RESURRECTION CHURCH, FLINT, MICHIGAN
"Resurrection RCA doesn't have a lot of baggage in the way of traditional expectations for worship services," admits Pastor Paul "Bud" Pratt. "So we have been free to develop our ministry based on the needs we see. And our ministry to the family has been very intentional."
Flint is a city in transition. People move here to work at companies located in the area, and then move on when the work ends, or when they get promoted, or when they retire and want to move back to their roots. The neighborhood that Resurrection Church is located in is also in transition. It consists of homes built thirty years ago, shortly before the church was founded. Now, many of the people who established the neighborhood are retiring and moving out, and many young families are moving in. Often, these are families who know they'll be moving on, and who are looking for community and values for their children while they live in Flint.
Resurrection Church provides that community and those values. "It's often the children who come first," explains Pratt. "Then the parents come, dragged in by their children, but staying because they're delighted by their children's enthusiasm."
Resurrection's worship service invites children to participate in a variety of ways:
The Cherub choir for ages three to six, the Carollers for ages seven to eleven, and the Praise Team for junior high children meet weekly to prepare for their involvement in the service. Two or three times annually, they share their music and drama as they lead the morning worship service. Their practices include forty-five minutes of choir rehearsal and forty-five minutes of other activities, such as sacred movement, sign language classes, instruction in Orff instruments and chimes, and banner making.
The Children's Moment
This time in the service is so named because the children, not the adults, conduct it. Children volunteer to take their turn reading the lectionary selection of the day to the assembled children. They read from the Beginner's Bible. They also lead in prayer, and may share some artwork that they have prepared for the occasion. After the children's moment, children up to age seven are dismissed for church school classes.
Child-size coat trees are placed at the entrances to the sanctuary. Hanging on hooks on the trees are children's Worship Bags, containing a Beginner's Bible, children's bulletin, colored pencils, and stickers. The children pick these bags up as they enter the sanctuary and return them as they leave. These bags have encouraged children to enter fully into worship by providing helpful teaching aids appropriate for them.
The children of Resurrection Church are joined by the children of Fellowship Reformed Church of Holland, Michigan, for this annual August event. Songs, games, fun, and food, as well as "sleeping over" at church are part of the occasion. In October, children from Resurrection Church travel to Holland to share with the congregation the music, dance, and drama they have learned. The following weekend, the children from Fellowship RCA in Holland come to Flint to do the same.
When children wish to make a public profession of their faith, they follow a mentoring program, using the book Making Disciples by William Willimon (1990, Logos Productions, Inc., 6160 Carmen Ave. East, Grove Heights, MN 55076). In this program, children as young as nine are paired with an elder. Together, they work through the twelve units in the book. As part of the program, the children make banners and posters, write prayers and compose statements of faith. The elder and the child sit together in the worship service, and also occasionally visit other churches together.
Children are also invited to participate in other events planned by the worship committee. Twice a year, a twelve-hour prayer vigil is held, and children sign up for slots on the schedule. Children also take part in the small ceremonies that happen when the seasonal colors of the liturgical cloths are changed.
Right now children are helping to design a brochure about the children's ministry at Resurrection. They were asked, "What would you tell another child about our church?" Some mentioned friends you can really trust, worship leaders who learn with you, an awesome sacred dance teacher, and a cool minister. One child said, "We have lots of fun. I really look forward to going to church on Sunday. I would rather go to church than stay home."
Their enthusiasm was summed up by one budding promoter who wrote: "Hurry! Hurry! Come one! Come all! Come to the best church you can on Wednesday and Sunday. Come one! Come all!" Children are important at Resurrection Church, and they know it.