August 2016 SpiritNEWS

Main Header


Fall is almost around the corner! School will be starting soon, and for those congregations who take the summer to do something different than their usual faith formation ministries, it’s almost time to get started again! If you haven’t decided on the faith formation resources you are going to use in 2016-2017, please check out our sample lessons and testimonials to see if we have the right tools for you!

Learning Worship: How Educational Ministries Can Support Worship

By Gregory Rawn, Publisher

When most people think of “church” they are generally thinking about one thing: the public, corporate worship service. And, there’s a good reason for this. One of the main reasons we gather together as Christians and (often) build buildings is to worship together regularly. A small congregation may not have many ministries or activities at their church, but I’m sure they do have a worship service. This is why I argue that the corporate worship service is the key faith formative experience at church. But, is your worship service effective at faith formation?

Understanding and Welcome

As you make your worship services such that everyone of every age feels welcome and can fully participate (see “The Whole Church of God” reflection in July’s SpiritNEWS), you will also find that it is necessary to make sure that all worshippers can understand what’s going on. I’ve had the privilege of worshipping at many different communities, including those with services that are not in English. While those experiences were beautiful and worshipful in their own way, I was not able to participate fully and I didn’t feel like I belonged.

What about Your Service?

Now, think about your worship service. What would it be like to come in as a stranger, unfamiliar with your worship traditions? And would an elementary-aged student understand what is going on? If you use a liturgy, do even your long-time members know what it all means, even if they’ve memorized most of it? And moving on to the Scripture reading and sermon, would someone who was not familiar with the Bible, young or old, understand what is read and spoken?

There has been much care and theological underpinning that has gone into forming the worship service that you use. And that is a wonderful thing. But, I would argue that the majority of people, even if they are able to read, sing, and listen along in the service, do not understand what they are saying. They might not even realize that they don’t understand, because they might never have thought of the liturgy or order of worship as a conversation with and about God. Many people may not be able to really follow and comprehend the Scripture reading (or readings), and even if they do, they probably won’t understand how the reading or readings fit in with the whole story of God. I know that, even despite my theological education, I still have a hard time following the prophets or the epistles (or any of the non-narrative parts of Scripture) as they are being read aloud. If people are not understanding the rich meaning of the Scripture, music, and liturgy, what is the use of doing those things?

Integrating Education and Worship

So, there’s quite the problem in making people feel welcome and engaging them in full participation if they don’t understand what is going on. How are people going to learn worship? What is a congregation to do? There are several solutions, but they all involve integrating educational ministries with corporate worship.

  • Explain things in worship. Take some extra time to explain what you are doing and why you are doing it within the worship service. This can be done as a roving “Temple talk” sort of teaching, a longer bulletin with explanations, or even use the sermon (or children’s sermon) time to teach about your worship service.
  • Simplify worship. A radical option would be to redesign your liturgy or worship service so as to make sure it’s in clear, understandable, everyday language. Some explanation would still probably be useful, because some of us have a hard time reading or singing aloud and concentrating on the meaning of what we are reading or singing at the same time.
  • Orient education toward worship. Simply put, this involves teaching the worship service. Perhaps it is actually teaching what the liturgy or parts of worship mean in Sunday school (we do have a curriculum for that), or studying the meaning and background of hymns or worship songs in a small group. Or, you could focus on a biblical education and have your classes follow the lectionary or schedule of Bible readings you use in worship (if you use the Narrative Lectionary, we have a lot of materials to help with that). You can even combine biblical education and worship, so that the worshipping congregation is learning about the Scripture readings together all while worshipping together (we also have something for that)!

So, here’s your challenge this month: What is one thing that you can try as an experiment to help worshippers of all ages understand what they are saying, doing, and hearing?


Taking Faith Formation Outdoors: Five Ideas

By Christine Hides (Building Faith)

Taking Christian Education Outdoors
Sunday school attendance drops off at our suburban church, so we offer a simplified program for June and July with time for free play outside. Last year our side yard was under construction, leaving us with a small brick courtyard. But that small space offered big opportunities. Classic activities like bubbles, sidewalk chalk, clay, gardening and painting were surprisingly engaging for the younger elementary class. Reflecting back, I believe that the outdoor time offered children something that they are often lacking: unstructured play.

Read More at Building Faith!

Product Announcements

Due to multiple factors, we have decided to postpone the launch of our newest product, Chosen Together: A Cross+Gen Confirmation Experience until early 2017. Do you want to receive regular updates to learn more about this innovative product? Click the link above and join our interest list at the bottom of that page!

Living the Word: Kids (PK-2nd) (2016-2017; Fall)
Living the Word: Kids (3rd-6th) (2016-2017; Fall)
Living the Word: Youth (2016-2017; Full Year)
Living the Word: Cross+Gen Education (2016-2017; Fall)
Living the Word: Cross+Gen Worship (2016-2017; Fall)
Living the Word: Singing God’s Story (2016-2017; Fall & Winter)

Living the Word: Small Groups (2016-2017; Full Year)
Living the Word: Contexts & Connections (2016-2017; Full Year)
Living the Word: @ Home Bulletin Inserts (2016-2017; Full Year)

Check out our new products for the 2016-17 Program Year! Click Here!

Event Announcements

  • Sticky Worship– Gregory Rawn, publisher at Spirit and Truth, has been invited to lead a retreat at Joy Ranch, South Dakota on November 10-11, 2016, sponsored by the South Dakota Synod of the ELCA. The topic will be Sticky Worship: Worship as Cross+Generational Faith Formation.
  • Do you know of any other faith formation events going on this summer? Let us know!


If you include a Living the Word: Cross +Gen Worship (Year 3) product in your order of $100 or more, Receive 15% Off your entire order using code: CGW816.

Receive 20% Off your order of Spirit and Truth: Teaching Kids the Heart of Worship using code: AUGWORSHIP20.

Coupon codes valid until August 31, 2016. Not valid with other promotions.

Product Review

It was a gift to receive and study the Living the Word Sunday School curriculum. Here, finally, is wonderful, theologically solid, developmentally appropriate, deep, yet easy to teach curriculum to get children into God’s story. Simply and clearly written, it offers multiple choices to tailor each lesson to the groups to be taught.  If your congregation is using the Narrative Lectionary in worship, this is a perfect way to equip parents and kids to share God’s story, to hear it in worship, as well as in education, and to take it home. God calls us to get the Word and the Living Word we know in Jesus Christ inside us, inside our children. Spirit and Truth Publishing offers us a fabulous opportunity to do just that. If your congregation does not use the Narrative Lectionary, here is a beautiful, four year cycle of the core stories of Scripture, including many of those important, but often bypassed stories in the Bible. Take home sheets connect what children are learning with their home, robustly partnering home and congregation to pass on faith to all of God’s children. What a blessing this curriculum is!

– Marilyn Sharpe, Certified Family Life Educator and Faith Formation Consultant, Marilyn Sharpe Ministries

Faith Formation Partner Links

Building Faith ( is a free website that offers practical resources for faith formation with children, youth, and adults. Published by the Center for the Ministry of Teaching at Virginia Theological Seminary, Building Faith is trusted by Christians from a wide variety of denominations. At Building Faith you’ll find articles, advice, reviews, success stories, and seasonal ideas for Christian formation with people of all ages. Whether you are a formation professional, volunteer, parent, teacher, clergy, or parish staff, we are here to serve you, as you make and form disciples of Jesus Christ. You can browse and search Building Faith online for free, and subscribe for free to receive each new article by email.

Do you want to read our previous newsletters? Find the last three SpiritNEWS in our archive, here!