, is rough. Located south and east of downtown L.A., the city struggles with gang violence and crime.
So you might be surprised that a recently planted church in Compton is taking Children and Worship to the streets, literally.
Children and Worship takes a worship approach to faith formation in young children. A storyteller models for children worship that is centered in God's Word and open to the movement of the Holy Spirit as children respond to the Word.
Children are free to talk with God through prayer and songs of praise, experience God's stories through a multi-sensory approach to storytelling, wonder about God's story with the storyteller, and listen to God as they respond to stories using wood and felt story materials and art materials.
The program is used in hundreds of churches. Learn more at www.rca.org/childrenandworship.
"No worship center, no shelves, not even a designated storyteller," says Children and Worship trainer Carol Jones. That's because City Church of Compton meets in a two-car garage attached to the home of pastor Pat Dirkse and his wife, Julie. So Jones started their Children and Worship program on the front lawn.
Julie first told Jones about City Church's need for a children's ministry while they were doing volunteer work together on a middle school in Compton. Jones, who's been involved with Children and Worship for more than 20 years, attends Emmanuel Reformed Church--the congregation in nearby Paramount that planted City Church. Soon after her conversation with Dirkse, Jones agreed to start offering Children and Worship at City Church on Sunday mornings.
Before her first worship session with the kids, she met with the families who attend City Church. Jones wanted parents to understand what their children were going to experience when they left the adult worship setting on Sunday mornings.
As the adults sat on chairs in a circle with their children seated on the carpet in front of them, Jones set up the focal area--Christ candle, nativity scene, and the Good Shepherd and sheepfold--on a rolling cart she bought at Target. She then shared the Lenten story of Jesus and the children (Luke 18:15-17).
"As the children wondered what Jesus said to the children or what the children might have said to Jesus, the parents were in awe of their children's response," says Jones. "There is a mystery in how God speaks to us through his Word, even when we are very young. Children long to hear the stories and experience the mystery that only comes from centering oneself and focusing on God's Word to us."
The next time Jones returned to City Church it was spring. "Although it was overcast, with a pop-up canopy over our heads and a tarp and carpet squares under us, we worshiped God.
Adapting the program
"Although Children and Worship is a structured worship program, I believe we always have to adapt to our surroundings. When I was trained as a worship leader I began building a program in a small room at Hope Church in Los Angeles, where my husband, CJ, and I were attending at the time. The congregation of 200 supported my efforts with their time and talents as we added Bible stories to our permanent worship center.
"When we moved to Emmanuel Reformed Church, I found myself needing to be flexible with our assigned space as we had to stow materials away so that the room would be ready for the next group to use. At Emmanuel, I also joined a team of volunteers in a ministry to the Skid Row area of Los Angeles. There I modified the program by bringing one story at a time and allowing the children to respond using art materials. Again the materials had to be portable, as we moved from a storefront church to a parking lot and then to the lobby of a hotel."
Jones recently trained Julie Dirkse and another City Church member as storytellers. "Out of my passion for worship and my joy in experiencing worship with children, I longed to be able to share God's stories with children in Compton."
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