Romans 12:10 – Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves.
This is a key verse for Worship for Everyone.
It is my practice to teach children to honour the older generations. I explain that this means sometimes we sing songs that they may not understand – they might have lots of words in them or use old-fashioned language. I teach my own and other people’s children to wait patiently, join in when they can and look forward to their own age-specific groups when they can jump up and down with glee and gusto.
Many of us will feel it’s important that our children learn to appreciate our Christian tradition and history. But perhaps we need to be careful we’re not simply defaulting to worship in a style that we prefer – or the way that we have always done it. Does our corporate worship cater more for the generation of the king’s children (pre-1952!) rather than the King’s children?
In Romans 12, is Paul writing solely to adults? This letter would have been read out to all who gathered; all ages. We know this from specific instructions to be read out loud to children (and their parents!) in Ephesians 6, and besides, there were no separate childcare arrangements in the New Testament church. Throughout the book of Acts and the Epistles we see evidence of people of all ages worshipping and praying together, meeting in an oikos – an extended household of some twenty to fifty people.
The instruction to honour one another above ourselves, above our own needs and preferences was to everyone. What might it look like to prefer children in your gatherings? My observation is that we expect something of children that we are often not willing to put into practice ourselves.
Here are some very practical things we can do:
- make eye contact with children. Invite them to come near. Most children do like this! They love to watch musicians play. Drummers become heroes to many little children!
- Engage them with words. “We’re so glad you’re here today”, “have a great time as you go off to your own groups”.
- Pray for children out loud.
- Consider including testimonies in sung worship time from people your children can hear and see.
- Choose songs that declare truth simply; that are not overtly wordy. Try to make sure we don’t always choose loud praise songs; honouring children entails giving them a chance to draw near in reverence and intimate worship, just like we as adults like to do.
- Have regular all age services – not “infotainment” services, but an opportunity to engage everyone in your church family around the Word with the Spirit’s help.
I think that a determined intention to honour one another could be a key that unlocks the door to a deeper experience of the presence of God in our gatherings.
Could it be that worshipping with space to make an emotional response to God, recaptures something of the powerful gathering of community that we see examples of in the Old Testament? In Nehemiah 12:27- 43 we read of women and children being part of the joyful celebration when the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt. They were present at the procession of the choirs and fully understood the significance of the task that had been accomplished. Children were not shut away elsewhere while “important business” happened where the adults were. God was being worshipped by the community.
We are in days where the shape of what we do must change. So often our mission has been driven by the way we do church, which means that we expect new people (of any age) to fit in to our structures, our service times, our ways of learning. It doesn’t matter how old or young the person is, we all have things to learn from one another.
I will give a real-life example – a minister could preach a thousand sermons on how to have a worshipping heart, but it could fall on deaf ears, crossed arms and stony hearts. One after another, children read out psalms of praise they have written to God their Father in and amongst the sung worship (not as a performance where everyone listens politely but as part of the act of worship), and tears flow, hearts are stirred and opened up.
When we honour one another out of a deep love for one another, I believe we make space for the King of Love to walk amongst us.
What are your thoughts? What’s your experience of ‘honouring one another’? Share below by adding your comment.
- How do you feel your church is doing in preferring one another?
- Do you have any examples/ideas to share of how we can shape our worship/services to be more inclusive to all ages?