Since March 2020, we have not been able to gather for worship some Sundays. Currently, as of February 2021, we are not able to gather for worship due to the Otaru City officials’ request for its citizens to refrain from going out except for school, clinic visits, or minimal grocery shopping to prevent further spreading of COVID-19.
The deacons and I discussed over the phone how to conduct worship services for the Sundays when we cannot gather at our church building and decided to record the Scriptural reading, a sermon, and a pastoral prayer and broadcast it for those who could watch on the internet. Since there are also those who do not have any access to the internet in our congregation, we mailed the bulletins and sermon scripts to those members so they could worship on Sunday at the same time at home.
At our church, the children’s group had just studied about worship in the children’s summer camp, so we asked them to take part in Scriptural readings for our worship videos. Their parents recorded their voices as they read the Bible, and we put that together with some captions. The deacons and I did not have enough knowledge or skills to do everything on our own, so we actively asked younger people in church to help us record sermons, add captions, and edit videos to put them on the internet.
Though the number of children and youth are very few in our church, this change of approach enabled all of them to be involved to some degree in worship preparations. In addition, there were some unchurched people who have never been to our church who now watch the video and worship. They typically had some connections to our church and watch because someone they know was involved in the project.
Although we cannot see each other in person now, our prayer is that those youth and children inside and outside our church will become the worship leaders of the future. Their relatives near and far also enjoyed listening to the voices of their little ones reading the Bible.
Upon reflection, there are three factors that seemed to have contributed to the development of worship style changes at this transitional time.
- Our church has been focusing on and praying to minister to and educate youth and children to become good Christians. Their names appear on our monthly prayer calendar.
- Most youth were happy to be asked to help adults in the areas that they are good in, such as video editing on their smart phones. One youth I called and talked to for the first time, seeking advice in this area, makes a living broadcasting his own video programs on the internet.
- Connections to neighboring churches across city borders improved. As Otaru City issued a request to limit comings and goings, I as a commuting pastor from a neighboring city could not go into Otaru even for recording sermons. However, the mother church of our church happened to be outside Otaru, so they offered to provide their sanctuary for recording the sermon. A first-grade student at the age of seven recorded my most recent sermon there!
For Reflection and Discussion
- What steps have you taken or could you take to involve youth and children in your worship services?
- How could we overcome our cultural norms in order to bring children closer to God?
- What are electronic devices or apps you already have but are not familiar with? How could you enlist the help of the younger generation to learn more about this technology and how to use it for ministry?
- What is the history surrounding the birth of your church? Does your church take time each year to remember and recognize the history and intergenerational connections?