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Posted by on Feb 17, 2016 | 0 comments

“Word-Play” Family Service

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In our church, we hold “Family Services” about four times a year.  These services are held during our normal Sunday morning worship time on the first Sunday of the month when we celebrate Holy Communion.  On these days, we do not convene Sunday School but all ages worship together the whole time (nursery is still available).  This pattern has given us permission every quarter to worship in different ways and to try new things.  Some elements don’t work well.  Some do though, and these often move into rotation within our more traditional services.  Family services have become leaven for how we worship.

To make these inter-generational services work (and not drive parents of young children crazy), we have found it helpful to design worship that is sensitive to different ages and different learning styles.  Sermons are shorter and lighter (but not without substance).  Music tends to be more lively. We often circulate around the sanctuary to get people moving.  Projection is used in a variety of ways.  Our time goal, with Holy Communion, is to keep the service length to one hour.  To give you a sample of what one of our family services look like, below you will find an order of worship (with notes) for a service we called, “Word-Play.”  In a variety of ways we “played” with the Word.  After all, the Bible is not a present to remain unwrapped and unread, but is a sandbox with which we are called to play.


Into Play

Sand-Table Seek & Find
(Note: As we gathered, children and youth were invited to come forward and play in a big plastic tub, placed by the altar, that was filled with sand.  In the sand were various biblically themed objects, temporary tattoos, and scripture quotes for them to take home.)


Gathering Music:              “I Will Celebrate“                          Duvall

Greeting, Welcome & Announcements

* NewSong:      “Somebody’s Knockin’ at Your Door”

(Notes: From “Worship and Song” hymnal.  Every month we choose a new hymn to sing each Sunday.  This has been helpful in expanding the hymns our congregation is familiar with and comfortable singing.)

* Prayer and Lord’s Prayer (together): Jesus, your Word is not a business suit or a present to remain unwrapped.  You Word is a sandbox to be uncovered, dug in, and played with.  Give us your Spirit today that we might play and giggle and grow in you, the one who taught us to pray, saying together: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom and the power and glory, for ever and ever.  Amen. 

Choir:     “I’m Gonna Live So God Can Use Me”        Af.-Am. Spiritual 



Into the Word:      Luke 9:28-36

(Read pop-up style by volunteer from the congregation)

Message:               “Word-Play: Transfiguration”
(Note: The visual nature of story of the Transfiguration lends itself nicely to artistic expression. What did the scene look like?  What were the colors?  Where was everyone standing?  Before the service we placed paper and art materials in the pews.  During this message, a re-telling and re-reading of the story, we invited everyone to draw what they “saw.”  During the offering time, we invited the congregation to bring their drawings forward to be displayed in a future service.  Link to audio message here.)

Visible Prayers & Lord’s Prayer (Note: prayer times can be very abstract.  Who are these people and places we are praying for?  Since the story of the Transfiguration is such a visual story, we decided to make our prayer joys and concerns more visible.  To do that, as each prayer concern was offered, a stone was put into a clear bowl filled with water.  When the congregation was done offering concerns, a big handful of stones was poured into the water to symbolize all of the unspoken prayers.)

Holy Communion

Gathering at the Table     “Halle, Halle, Halle”

(from “The Faith We Sing” hymnal)

Inviting One Another

One:         Christ invites all of us to this table.  So we invite one another.
ALL:        [TURN TO CENTER AISLE] Welcome!!  Come to the table of grace!!
ALL:        [TURN TO A NEIGHBOR] Welcome!!  Come to the table of grace!!
One:         Come all of us, not because we must, but because we may, and here find healing and wholeness for our journey.

Communion Prayer

Breaking Bread & Pouring Wine

Sharing the Elements

Choir Meditation:             “Kum-Ba-Yah”         African-American Spiritual

Sung Response:      “He Came Down”      (from “The Faith We Sing” hymnal)


At Play in the World

Passing of the Peace
One: The peace of Christ be with you.

Offering & “Souper Bowl of Caring”

(Note: Special offering as part of national “Souper Bowl of Caring” offering went to support children in need in our community.)

Offertory Song:                    “The River Is Here”     Park

* Prayer of Dedication & Sung Benediction     “He Came Down”

* Postlude


NOTE: A great thank you is due to Ms. Bonnie Belfield, our Dir. of Christian Education, for her creativity and hard work to make this service possible.

© Rev. Kevin Goldenbogen, 2016

Kevin Goldenbogen is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ serving an amazing congregation in the foothills of the Green Mountains of Vermont. He skis, climbs, runs, bakes bread, rides a red Vespa, and tries every day to follow Jesus. He is married to the perfect woman and has two boys who he loves beyond words.

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