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All-age worship

We spoke to worship leader, songwriter and church pastor Nick Drake about his passion for intergenerational worship. 

What are you passionate about?

Becky and I have four kids, and one of our passions is writing worship songs and using music to unite the generations. We run a ministry called Worship For Everyone, born out of a need to bring children and adults together in worship.

We saw that churches tended to leave behind the values we have for adult worship as soon as children were in the room. We often think it needs to be like Saturday morning TV presenters doing fun zany stuff, whereas with adults it’s all about an encounter with God, transformation by the Spirit and knowing the Father’s love.

What are the core elements of making worship for everyone?

I believe the biblical view of what it means to be a Christian and a church is to be all together. In the Jewish Great Assembly families would have been together. When Jesus fed the 5,000 it was families together. In heaven we’re not going to send certain people off to different rooms for their activities!

That goes against this worldview that we need to narrow down what we’re targeting to make it effective. We have to believe in the role of God’s Spirit to facilitate worship; that is foundational. That’s why a lot of churches give up on it, because it’s easier to segregate and to separate. It’s having a vision and a commitment to intergenerational worship and life, and how important that is for everyone. Leading all ages in worship is the core, not an optional extra.

What is the difference between intergenerational and multigenerational?

I think it’s where each generation influences the other in the same room in some way. Children usually have more freedom physically, for example, than adults do. We become fearful of what people think, whereas children don’t have that barrier, especially under-5s. Or my son, who is 8, sees me with my arms raised high in worship and that impacts him.

There is no ‘junior Holy Spirit’, so you can start doing prayer ministry and expecting to hear God through each generation. It’s: “What is my 6-year-old hearing from God? “What is he drawing and how can we feed that into the pre-service prayer meeting?” Multigenerational is just being in the same room, but without this influence on each other.

There is something about being together as the family of God that is so crucial for everybody involved

How do you worship as a family?

We love music, whether that’s listening to CDs in the car and singing along, or when we gather together on a Sunday or at other times during the week. But it also means daily discipleship in that wider sense of worship. We try our best among the six of us, so it’s crazy and hectic; it’s not clean and ordered. We put in little moments of discipleship like, “This is how we spend our money” or “This is how we’re going to offer coffee to this person on the street”, rather than doing one-off big campaigns, like we’re going to read the whole Bible together. 

What’s it like being ordained?

I felt God say really clearly to get ordained. The Church couldn’t be in a worse place and a better place, so it’s a really exciting time to be part of it. Old rules are being remade and are more flexible than they ever were. There is a missional need that drives the Church more. I think Justin Welby is a fantastic leader. I’ve always felt called to lead worship, which means helping other people meet with God, and I see getting ordained as just widening that calling.

What would you say to those just starting to work out what all-age worship looks like in their context?

The first thing is believing in and having a vision for it. Then find at least one other person so you’re a team, because you can’t do it on your own. Even if that other person doesn’t feel gifted in any practical way they can pray into it. Then just start small, maybe two families getting together and seeing what works.

You don’t need all the instruments or a PA system; you just need one voice to lead a simple song of worship. The true power in sung worship is the voices of everyone joining together. That’s why the vision for all-age worship is so challenged. The enemy wants to do all he can to disunite the Church and split it, so finding ways to unite is the beginning. 

How can we use all-age worship in an evangelistic context?

I think having those places where all ages get together is really rare. If we can set up events people want to come to as a family, as all ages, I think there is a massive ‘gap in the market’ that the Church can lead the way in.

Schools are a key entry point, because although they’re not multigenerational children are only there because there are parents or carers somewhere, and that is a key gateway in. I think schools are beginning to be more open again, which is really interesting. I think Church of England schools are getting more confident again to say: “This is our faith, and therefore we can sing this type of song.” One of our songs ‘Big Family of God’ goes down well in schools because it expresses this value of inclusivity and diversity. Finding ways into culture, where everyone can share the same space, is good.

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