Sunday, September 2, 2012

Reading Scripture So Children Can Hear It, Too

The scripture reading is the heart of most worship services.  If you miss it, you will miss out on most of what goes on in the sermon and liturgy and songs.  So, one way to encourage children to participate in worship is to be sure they hear the scripture reading.  Doing this challenges worship leaders to “present” rather than simply “read” scripture.  Here are simple five ways to do that.  You see examples of them throughout my lectionary posts and can create your own lively readings of almost any text.

1.      Choose the reader to fit the text, e.g. an older boy to read the feeding of the multitudes or a woman to read some of the wisdom passages this month.

2.      When texts are long and include more than one story or teaching, have them read by a series of readers.  Each time the reader changes all worshipers will pay fresh attention to what is being read.

3.      Turn the many conversations in the Bible into readers theater.  There is a reader for each person in the conversation and all the “he said” “she said”s are edited out.

4.      Some texts beg to be pantomimed as they are read.

Youth and adults can show the emotions involved.  For example, the story of Mary and Martha’s little spat is very terse.  Children often miss what was really going on.  Actresses show them with their faces and body language what was going on in a flash.

Long stories with complicated action are helped by children pantomiming the action so everyone can keep up with who is where now. 

STRATEGIC SUGGSESTION:  Use adult pantomimers first in worship so that pantomiming is “employing the arts in worship.”  Later invite children to pantomime an action story.  If the children go first, pantomiming will forever be labeled as something cute the kids do, diminishing its value in the eyes of worshipers of all ages.

5.      Introduce a text with a prop that will appear in the text.  Explain what it is, display it near the worship center and urge listeners to listen for it as the passage is read.

Early in the planning ask, “how can we best read this passage so that everyone can really hear it.”  Presenting scripture well requires careful thought, often more than one reader, and even a rehearsal.  But, the children and everyone else both pay better attention to and more fully grasp the text.  That makes it time well spent.

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