The need for meaning

Reflections on worship

"I'm bored."

We all hate hearing these words and will do all we can to stop children saying them.

For some churches this means that anything involving children has to be presented as "fun". In children's groups time may be spent playing exciting games that have only a tenuous connection with the theme. As one children's leader put it: "We aim to tire them out so we can slip in a story..."

In All Age Worship gimmicks may be used: an electronic sheep "walks" to the manger; puppets attempt to assemble flatpack furniture without instructions; the congregation is asked to find the best way of keeping air in a balloon.

The fun element is used to get the attention needed to deliver the message. The assumption is that the opposite of boredom is fun.

But perhaps the opposite of boredom is not fun, but meaningfulness...

In adult services the emphasis is on creating opportunities for people to worship and come close to God. We are aware that the worshipping congregation comes to church with a variety of needs: for prayer, for fellowship, for help to make meaning in the difficult situations of their lives.

We do not expect adult worshippers to describe worship as fun, although they might say they enjoyed the service.

Worship for adults is not entertainment; it can be hard work.

Children have the same needs as adults. They too need opportunities for saying sorry, for praising God, for prayer and for being part of the people of God. The Gospel message is one of eternal life; it is more than just a party with my friend Jesus. Being a Christian interweaves sorrow and joy, the difficult and the glorious, the dark and the light.

Children experience this too. Even very young children may have to cope with disability, pain, bereavement, violence or divorce.

Children ask difficult questions about starving people, God's responsibility for earthquakes and why we can't live forever.

They will stop and wonder about coloured light from stained glass windows, shiny beetles and the bravery of Roman soldiers.

They thank God for the food they eat, for their family and friends. They pray for the hungry, the lonely and the dog.

If everything offered for children has to be presented as "fun" we have lost the depth, the mystery and the awe and we are short changing them in their search for meaning.