Worship in the Park

by jpserrano on May 12, 2014 · 0 comments

For the last couple years I’ve had the opportunity to share some ideas with the congregation I’m currently serving. 

One idea that I am particular fond of is taking Sunday worship to a local park. This is a little outside the comfort zone of most Lutherans, so I put together the following proposal for consideration of the church council whom pretty quickly decided we should try it.

Worship in the Park Proposal

WHAT: The worship service is led by the Pastoral Staff, Music Ministers, and Lay Leaders.  It is a full liturgy including music, sermon, offering, and communion.  This would be in lieu of worship at Faith Lutheran Church. The BBQ takes place immediately following the service.  It includes some games with food provided by a committee supplemented by potluck offerings from the congregation. 

When: June

WHERE:  Meek Estate

WHO: This worship service and BBQ is for members and visitors of Faith Lutheran Church.  This event is for all ages; it’s planned with everyone from infants to the elderly in mind. 

WHY:  To fulfill Faith Lutheran’s mission statement “to share the message of God’s love with one another, our community, and the world” in the following ways:


This worship service and BBQ will give our members an opportunity to personally invite their friends to “church” in a neutral setting.  We will have a sign of the church up to let people know who we are and why we are there.


This day gives an opportunity for Faith Lutheran to be with each other outside of the church property but centered around Word and Sacrament. The BBQ will allow us to share a meal together. The games will give us an opportunity to play together as a church family.


We will use recyclable items for the BBQ. We will collect an offering during worship.


We will advertise this event to the community. It will also give an opportunity to invite the community to “worship” without having the stigma of going to a “church.”



  • Create cards to pass out to friends of Faith Lutheran.
  • Verbally announce event in worship for 5 weeks
  • Announce in Faith @ Work for 2 months
  • Place full page ad in This Week @ Faith for 5 weeks
  • Invite members by telephone the Thursday before the event (50 phone calls)
  • Send out mailer to the whole church (members & visitors) the week before the event
  • Put up signs at church the day before reminding people the location of worship has changed.

Worship & Music Committee Responsibilities:

  • Communion supplies (altar, paraments, chalice/patin etc, flowers) 
  • Bulletins
  • Offering baskets
  • Cross
  • Music stands 

Property Committee Responsibilities: 

  • Chairs (90+)
  • Sound system with keyboard
  • Transport to park, set up, return
  • Procure location ASAP

Fellowship Committee Responsibilities: 

  • BBQ supplies, cooking, catering supplies
  • Hamburgers, hot dogs, buns
  • 2 Tables
  • 2 Canopies

Education Committee Responsibilities:

  • Plasticware
  • Plates 
  • Napkins
  • Cups
  • Table covers

Youth Committee Responsibilities:

  • Games for BBQ
  • Egg toss
  • Spoon egg race
  • Potato sack race

Congregation Responsibilities:

  • Potluck food that goes with hotdogs and hamburgers
  • Invite friends 

Outcomes of 2013

With the above proposal everyone knew what to do, which made the day go very easy.  Expectations were distributed to the whole congregation and implemented by almost everyone.  People came early to set up the altar, chairs, bbq, sound-system, etc.  We made sure to have the chairs facing away from the sun so that the congregation wasn’t blinded.  It made presiding a little more difficult for the worship leaders, but it was only a minor inconvenience.  

The worship service was well attended and not much different from what we normally do at a “blended service.”  The worship service lasted just under 60 minutes.  

We expected less attendance than we get from a blended service.  However, there ended up being many more people who came because they were invited. When we ran out of chairs, families put down blankets on the sides of the aisle and sat together.

Overall it was a good time.  You can see a gallery here  2013 Worship in the Park.


This event was such a huge success, the congregation wanted to do it again in 2014.  So, this year we are having Pentecost in the Park.



Children In Church (Building An Accepting Culture)

by jpserrano on November 12, 2012 · 8 comments

Bishop and familyMy brother Joshua Serrano wrote on the spiritual discipline of letting your children be noisy in church.  He was inspired by Wes who did a marvelous job explaining why children should be in the pews.  Both of these posts have led me to think, “How do we build a culture within our congregation that allows children to be children in the pews?”

