Helene G. Zwyghuizen. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994. 221 pages. $13.99.
In Leading Children in Worship, Helene Zwyghuizen strives to further develop the Children and Worship ministry begun in North America by Jerome Berryman and, later, Sonja Stewart, described in their book Young Children and Worship (Louisville:Westminster/John Knox Press, 1989). Zwyghuizen gives a brief introduction of Children and Worship; a worship outline and review lesson; and thirty-nine Bible stories, complete with patterns for wooden story figures, lists of additional story materials needed, and instructions for using the figures to help tell the stories.
The history and philosophy of the Children and Worship program is not included in this publication, so those new to the program would do well to acquaint themselves with the work of Sofia Cavalletti, Berryman, and Stewart before beginning a program.
In her writing, Zwyghuizen shares her many years of experience working with children and leading them in worship. This is obvious in the practical suggestions she offers, including an idea for take-home papers; special craft projects, like a Lenten banner; and hints to successfully run a worship center.
Unfortunately, Zwyghuizen's experience has not prevented her from writing stories that lack a vital element: "wonder." Those who are familiar with Berryman's and Stewart's work know that their stories, using an economy of words, are full of freedom—trusting God, the Good Shepherd, and the Holy Spirit to grow faith in people of all ages. Zwyghuizen's stories have exchanged that freedom for rigidity, excessive detail, and commentary on the biblical stories. There is rarely a time when the leader is silent and waits in wonder with the children. The stories are unimaginative and unending. The leader keeps speaking, seemingly so the children will understand more of the story, when in reality, they will understand less due to the many words.
Since thirty-six of Zwighuizen's stories are different ones than are told in Young Children and Worship, some gifted children's worship leaders might wish to expand their program for older children by using the figure patterns and stories provided in this volume. Those choosing to use the stories, however, would be wise to critically edit extraneous detail and commentary before sharing them with the children.