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How to...Plan Worship for a Family Reunion

Are you planning a family reunion this summer? Don't forget about worship! If your reunion includes a Sunday, and especially if your group is very large, you may want to consider planning a worship service for your family.

This past summer, about 150 members of the DeJong-DeWaard family gathered in the People's Place on the grounds of the Northwest Washington District Fairground in Lynden, Washington. Although the nucleus of this family is Dutch and Christian Reformed, it has extended far and wide from its roots in South Dakota and Washington, Our reunion included family members from many traditions and cultures, including African American, as well as people from Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Korea, Norway, the Philippines, and Russia.

I was asked to plan the Sunday worship service. Since I couldn't find any "Family Worship" guidelines, I did the next best thing—1 asked Jan Musch, a worship planner in my church. Jan passed along some suggestions, and I also got some ideas from our two pastors, Harvey Stob and Paul Brink.

We wanted our service to be one where everyone—the nine aunts and uncles in their eighties and nineties and their many children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren—could truly meet God and worship him together. The pitter-patter of little feet and the murmur of young voices would remind us that we were a family of all ages.

  • The service began with Psalm 133: "How good it is when brothers and sisters live together in unity ... for there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore." For our call to worship we used Psalm 100, read responsively by those over 50 and those under 50.
  • The songs were varied, reflecting our heritage and our blessings as a family. Some were old and familiar ("What a Friend We Have in Jesus," the favorite of Grandma De Jong, who passed away long ago); others were more contemporary ("I Love You, Lord"). 1 changed one song after arriving in Washington because the cousins there didn't know it! Our very capable "praise team" was made up of two violinists, a keyboard, and several vocalists.
  • One of the cousins who is an ordained minister preached on Psalm 78:1-7; he chose "Tell Your Children" as the song following the sermon.
  • The focus of the entire service was praise and thanksgiving for God's faithfulness to our family. Appropriately, we emhasized passing the faith down through the generations.
  • In place of the congregational prayer, our service included a family prayer, which concluded with a unison prayer of commemoration:
    Almighty God, we remember before you
    those who have lived among us
    who have directed our steps in the way,
    opened our eyes to the truth, inspired our hearts
    by their witness, and strengthened our wills
    by their devotion.
    We rejoice in their lives dedicated to your service.
    We honor them in their death,
    and pray that we may be united with them
    in the glory of Christ's resurrection. Amen.
    —from Tht Service for the Lord's Day: Supplemental Liturgical Resource 1. Westminster Press, 1984, p.80
  • We collected an offering for one of our families who had a special need, then sang the familiar Doxology.
  • Our worship leader closed with a beautiful blessing based on Genesis 49:24-26, followed by the words of the song "Find Us Faithful": "[May] the Mighty One of Jacob, the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, the God of your ancestors help you; may the Almighty bless you with the blessings of the heavens above, blessings of the earth beneath. . . , May the blessings of your ancestors be greater than the blessings of the eternal mountains, reaching to the utmost bounds of the everlasting hills. Let all these blessings of the Lord rest on the heads of each of the descendants of Teake & Whyna De Jong.

"[And] may all who come behind us find us
faithful.
May the fire of our devotion light their way. May the footprints that we leave lead them to believe
and the lives we live inspire them to obey.
O may all who come behind us find us faithful.
Amen."