I have nothing against all-age services and that. Of course I don’t. We do them ourselves. I think there are some very good things about them. If they are done right, I don’t think they have to be to the detriment of the adults in the room. They can be properly inclusive.
But, of course, they’re not always done very well. Quite often they are just aimed at the children. All that is fine for the kids, but one has to be aware of the adults without kids in the room sitting there thinking, ‘this is just a bit rubbish’. Inclusive services are great, but we don’t often do them all that well. We tend to serve one demographic considerably better than others depending on what we’re doing.
But there is one thing I wish we could banish from all main services. Keep it in Sunday School if you will, but in the service when everyone is together, get rid. I am conscious I am fighting a losing battle with it because everybody does it and people get narked when you dare suggest it. But I just don’t think it serves visitors at all and it doesn’t help with the already high potential for us to be considered weird. I mean, Christians are weird, let’s not do extra stuff to make sure the charge sticks!
I am talking about forcing everyone in the room to join in with actions.
I know, everybody likes to laugh and joke at the silly adults doing stupid things with their hands. But, man, I hate it. I am fairly confident that unchurched visitors – who have no framework for compos mentis adults doing actions to songs – find it odd and don’t especially like being made to join in. Worse, there are the glaring looks at visitors – who I sense think some collective madness has overtaken – because they don’t join in. People seem narked like they’re out to spoil everyone’s fun (but it’s not fun, is it!)
I am sorry to all those people who think it’s great. But we all know enforced fun is never fun. It is just fascist. I am convinced adults forced to do actions in church is the Christian equivalent of the drunk aunt forcing people who clearly don’t want to onto the dancefloor at a wedding disco. Except we don’t have the excuse (or, at least, we shouldn’t have the excuse) that we are too smashed to realise what we’re doing, though I suppose if you are into port for your communion wine you might be able to make a case.
So please, please, let’s stop with the enforced actions. If you are going to do them, make it abundantly clear – from the front – this is something specifically for the children and you don’t have to join in. Otherwise, we just end up looking like a bunch of lunatics. And that isn’t going to help folks who don’t know Jesus want to get to know him, I wouldn’t have thought. I’m not saying everything must pass the test of what outsiders would make of it. I’m sure there’s plenty of stuff commanded in scripture that seems weird to them, but we do it anyway because Jesus tells us to. But as ever, when it concerns something that Jesus doesn’t specifically ask of us, let’s not be weirder than we have to be, eh.