Explore together and grow

Explore and ask questions

Stanmore Baptist Church looked into using the Explore Together framework earlier this year. Since the start of the summer they have been using Explore Together every week with their children.

Joel Botham, Children’s Worker at the church wanted to share how things were going.

it is working AMAZINGLY well, I just can’t believe the stuff they are coming out with

Not only are the children engaging with the sessions, but they are also showing signs of spiritual growth, through the questions they now have and the discussions that the leaders are having with them.

If you’d like to know more about Explore Together then start here.

Comments

  1. We started using the Explore Together approach last November – at Miramar-Seatoun Anglican, in Wellington, New Zealand. Thankyou SU/Explore Together team! It’s really come just at the right time for us – thanks so much for this approach. If anyone is wondering if ‘Explore Together’ could be useful in their church as a way of encouraging lots of participation and growth if we can encourage you with our story:

    We are a Parish with about 60-80+ worshipping on Sunday, and with growing numbers of children coming, we’d spent much of 2011 and 2012 having a go at an “all age” service once a month in an attempt to try to be “church together” more often, with Anglican prayerbook services on the other weeks .

    After a while we realised All age services weren’t working….
    While the All Age services were a good step, on the whole, they weren’t really meeting any of the church where they were at. They tended to be a abridged prayerbook service, with less readings, a shorter sermon, some more ‘contemporary songs’ and a bit of drama/ or a “response” activity. They needed quite a bit of organisation from the vicar/other leaders (ie. many Saturday nights up late spraypainting various objects, or hanging stars from the ceiling, practising dramas etc etc!) Despite the exuberant efforts the comments weren’t hugely positive – ranging from the children (“I’d rather be in children’s church [Sunday school], it’s more fun”, “we always get asked to just stand up the front and read something out and I don’t want to do something if if it’s going to be embarrassing and I never know that until after it’s happened!”. To the comments of middle-aged adults (“I like the more contemporary songs, but it’s not that different from what we do other Sundays”) to the older adults (“It’s lovely to see the children up the front, but it’s more like a pantomime each time than worship”). We went back to the drawing board and thought we’d try the Explore Together approach.

    Trying ‘Explore Together’….
    Now instead of the standard ‘all age’ approach once a month, we offer two different ‘spaces’ on that Sunday. One is a prayerbook service, but with a contemplative time and silence built in. The other space is our ‘Explore Together’ service. This is our ‘experiment’ for this year and we’ll review how it goes further down the track. About 5 months into Explore Together style services, it’s going really well. The real celebration points for us – the kids are so keen to be involved we almost don’t have enough jobs for them to do in the service! Also, parishioners who are more ‘introverted’ found the ‘All age” approach too noisy and not reflective enough, but they’ve been loving having 10-15 mins to themselves in the service to sit quietly, pray and think. While there’s still little things to work out (eg. how to alter seating to make sure it works well), on the whole it’s allowing people to have space to meet with God in a way that connects with them, and still ensure we worship together. The best of both worlds!

    A few practical details we’ve had to think about….
    For our Anglican context we have a laminated A4 folded sheet with a short liturgy that acts as a bit of a framework for the other parts of the service. It’s in simple language – simple enough that kids (one even as young as 4 years) have been the ‘worship leaders’ with their parents. This has been fantastic – there is something about the ‘small voices’ leading us that touches me (as an adult) with the importance of what we’re saying together. (also if you missed hearing what the ‘small voice’ said, it’s no problem). The service sheet gives people who are more familiar with a structured time some confidence we are ‘going somewhere’ together. It means people know what’s happening/coming up. We have a separate laminated card for Communion so can use that sometimes, but not every time. We break up the service ‘bits’ with requests that people call out from a songbook.

    At the end of each service we allocate jobs on a small whiteboard to anyone that wishes to volunteer (worship leader, reader, speaker, musicians, communion helpers (if required), person who says a closing prayer, tidyup/set up people). I was dubious that kids would volunteer (and it would be left up to a few adults), but not at all! Because it’s been really accessible to them and ‘informal’ (rather than them feeling it is more of a performance) all the kids have been very very keen to get involved.

    After a welcome, a prayerful lead in and a simple confession that can be varied, we have one reading (we tend to stick with the Anglican lectionary reading for the week) and also have a short reflection/talk on this. At the end of the talk, the speaker offers our ‘explore together’ question(s) (the vicar chats to them in the week before about their talk and they scheme up a question/s together). We tend to break into a discussion group (chat zone) , a number of people take time in silent prayer during which they just stay seated or head outside (Quiet zone), we have an art space (visual colour zone) which tends to attract a range of people – adults, older adults and children and sometimes we have other zones depending on what the particular question lends itself to – eg. a busy zone (eg. this week we were talking about being God’s fruit being evident in our lives, so we used markers to write this ‘fruit’ on lemons and then juiced them to make lemonade). If it’s a complex passage we might have a Word Zone (people who discuss the text).

    Some examples of the questions we’ve had have been ones like:
    – (Talking about a pasage based on perseverance) How has God been faithful in your life to date? Describe any examples? How do these examples give you courage through tough times?
    – (Talking about Jesus’ parable about the Fig Tree) What fruit might God like to see grown in your life at the moment? What nutrients might God be offering?

    We have 5 mintues for feedback on anything that has come up for people, or sharing drawing etcs. Amazing thoughts/stories come up and it’s really special to hear how others have responded to the question. And we finish with prayer – people get up and say a prayer (which is affirmed by everyone). They light a tea light candle or people can just light the candle silently. Sometimes we have communion which the children help distribute.

    A long post sorry, but just to encourage anyone thinking about giving Explore Together a go that it’s really well received across the age ‘range’ at church! Surprisingly so. The more times we use the approach the more people get into the swing of it and know what the deal is. Thanks again SU! May God Bless all of our efforts to keep nurturing faith in these changing times!

  2. Lee Herdman says:

    Thank you for your feedback Mel. We believe there is potential in the Explore Together model, and are pleased to see how it is being fitted into different communities and gatherings. We are excited to hear how it is being used where you are. As the model develops and different communities use it we are keen to hear constructive feedback so please feel free to let us know how it is going.

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