Young Adults, the Gospel, and Creativity

Parkwood’s Interactive Worship Experiment.

Worship is not a performance but a participative experience. Parkwood Presbyterian Church (Ottawa, ON) has been exploring this concept through a series of monthly interactive church services led by young adults (those aged 18-35).

The need for an interactive church service sprang out of Parkwood’s youth ministry. The congregation is blessed to have an active ministry to pre-teens and teenagers aged 11 to 18 led by the congregation’s dynamic Christian Education Support Worker, Vicky Mabie. However, the congregation was left wondering what to do once the teens graduated. Also, the youth leadership team – all in their 20s and 30s – realized that they had much to give but also needed to receive. Leaders desired an opportunity to worship on their own terms and share Christ’s message with friends their own age.

The solution Parkwood adopted was an interactive time of worship once a month on a Sunday evening. The service involves contemporary worship, prayer and a discussion-based sermon. The message is closer to a Bible study than a traditional sermon. Pastor James Hurd focuses on a particular passage of scripture and asks questions that bring the text to life. Participants can ask questions, make observations or recount short anecdotes. Young adults are able to participate in worship by reading a scripture passage, saying a prayer, or playing on the worship team.

The interactive service is not developed by osmosis as preparation is required. Roughly a month prior to the service, a planning meeting is held between the pastor and the young adults of the congregation. Potential themes and scripture passages are discussed with the topic and Bible texts for the service agreed upon by consensus. At this point, it is up to the young adults themselves to promote and prepare. The church’s secretary, Elizabeth Mabie, designs a poster which is promoted through social media. The young adults make a list of songs to include in worship.

So far, Parkwood has held three interactive services. Two of the services were for young adults only while the third was open to the entire congregation. This last was a special Lenten evening service where the Young adults introduced the congregation to new songs and stimulated a thought-provoking discussion on attitudes and actions.

The most rewarding part has been seeing my fellow young adults participate in worship in new ways. This may be playing the piano or learning what a call to worship is. The young adults would be the first to admit that the services are a work in progress. The biggest challenge so far has been promoting the services among young adults on the fringes of the congregation. The services themselves are the easy part compared to inviting friends and family.

Despite the challenges, the Parkwood young adults are excited about what the future holds. For those young adults in the Ottawa-area, feel free to join us. For those elsewhere in the country, my hope is that the interactive worship service concept stimulates your creative juices. The gospel may not change, but there are always new ways to worship Him to be discovered.

Philip MacFie is a member of the board of directors of The Renewal Fellowship.

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