First of all, I get it.  Having children in worship is a challenging thing because as a parent, I don’t want my children to be a distraction to others during the service.  Because of this, it’s often difficult to be as involved in worship as I would like to be.  Sometimes it’s nice to let my children go to Sunday School so I can worship without having to quiet them.

All of this would be unnecessary, however, if in congregations there was a culture of allowing kids to behave like kids–which includes noise, walking around, and even crying.

In 2008, I had the opportunity to go to El Salvador and worship with Bishop Gomez.  During worship the most amazing thing happened.  The little children would get up, walk around, talk to each other, and play (most of the time quietly).  Even during the sermon the Bishop’s children would come up to him, hang on his alb, and then just walk away.  Never once was a beat missed during worship.  The culture of the congregation allowed kids to be kids during worship.  The parents’ only distraction was making sure the kids hadn’t gone out the door, but noise was never an issue because everyone just talked and sung louder.  It was GREAT!

I think we should do the same thing in our churches.

Here is how I think we can build a culture of allowing children to be in church.

1.  Write it in every worship bulletin.

I think including something like the following in the church bulletin would be appropriate.

Welcome to Marty’s Lutheran Church.  All are welcome.  No really, we take this pretty seriously; we want everyone here, including the children.  We understand that children are children: they make noise; they run around; they like to play games; they even on occasion cry.  This bothers the parents of the crying child more than it does us as a community.  So please feel free to stay in worship with your children, noise and all.  We have activities for them to do in worship. You can even have them color and play in our play area behind the last pews.  I told you we take this seriously.  All are welcome.  We’re glad you’re here!

2. During the announcement remind the congregation about the church’s stance toward children in worship every Sunday.

Writing something in the bulletin is a first step, but often stuff written down every week eventually goes unnoticed by regular worshippers.  It’s important to make a verbal announcement about it as a regular part of your announcement time.  Try to say something very similar every week.  By doing this you are reminding people of the appropriate attitude toward children in worship and giving the adults words to use to explain to others why church may be boisterous.

3. Plant People in the Pews.

This hardest part as a parent is surviving church with your little ones.  Train a small group of people to re-assure parents that the congregation wants all children to be children during worship.  These people should be very friendly and know when it is appropriate to tell parents about the church’s culture.  Encourage parents they’re doing a good job, especially when their little ones make noise.

4. Put in an activity space where children can play in the Nave (the place where the congregation sits).

I had a chance to walk around many churches in Germany, and I noticed that a significant number of them had small children activity areas (usually a table, some quieter toys, and activities for kids) near the pews.  I then experienced how this actually works in an Episcopal church in San Diego.  I liked it.  The kids could get a little boisterous, but it was not a free-for-all.  The kids seemed to still have a reverence that was appropriate for their age.

5. Worship Bags

Some parent don’t want to let their kids get up and go to a play spot.  For these families having a worship activity bag for children is helpful.  It should be stocked with paper, crayons, puzzles, activity books, Bible story books and the like.  I like to hang them in the narthex on hooks so the kids can grab them and return them without the aide of their parent.  I found that supplies need to be restocked on a monthly basis.

6. Teach the culture in new members classes.

I think this is self explanatory.

In order to build a new culture within a congregation you will need lots of buy-in from the people.  It will also take a lot of time (probably 3-5 years).  But, the benefits of having children in worship are worth it.  If you haven’t read Kids in the Pews… and The Spiritual Discipline of Parenting: Children in Church I suggest you do so now.

What are your thoughts on creating an accepting culture within church?



Keeping the Baptismal Font Filled

Where did the water go? As a person who goes into the sanctuary almost daily I find it odd when I find the Baptismal font empty.  In some congregations the baptismal font is filled before the Sunday service and emptied afterward. I am not sure why some Altar Guilds do this. I think that I can […]

continue reading… →

Serving Communion Health Edition

For the last two months I’ve been serving communion in worship regularly. During this time, I’ve become increasingly aware of moments up to touching the bread and wine.  I’ve noticed over time that some people are not aware of what they do with their hands leading up to handling the Eucharist.  I am always concerned […]

continue reading… →

Contemporary Worship Music Resource For Lutherans

I came across the following site in my search for contemporary-written in the last 50 years or so-praise music in Lutheran congregations.  The Missouri Synod has put out the following document in which it gives contemporary songs and how they fit in to Lutheran theology.   LCMS you may have gotten a little crazy with the […]

continue reading… →